Infrared saunas use longer wavelengths of light to create radiant heat that you absorb. Studies show this heals the body by stimulating ATP and reducing inflammation.
So in this post, I’ll go through everything you need to know about the infrared sauna benefits. I’ll also look at the history, compare it to regular saunas and answer some commonly asked questions.
The History Of Saunas
Nomads built the first sauna in Finland over 10,000 years ago. These saunas weren’t as advanced as we have today. It was basically a hole dug in the ground with hot rocks and water.
Nomads sat in this hole for hours to escape freezing Finnish winters.
When the iron age rolled around, saunas became standalone huts. People would make a fire inside these huts with hot rocks roasting on top, and when it became hot enough, they’d throw water to put out the fire.
This water created steam, keeping their bodies warm. People took turns in the sauna and would jump into a cold river to cool themselves immediately afterward.
Today, you can still find these ancient forms of saunas, but the most popular are:
- Electrical saunas
- Infrared saunas
When you think of saunas, you probably think of the electrical type. Electrical saunas heat the air around you to 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This raises your core body temperature and heart rate.
Infrared saunas are unique. Instead of heating the air, it directly heats your body, so the air temperature doesn’t have to be as hot. The longer wavelengths of light also penetrate your skin by two inches, acting on your cells’ mitochondria.
This increases adenosine triphosphate or ATP production while lowering inflammation.
Now let’s dive deeper into the key differences between infrared and traditional saunas.
Infrared Saunas Vs. Traditional Saunas
Infrared saunas contain infrared light bulbs that heat your body, and the light penetrates deep into the skin. This raises your core body temperature and heart rate and puts minor heat stress on your body, forcing it to get stronger.
This makes it perfect for those who can’t take the high heat of traditional saunas. Because infrared light heats your body, the air temperature is much lower, usually around 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a traditional sauna, you’ll have a hot stove that heats the air around you. This makes it an impractical option for anyone sensitive to heat because the sauna must reach around 150 degrees Fahrenheit to provide health benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Infrared Saunas
Here are 11 tangible health benefits of infrared saunas:
- Improved sleep
- Weight loss
- Joint pain relief
- Increased blood circulation
- Clear skin
- Enhanced immunity
- Better lung function
- Enhanced cardiovascular health
The most significant benefit I experienced after using infrared saunas is that my sleep quality improved. I fall asleep within minutes and always wake up before my alarm clock. In the morning, I’m more energized and don’t need coffee immediately after waking.
So if you’re struggling to fall asleep at night or you wake up feeling groggy, consider sitting in an infrared sauna two to three times per week. You’ll notice an overall increase in sleep quality.
And multiple studies back this up. A 2012 research paper shows that longer wavelengths of light penetrate into your body and promotes melatonin production. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, and with increased levels, your body repairs itself quicker.
Deeper sleep also positively impacts every aspect of life:
- Physical performance
- Mental sharpness
- Injury recovery
- Better heart health
But I’d avoid sitting in an infrared sauna directly before heading to bed because it heats your body up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it harder to fall asleep.
Instead, sit in your sauna three to four hours before bed. This lets you boost melatonin while giving your body time to cool down.
Infrared saunas shift the way you metabolize energy, build muscle and burn fat.
A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training looked at 25 healthy adults. They wanted to find out what would happen to their hormonal and cardiovascular system after infrared sauna therapy.
So subjects sat in a sauna at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes every second day. Researchers measured their blood work after each session. They found that core body temperature increased by 33 degrees Fahrenheit, boosting fatty acid mobilization and lipolysis.
This ultimately results in fat loss.
But they also found an increase in heart rate by 23 beats per minute which also encourages your body to burn fat.
So if you’re going through a weight loss plateau, consider sitting in an infrared sauna two to three times per week. After a few weeks, you’ll notice losing weight is more manageable.
But it’s essential to also complement this infrared sauna usage with a healthy keto diet that decreases inflammation, blood sugar and insulin levels.
Joint Pain Relief
The cartilage between our joints that act as cushions wear out as we get older. This leads to joint pain. Fortunately, studies show sitting in an infrared sauna for just a few minutes every day can provide chronic pain relief.
Over 50 percent of patients suffering from joint ailments like rheumatoid arthritis lessen symptoms by sitting in a sauna.
Another 2019 study found that sitting in a sauna twice a day for 15 minutes per session improved lower back pain in participants by over 70 percent.
A big reason behind these joint relief benefits is reduced inflammation. When you regularly expose yourself to high temperatures, it stimulates localized blood circulation. This encourages white blood cells to travel to swollen tissues.
After finishing an infrared sauna session, the first thing you’ll notice is you’re more relaxed. This is because infrared therapy dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.
Stress is linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, blood pressure and stroke. So if you take a few minutes out of your day to sit in a sauna, you’ll decrease your risk of developing these problems.
Even if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, studies show infrared sauna therapy helps relax and clear your mind.
In a four-week study, researchers gave participants infrared sauna therapy. After the four weeks were over, most participants reported improved moods.
When you’re sitting in a sauna, your muscles heat up, and blood flow increases, mirroring the health benefits of steady-state cardio. This increased blood flow manages and improves chronic health problems like:
- Blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Musculoskeletal injuries
As blood circulation increases, the speed at which your blood travels also goes up, lowering blood pressure. This reduces your chances of heart disease because your heart doesn’t have to work as hard anymore.
Our bodies are constantly being bombarded with stressors. Even if you’re living a healthy lifestyle, the air you breathe, the water you drink, and your food still contain chemicals.
Fortunately, sitting in a steam sauna helps flush out toxins trapped in your body’s fat cells. This way, you reduce inflammation, promoting better mood, deeper sleep and clearer skin.
When exposing yourself to longer wavelengths of light like infrared light, you boost collagen and elastin production. This is because infrared saunas penetrate your skin, increasing ATP and giving your cells the energy needed to perform at its best.
This helps manage and treat various skin issues like:
- Dark circles
Infrared saunas also improve blood flow to the skin on your face. Your skin appears more radiant while making it easier to get rid of acne scars.
Another benefit of sitting in an infrared sauna is a stronger immune system. Several studies show that infrared sauna use lowers your chances of catching the common cold, flu and even more severe conditions like pneumonia.
This is because the high heat acts as an artificial fever that boosts immune function.
During this artificial fever, your bone marrow and thymus release more white blood cells that fight harmful pathogens. This way, it’s easier for your body to ward off disease.
Exposure to tobacco smoke is the biggest reason behind lung cancer. It spikes inflammation in your lungs and increases your risk of lung injury.
The best way to fix this is to stop smoking, but you can speed up recovery by sitting in an infrared sauna for a few minutes, two to three times a week. Near-infrared light therapy can also help because it penetrates deep into your lungs, encouraging the cells to boost ATP.
This improves blood flow to damaged tissues, speeding up healing and reducing chronic inflammation. So if you’re suffering from lung issues or trying to quit smoking, consider an infrared sauna.
To understand how saunas benefit our heart, we must first understand exercise.
When you work out, you put your heart under stress because your muscles need more oxygen. This generates heat which increases blood flow and heart and breathing rate. Also, your body increases sweat production. This stress is called hormesis, and it’s good because your body adapts and comes back stronger.
An infrared sauna imparts the same good stress. Your heart is forced to overcome it and it gets stronger, improving cardiovascular health.
How Long Should I Sit In An Infrared Sauna?
Most studies that showed infrared-sauna benefits had participants sit in a sauna for 20 to 30 minutes. So if you’re new to infrared sauna therapy, start with 20-minute sessions. This ensures you get the health benefits, and you won’t have to drag yourself through infrared sauna treatments.
But if you’re sensitive to heat, you could even start with five to 10-minute sessions. Always do what’s comfortable for you because it’ll allow you to stick with it long-term.
Once your body becomes resistant to heat stress, you can increase the session length by five minutes until you’re comfortable with 30-minute long sessions.
The Finnish word for sauna means relaxing. So infrared sauna sessions should be calming. If you’re uncomfortable and start counting down the minutes, get out of the sauna.
Is It Safe To Use An Infrared Sauna Every Day?
There aren’t any studies that show daily infrared sauna use causes long-term health effects. So if you aren’t sensitive to heat, feel free to use your infrared sauna every day.
But when you’re starting out, your body isn’t heat resistant, so go slow. Two to three sessions per week will build your body’s heat tolerance and provide health benefits. And once you’re comfortable, increase the frequency.
I like sitting in the sauna after a long day of work since it helps me relax. And if I skip sauna sessions for two or three days, I notice my sleep quality drops.
So it’s essential to experiment with length and frequency to find which works best for you. Some respond best to daily sessions, while others prefer sitting in the sauna twice a week.
Who Should Use Infrared Saunas?
Infrared saunas can benefit the lives of:
- Individuals with sleep problems
- Anyone with acne
Because infrared light penetrates further into your skin than shorter wavelengths, it’s perfect for athletes. This penetration goes into your bone and joints, speeding up recovery.
Infrared light also promotes increased ATP by acting on the mitochondria in your cells. ATP is an energy-carrying molecule, and the more ATP your body can utilize, the better you’ll feel. This is especially helpful when recovering from delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.
If you’re playing a game or preparing for a hard workout, sit in the infrared sauna for a few minutes. It relaxes your body, and the quick boost in ATP optimizes performance. You can even use it after exercise to lessen the effects of DOMS.
Individuals With Sleeping Problems
Infrared saunas helped my sleep quality which positively impacted every part of my life. This includes:
I don’t need to sleep as much anymore because my sleep quality is higher. This makes infrared sauna therapy perfect for anyone suffering from sleep problems.
But it’s important to not rely on your infrared sauna when trying to better your sleep. First, implement positive sleep habits like:
- Avoiding blue light a few hours before bed
- Having your last cup of coffee at 2PM
- Cooling your body and room down before bed
- Sleeping in a completely dark room
Once you’ve introduced these habits into your life, use the infrared sauna as a supplement because it boosts melatonin production.
Anyone With Acne
When you’re sitting in an infrared sauna, you start sweating, which lowers the oiliness of your skin while regulating the pH balance. This makes it easier to manage and get rid of acne.
But the infrared light that saunas emit offers another benefit. It increases the amount of total soluble collagen in your skin and structures this collagen properly.
Make sure to check out our detailed guide to the best red light therapy devices available!
Final Thoughts On Infrared Sauna Health Benefits
Humans have been using saunas for over 10,000 years. Recent studies show it has countless health benefits like better sleep, heart health, skin and blood circulation.
But infrared saunas are even better because it uses infrared heat that heats your body from the inside, and you won’t have to endure the hot air. This makes an infrared sauna one of the most beneficial products to buy because you’re improving every aspect of your life.