Infrared Therapy is Good for You; The Ultimate Guide to Infrared Saunas

Have you ever wanted to try an infrared sauna?

Infrared saunas are a great way to detoxify your body, improve cardiovascular function, and relax. It’s also the perfect place for muscle recovery after a tough workout. The benefits of infrared saunas are endless!

The first time I used an infrared sauna was in 2016, when they were becoming popular in the fitness world. Ben Greenfield and others were recommending it because of this thing called light therapy.

I was going to a traditional sauna regularly, but I had to try an infrared sauna.

So I went to Floating Lotus. A fantastic spa in NYC that I had been doing yoga & float therapy at.

Floating Lotus in New York City
Floating Lotus

For the first few minutes, I wondered, “is this thing working?” It didn’t seem hot.

Then I started profuse sweating.

It was the most I had ever sweat in my life. At the time, I thought sweating was the main benefit. That’s what detoxing is right?

Well there is much more to infrared light therapy than just that.

What is an infrared saunas?

Infrared saunas are a modern spin on the ancient tradition of traditional sauna bathing.

The sauna is a wooden-box and uses infrared light to create heat. This puts your body through heat stress, at a lower temperature than traditional saunas, while giving your body the benefit of infrared therapy.

Infrared rays penetrate your skin and reach deeper into your body to help relax muscles, increase circulation, lower blood pressure and boost metabolism.

The 5 biggest differences between infrared and traditional saunas

Heat source

The first main difference between an infrared and a traditional sauna is the heat source.

A traditional sauna heats the room with a stove or an electric heater. You get hot by being in contact with the hot air in the room.

Infrared saunas are instead heated by infrared emitters that give off infrared radiation to your body, which is felt as direct heat.

Radiant heat transfer does not require a medium, like how traditional heating does with the surrounding air.

Temperature differences

Another noticeable difference between an infrared sauna compared to traditional is that you don’t feel blast of hot air when entering into it.

Traditional saunas are much hotter than infrared ones, ranging from 160-220°F.

Infrared saunas are around 110-150°F. Only about 20% of the surrounding air inside is heated, while the rest heats you directly “from the inside out”.

The radiant heat is more tolerable because it penetrates bodily tissue without making you feel like you are being cooked in a 200°F room.

Substituting löyly for infrared

An infrared sauna does not produce steam or have the same spirit as traditional Finnish-style and Scandinavian woodsheds. Löyly, is a critical part of the traditional sauna experience as written about here.

Many people do not consider infrared to be true saunas because it does not create steam or have the same spirit.

Modern technology has created infrared saunas.

The main goal of an infrared sauna is to get infrared exposure. You are substituting out the benefits of steam and higher temperatures, with infrared therapy.

Size differences

Infrared saunas are usually smaller than traditional saunas. You can buy a 1-person infrared sauna to fit inside your home and they go up in size from there.

Many people have bigger, traditional saunas in their backyard that look like a small house. They can also be built inside your home, but generally require more space than infrared saunas.

Infrared saunas are usually around 4’ x 4’ or smaller. The IR heating system is typically 1.5-1.7 kW using a 120 volt 15 amp plug-in service (FinnLeo).

The most popular sized traditional sauna, according to FinnLeo, is usually 5×7. That sized room uses a 4.5 kW heater, 240 volt, 1 phase power; it draws 18.8 amps and requires a dedicated line and breaker.

It takes a traditional sauna 30-45 minutes to heat up because of the heating method, size, and temperature.

An infrared sauna can be over 100 degrees in 10-15 minutes, making it the ideal choice for those who enjoy a quick and easy sweat session.

Social experience

Traditional saunas have more of a communal aspect. The sauna is an integral part of life in Finland. Families, lovers, and friends, gather inside the sauna for heart-felt conversations, laughs, and intimate socializing.

Infrared saunas are usually 1 or 2 person rooms, making it more of a private escape. This too can be relaxing to get away from your environment and unwind in peace.

We encourage people to use also use an infrared saunas as both a private escape and with others for the social aspect.

How do Infrared Saunas Work?

The heat from the sun is electromagnetic radiation. and this comes in a variety of forms such as radio waves, infrared rays, visible light etc.

The warmth that you feel on your skin when in direct sunlight is electromagnetic radiation. We feel this type of radiant energy as heat, even though it is invisible to the human eye. Its wavelengths are in the range of 750 nm–100 μm.

Is Infrared Radiation Harmful?

While life needs the sun for energy, too much sun can cause damage to your skin, like skin cancer. Infrared saunas provide you all the healthy benefits of natural sunlight, without the dangerous effects of solar radiation.

Infrared light from the sun accounts for 49% of the heating on Earth. Not only do you absorb infrared, but your body naturally emits infrared at about 9.4 microns. 9.4 microns is the natural harmonious wavelength that the cells use for function.

All living organisms receive electromagnetic radiation from the sun. All matter, with a temperature greater than zero, emits thermal radiation. Even ice cubes emit infrared (NASA).

Think of those body heat cameras. That’s infrared. This is why a room full of people gets hot. Its why humans huddle to stay warm in the cold.

The wavelength spectrum

Near infrared vs. far infrared light

Infrared light has a range of wavelengths, like visible light. Far infrared light is closer to microwaves while near infrared is closer to visible light.

Near-infrared is the shortest wavelength, and is not felt as heat. It has been shown to help more with healing because of its ability to activate anti-inflammatory processes. Near-infrared is now widely used in veterinary medicine to treat sprains, bone fractures, and to speed the healing of wounds.

Far infrared waves are thermal, meaning we experience them as heat. The heat we feel from the sun is infrared.

Many infrared saunas are now full-spectrum saunas, meaning they give off both near and far infrared so you get the benefits of both healing and heating.

Infrared Sauna Benefits

While IR saunas can help your body’s detoxification process, it is just one of the amazing benefits.

You receive infrared exposure, to a much greater extent than you would by standing in the sun, without the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Infrared therapy helps mitochondrial function increase ATP production. It’s at the root of everything from energy production to hormones working properly, and cell communication, repair, and regeneration.

Infrared helps with wound healing, pain reduction, neurodegenerative diseases and brain injuries, and aging.

Infrared therapy is a common skin treatment because it has been shown to reduce lines and wrinkles, softens your skin, and increases collagen. The increase in collagen is great for your joints and bones.

More evidence shows that infrared therapy is beneficial for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This is part of the reason why many athletes are turning to infrared saunas.

Infrared Saunas for Detoxification

Infrared saunas can be an effective way to sweat out toxins.

Toxic chemicals affect us every day. There are chemicals in our food, water, clothes, air, vehicles, furniture, cleaning products, skin & beauty products, plastics, pesticides, cell phones, and more.

These toxins include heavy metals. Heavy metals are naturally in the human body, like zinc, iron, copper, etc. However, too much of them is toxic. Arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium are common types of heavy metals that we are exposed to through the air, water, industrial chemicals, & more.

Most people think it you “sweat out” your toxins; however, the majority of it is processed by your liver, digestive track, and lymphatic system. Then these toxins come out through your stool and urine. A small percentage comes out from your breath and sweat.

Infrared helps increase the efficiency, on a cellular level, to remove toxins through your organs. Infrared wave lengths penetrate your body through fat cells and muscle tissue, raising the resonant frequency (vibration) inside of your cells and causing lipolysis. Lipolysis is the breakdown of fats in your body.

This vibration helps get the toxins out through vessel dilation. Toxins move into the interstitial fluid. This is the fluid between your blood vessels and cells. Your fat cells are essentially broken open and the PCB’s, BPA’s, and toxic metals that accumulate in fat cells are able to get processed by the liver or sweat out through skin.

The closer infrared heaters get to 9.4 microns, the more your body absorbs, giving you a deeper sweat. This is why infrared sauna companies advertise that their infrared emitters are 9.4 micrometers.

How do you use an infrared sauna?

When you sweat, it’s not just water that is lost. It also includes electrolytes like chloride, potassium, and sodium. Make sure to drink enough fluids throughout the day with these nutrients in them!

That doesn’t mean to drink a high-sugar sports drink. A homemade drink with lemon, lime, and a high-mineral sea salt is all you need.

Many spas offer infrared sauna experiences. They’ll provide towels, a shower, and skin care products.

You should not wear clothes inside of the sauna, unless it is required by the spa. Clothes contain chemicals, carry bacteria, and make it more uncomfortable to sweat in.

There isn’t much “to-do” once you are inside. Your body isn’t active. You just sit there and relax. Some spas offer Bluetooth speakers to listen to music or a podcast, although that could leave you exposed to EMF’s.

Finish with a cold plunge. The cold plunge is a crucial part of any sauna experience, especially Finnish sauna culture. This can be done by a jump in a lake, a cold shower, laying in the snow, or an ice bath.

You will feel amazing after.

The cold will activate “good stress” and activate your cold shock proteins. Both the hot and cold activate some of the same genetic pathways according to Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

How long do you sit in an infrared sauna?

You can last longer in an infrared sauna than a traditional sauna because the room isn’t as hot.

Most spas offer between 30-60 minute sessions. You’ll get all of the benefits within that time. The longer you stay in at a higher temperature, the better. Just as long as you don’t over-push yourself.

How many times per week should you use an infrared sauna?

It isn’t an exact science. Studies show greater benefit to using a traditional sauna 4-7 times per week, compared to just once. Using a sauna has similar effects as exercise, hinting that multiple times per week is optimal. Use it according to your specific health and lifestyle factors.

What is the best time to use an infrared sauna?

There is no best time to use a sauna. People use it at the end of the day, to relax, it is a great post-workout treatment, and others like to kick off their day with it. Just don’t use the sauna before working out or a heavily demanding brain focused task because it will deplete you of energy, hindering your performance.

Conclusion

You can still benefit from infrared therapy even though traditional sauna users do not consider infrared saunas to be a true sauna. It is definitely worth testing out at a spa or considering investing in one for your home if you do not have room for a traditional sauna.

There are a few things to be concerned about with infrared saunas, which are addressed here.

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