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Article: Is an Infrared Sauna Better Than a Traditional Sauna?

Inside a infrared sauna

Is an Infrared Sauna Better Than a Traditional Sauna?

Written by Chris Lang

For centuries, there was only one type of sauna – the traditional sauna. However, with the rise of technology in the 20th century, a new variant emerged: the infrared sauna (also sometimes referred to as a UV sauna). Harnessing the heating power of infrared light, infrared saunas provide a different experience to the traditional sauna, but are they better?

Well, with infrared sauna therapy fast becoming a globally popular wellness practice, plenty of people have been asking that very question. And this guide will hopefully provide an answer. Below, we’ll dig into how infrared sauna therapy works and what kinds of benefits people can expect when using an infrared sauna.

Understanding Infrared Saunas

The concept of infrared sauna therapy goes back to the late 19th century when John Harvey Kellogg – the same Kellogg behind the world-famous cereal manufacturer - invented what he called an “incandescent electric light bath.” Kellogg’s creation was a far cry from the advanced infrared sauna treatments of today, but made use of similar concepts, making use of light therapy to heal the body.

His invention gained some fans but didn’t become particularly widespread. It was only in the 1970s, in Japan, that the idea was revived with the rise of “Waon Therapy” and the development of new infrared sauna models and technologies. In the decades since then, infrared therapy has taken off, with many users preferring it to traditional sauna therapy.

What’s more, research has revealed promising effects of this distinctive form of light therapy, with studies showing that sitting in an infrared sauna can provide an array of therapeutic benefits. Some experts have even suggested that infrared heat can help with chronic pain, heart health, and generally better health and wellness overall (more on that below).

How Infrared Saunas Work

Many people are familiar with the concept of infrared therapy, but may not know exactly how an infrared sauna works. Here’s a quick primer: unlike a regular sauna, which relies on a container of hot rocks to slowly heat the sauna room, an infrared sauna heats the user’s body directly. It’s equipped with infrared panels which emit infrared waves into the space.

That infrared heat penetrates the skin, essentially providing a warming effect from within the body itself. It can heat bodily tissue and muscle beneath the skin directly before warming up the actual room of the sauna. Thanks to this, infrared saunas don’t get as hot as regular ones – as noted in Cleveland Clinic, average max temperatures for a UV sauna are 110-135 degrees Fahrenheit, while traditional saunas reach highs of 150-195 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, when it comes to the idea of infrared sauna therapy vs. traditional sauna therapy, one of the big differences between the two is the user experience. Due to their intense heat, regular saunas can sometimes feel a bit too hot and overwhelming for some. With their lower, gentler temperatures, infrared saunas may be a more comfortable option.

Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Since they’re still relatively new, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about infrared saunas. Some assume that they’re not as beneficial as traditional variants. Others fear possible far infrared sauna dangers or health risks. In reality, scientists have discovered an array of potential benefits of using an infrared sauna.

From detoxification to improved blood circulation and even improvements for those with arthritis and cardiovascular disease, the possible health benefits of sauna bathing are numerous. In the sections below, we’ll dig into some of the advantages that have been identified so far from spending time in an infrared sauna session, with studies and scientific evidence to back up each claim.

Detoxification and Sweating

One of the most talked-about infrared sauna benefits is its potential to help people detox their bodies. We’re exposed to all sorts of toxins on a daily basis and can absorb them through our skin, breathe them in from the air, and consume them from food and drinks. To counter this, various bodily organs, like the kidneys and liver, have to work hard to flush those toxins out.

It’s possible that exposing oneself to infrared waves in a UV sauna could be a way to give those organs a helping hand. When you sit in a FAR infrared sauna for 15 minutes or so, your body will naturally start to sweat. Scientists have found that sweat can contain toxins like heavy metals in small amounts. So, sweating is a possibly easy way to rid one’s body of toxins.

Indeed, one of the most comprehensive reviews of sauna bathing benefits has looked into this concept, concluding that “sweat-induced detoxification certainly occurs.” While it may not be the most powerful detox method, it’s certainly an option. To maximize results and avoid dehydration symptoms, infrared sauna users are always encouraged to stay hydrated during their sessions.

Cardiovascular and Heart Health

There is also evidence to suggest that using an infrared sauna can contribute to heart health in numerous ways. The studies into this particular aspect are quite old, and more research is undoubtedly needed. However, leading health institutions like the Mayo Clinic have reviewed the evidence, finding that IR saunas may help reduce problems associated with heart failure and high blood pressure.

It’s believed that these benefits are linked to an infrared sauna’s ability to improve blood circulation. This concept has formed the foundation of heat therapy for centuries. Whether you’re in a regular sauna or a UV sauna, the high temperatures all have the same effect – they make your blood vessels widen and make you sweat.

Wider blood vessels provide more room for blood to flow through. That can help to improve circulation throughout the body, with more oxygen and nutrients being delivered to vital organs and muscles. This improves cardiovascular respiratory fitness, or CRF, and reports show that a higher CRF level can reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Blood pressure also decreases as blood vessels dilate, which is just one of the reasons why sauna bathing has been linked with a minimized risk of fatal cardio-related events. Meanwhile, the fact that saunas cause you to sweat could also aid with heart health, as some research has demonstrated that sweating in a sauna can actually lower cholesterol levels.

Pain Relief and Chronic Conditions

Pain relief is another oft-cited benefit of exposing oneself to infrared heaters in a UV sauna. Studies have shown, for instance, that spending time in a sauna after exercising can help to soothe muscle soreness and tension. What’s more, an extensive review of scientific evidence revealed that infrared radiation can be an effective tool in managing chronic pain conditions.

This all ties into the longstanding idea that heat is helpful for easing pain. People have been using warmth to soothe their aches and sore spots throughout the ages. Those with chronic pain problems may therefore consider incorporating infrared sauna therapy into their routines to potentially experience some temporary relief – it won’t cure the condition, but it may ease it.

There has also been research into how infrared therapy may relieve other chronic conditions. One report looked into the effects of sauna use on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, finding that levels of fatigue decreased notably after the therapy. Sauna users also report improvements in sleep after spending time in a sauna, which indicates it could help with sleep conditions like insomnia.

Using an Infrared Sauna

If you’ve never used an infrared sauna before, it may feel a little daunting to step inside for the first time. Many people have questions and fears, like “Does infrared sauna cause cancer?” Fortunately, there’s no evidence at all linking infrared sauna use with the development of serious health problems like cancer. But you may still want to consult with a healthcare professional before using one, especially if you have pre-existing health problems.

A doctor will be able to guide and advise you on the appropriate ways to use the sauna. In general, beginners should start with short sessions of five to 10 minutes only once or twice a week. This will give your body time to adjust to the heat and conditions of the space. Then, you can build up to longer sessions of 15 minutes, three to five times weekly.

Choosing the Right Infrared Sauna

There are many infrared sauna models to pick from, and it’s important to make the right choice, as quality and safety levels can vary. Specifically, users should focus on a model that is listed as “low EMF,” which stands for “electromagnetic fields.” Researchers have been measuring EMF in infrared sauna settings to determine the potential negative effects of high EMF readings.

A low EMF infrared sauna shouldn’t pose any unwanted or serious health risks, making it the safest choice. You can also consider the different sizes of infrared sauna for home to fit the space you have and the number of people who wish to use the sauna. Those who are short on space could even consider a more compact alternative to a full sauna, like an IR lamp or blanket.

Contact Komowa to learn more and get advice on choosing the best UV sauna for your needs.

Light Therapy and Chromotherapy

Light therapy is another wellness trend that has been linked to infrared sauna use, but isn’t quite the same. It involves sitting beside a special light source for periods of around 30 minutes, and is mainly linked with mental health benefits – research suggests that it can help with depression, for example.

There’s also chromotherapy. This involves the use of different colors and light to potentially provide therapeutic benefits and dates back to ancient civilizations. There hasn’t been much research into this concept at this time, though one study provided promising results showing subjects with a significant reduction in anxiety levels. More research is needed to confirm or disprove the possibility that different light colors may help to improve well-being.

Additional Considerations

Recent years have seen some big changes in the sauna industry. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, led to major changes around the world in 2020 and 2021, with more people eschewing traditional spa and sauna settings and choosing to have their own home saunas installed. This is a trend that may continue in the years ahead, as more people seek to enjoy a private sauna experience.

There is also ongoing research into how infrared therapy works and what therapeutic benefits it has to offer. As stated earlier, this is still a relatively new form of wellness therapy, especially when compared to traditional saunas, which have been around for thousands of years. Current research is focusing on how infrared therapy may help with exercise recovery and endurance, for example.

Conclusion: Enjoy the Healing Powers of an Infrared Sauna

Overall, the evidence presented throughout this guide demonstrates that infrared saunas have an array of benefits to offer. From boosting heart health and circulation to soothing pain and easing inflammation, there are a wide variety of health and wellness advantages of a UV sauna session.

Anyone seeking to elevate their personal wellness should consider making infrared therapy part of their routine. Together with other wellness practices like regular exercise and a balanced diet, these saunas can provide a healthy holistic lifestyle.

If you have any concerns or more questions about how infrared saunas can help you, consult with a healthcare professional for expert advice. Or, to start your search for the perfect home IR sauna, contact Komowa today.


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