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Article: What is an Infrared Sauna? Unlocking the Health Benefits and More

What is an Infrared Sauna? Unlocking the Health Benefits and More

What is an Infrared Sauna? Unlocking the Health Benefits and More

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas have existed for thousands of years, providing soothing, rejuvenating benefits to countless generations of people across the globe using nothing but hot stones and steam. But now, with the aid of modern technology, new types of sauna have emerged, like the infrared (IR) sauna. But what is an infrared sauna? How does it work, and what are the unique benefits of infrared sauna therapy?

In the simplest terms, an infrared heat sauna uses infrared light to heat your body, as opposed to the classic stone and steam combo. These types of saunas offer an array of unique benefits and don’t get as intensely hot as traditional saunas. This makes them a favorable option for many, with prospective sauna owners eager to learn more about how IR models work.

If you’re also seeking to discover the science, advantages, and practical aspects of using an infrared sauna, this guide has got you covered. Dig into the technical side of using IR light in a sauna, discover some of the health benefits of using an IR sauna, and more.

How Infrared Saunas Work

So, what is an infrared sauna? Infrared saunas are quite a recent addition to the wellness landscape, only being invented in the 1960s. Traditional saunas, meanwhile, have been around for millennia, and most people know how they work – water is poured over hot stones, causing steam to form that fills up the room, heating it and thereby heating anyone inside it.

The difference between infrared sauna and regular sauna is that an IR sauna doesn’t heat the room first. Instead, it focuses IR light directly on the user’s body, penetrating the skin and warming you up before heating the rest of the room. As for the IR light itself, it comes from special lamps and panels fitted inside the unit.

The Science of Infrared Light

Infrared light, also known as infrared radiation, is a type of energy you can’t see but can certainly feel. Fires and the sun emit it naturally. In fact, everything in the universe emits at least some level of IR radiation, and at higher wavelengths, you can feel that radiation as heat. Various appliances and devices, such as toasters, use this principle to transmit heat.

When it comes to saunas, IR light can be used to penetrate the skin, effectively warming the body from within and potentially providing a range of benefits in the process. And, while the mention of the word “radiation” might frighten some or make you wonder, “Is an infrared sauna safe?” it’s important to note that IR radiation is absolutely safe for both the skin and body.

Health Benefits of Infrared Sauna Therapy

So, what does a sauna do for you? While many may think of saunas as relaxing and cozy places to sit for a while, they offer a range of notable health benefits. And when it comes to infrared sauna therapy, the list of benefits can be even longer. Here are just some of the main infrared sauna health benefits.

Cardiovascular Benefits

One of the most significant benefits of spending time in an infrared sauna is how it can help your cardiovascular system, especially your heart. As noted in several studies, the sauna’s heat raises your body temperature. That, in turn, leads to sweating  and a faster heart rate, along with the dilation of the blood vessels.

With blood vessels dilated, blood flow increases, and circulation improves. More oxygen flows through the body to muscles and organs, and some studies have even shown that spending time in a sauna regularly can help improve blood pressure while lowering cholesterol levels. In effect, using a sauna is almost like working out when it comes to heart health.

Detoxification

Another oft-cited benefit of infrared sauna treatment is its ability to detoxify the body. In essence, the argument goes that sitting in a sauna for a while can raise your body temperature so that you start to sweat, and sweat contains toxins and impurities. So, in a manner of speaking, spending time in an IR sauna is a way to detox your body.

Scientifically speaking, there is some truth to this. As noted by WebMD, sweat does indeed contain very small amounts of toxins. So, by sweating in a sauna, you will be removing at least some toxins from your body. However, saunas can’t be considered “detox machines” or anything like that, as the body’s organs, like kidneys and liver, do most of the heavy lifting regarding detoxification.

Stress Relief and Improved Sleep

You also have to consider the mental health benefits of infrared saunas. Many people feel completely relaxed and at peace, once they step inside those warm, cozy spaces and sit back, letting the IR waves do their work. Indeed, spending time in a sauna can be a fantastic way to de-stress at the end of a long day.

With stress and anxiety levels so high among a large part of the population, having your own sauna to retreat to can be a veritable lifesaver for your mental health. Many people also find that spending a little time in the sauna in the evenings helps to free them of their worries before going to bed. It could be a way to ease your symptoms if you’re dealing with insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Other Benefits of Infrared Saunas

There are multiple other benefits of infrared saunas that are also worth pointing out, including:

  • Pain Relief: IR saunas can ease aches, pains, sore joints, and so on.

  • Skin Conditions: Saunas may help with certain skin conditions.

  • Immune System: IR rays may boost white blood cell production to defend against infections.

  • Recovery: IR light can also aid with cell regeneration and muscle recovery after sport or injury.

In addition, one of the best benefits of an infrared vs. steam sauna or other types of sauna is that it operates at much lower temperatures. So, if other kinds of sauna are just too hot or even unbearable for you, an IR sauna could be the ideal alternative, providing the same benefits without the high heat. You can contact Komowa Wellness to learn more about how an IR sauna can help you.

Comparing Infrared and Traditional Saunas

Of course, IR saunas are not the only kind of sauna out there. Those considering adding a sauna to their home may also want to consider a more traditional type. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the two varieties differ.

Heating Mechanisms

The big difference between a traditional sauna and an infrared one is their mode of heating. Traditional saunas use steam, typically produced by pouring water over hot rocks, to warm up the room and thereby warm the people inside it. Infrared saunas are different, using IR light to heat the users first, then the room. IR models are far less hot than traditional ones.

Health Benefits

Regarding health benefits, IR saunas are newer and haven’t been researched quite as extensively. However, the evidence so far suggests they can offer more or less the same benefits as traditional models. In fact, the deeper penetration of IR heat, coupled with the more comfortable operating temperatures, may make them even more useful for pain relief and recovery.

Cost and Maintenance

Cost-wise, there’s also a big difference between classic saunas and their more modern infrared counterparts. The cost of an infrared sauna is generally much lower than a traditional one. Not only will you spend less on the unit itself and its installation, but you also won’t have to spend as much keeping an IR unit running or maintaining it.

Practical Tips for Using an Infrared Sauna

If you plan on using an infrared sauna, following the recommended guidelines is important to ensure you get the best benefits with no unnecessary risks. Here are a few practical tips for IR sauna usage to help you have the most pleasant experience.

Session Length and Frequency

In general, you don’t need to spend too long in an infrared sauna to enjoy its benefits. Short sessions of just five to 10 minutes can be excellent and are best suited for beginners starting with IR therapy.

You can then build up to 10 to 20-minute sessions later on as you get used to how the sauna feels. Experts generally advise 20-minute sessions as a good maximum guideline for most people, up to four times a week. However, it is possible to stay in an IR sauna longer, depending on your body’s needs.

Staying Hydrated

Whether you’re using a standard or IR sauna, staying hydrated is always important. You should drink some water before entering the sauna, as well as afterward. Also, try to take a break halfway through your infrared sauna session to grab some water, too. Try to drink only water rather than sodas or other drinks that might make you thirstier in the long run.

This is very important because the heat of the sauna will make you sweat, which will dehydrate your body. If your hydration levels are too low, there are risks of symptoms like dizziness and drowsiness as you sweat, but if you stay hydrated, you should have a comfortable, enjoyable session.

First Time Expectations

Your first session in an IR sauna will probably be quite a short one to get you used to how it all feels. Remember to drink before entering, as mentioned above, and avoid drinking alcohol or exercising heavily before going in. You may want to begin with a low temperature so you may not sweat too much, but that’s fine.

Opt for light and loose clothing as you leave, as your body will retain some heat even after the sauna. Ideally, you should also schedule a bit of rest time after your sauna session to give your body a chance to cool down and readjust.

Scientific Backing: What Does the Research Say?

As stated earlier, since infrared saunas are relatively recent, there haven’t been too many studies into how they work and what true benefits they can offer. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, with many users saying they feel a lot better after using an infrared sauna. However, more substantial scientific evidence and studies are still a little lacking in this area.

As noted on the Mayo Clinic website, more extensive studies will be needed to determine how effective infrared saunas are. However, science has shown that no harmful effects have been reported from using infrared saunas correctly and responsibly. In addition, the studies that have taken place on IR sauna benefits have been quite optimistic about blood pressure benefits and recovery.

Is an Infrared Sauna Right for You?

As you can see, infrared saunas can be valuable and useful additions to any health or wellness routine. They’re believed to provide many of the same benefits as traditional saunas, along with some bonus advantages. Plus, they’re cooler and more comfortable for many users. So, if a standard sauna doesn’t feel quite right to you, an IR model might be the perfect addition. Contact Komowa Wellness today to learn more.

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