For thousands of years, cultures around the world have known and utilized heat therapy for healing and balancing the body and mind. From Russian banyas, the Japanese onsen and sento, the Native American sweat lodge, to the well-known Finnish sauna, the power of heat has been a staple treatment for encouraging relaxation, supporting wellness, and even for advancing spiritual awakening.
For those of us without access to these ancient traditions, there is still a way to experience the many benefits of heat therapy through the use of a modern sauna that can fit easily within your own home.
These saunas come in sizes for single users all the way to large groups of 8 or more, and, depending on what kind you get, you will experience very different results. I personally prefer a home infrared sauna since it offers the most therapeutic benefits.
Types of Saunas
- Dry Sauna – heated with fire, electricity, gas, or hot stones
- Infrared Sauna – uses invisible light at specific frequencies to penetrate the body and raise core temperature
- Steam Sauna – steam is generated by pouring water over the heating element
Additionally, infrared saunas have three versions:
- Near infrared
- Far infrared
- Full-spectrum (which includes near, mid, and far infrared)
How Infrared Saunas Work
Infrared light, which we experience as heat, is an invisible part of the light spectrum. We can feel this phenomenon when we feel the warmth from the sun’s rays.
There are three types of infrared heat, each with their own range of benefits depending on which therapeutic wavelengths are used.
- Near infrared
- Mid infrared
- Far infrared
Most infrared saunas use just far infrared light, but the one I have, the mPulse by Sunlighten, combines all three for full-spectrum results.
These wavelengths penetrate the body and increase core temperature by a few degrees which induces a detoxifying sweat and increases heart rate for maximum therapeutic results.
What do The Different Wavelengths Do?
Also known as (NIR), near infrared is the shortest infrared frequency. Scientific research has shown that NIR delivered at a wavelength of 880nm offers the following benefits:
- A boosted metabolism
- Eases muscle and joint pain
- Improves circulation
- Improves flexibility
- Promotes cell regeneration
- Provides anti-aging benefits
- Provides pain relief
- Recharges cell’s mitochondria
- Reduces body fat
- Reduces inflammation
- Rejuvenates the skin
- Stimulates white blood cell production
- Supports wound healing
Also known as (MIR), mid infrared is a mid-range wavelength that can penetrate deeply into the body’s soft tissues where inflammation occurs. This helps:
- Bring more oxygen to injured areas
- Expand blood vessels
- Increase circulation
- Reduce pain
- Speeds up healing
- Support weight loss
Also known as (FIR), far infrared is the longest wavelength and therefore penetrates the deepest into the body. This helps:
- Enhance general physical health
- Improve cardiac and vascular function
- Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure
- Produce a truly detoxifying sweat
- Reduce fatigue
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Reduce pain and stiffness
- Reduce stress
- Support weight loss
10 Infrared Sauna Benefits for Optimum Health
- Blood Pressure Regulation
Sweating during an infrared sauna session for 30 minutes three times a week has been proven to boost circulation and reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
One study shows that the diastolic blood pressure in the far infrared group was statistically significant with a p value of .001. The far infrared group also experienced a decrease in systolic blood pressure from an average of 130.5 to 124 at the end of the study.
In fact, all published scientific literature shows that infrared saunas have coronary benefits, including stabilizing blood pressure and reducing the chance of congestive heart conditions. This is due in part because heat therapy, especially infrared heat, resembles cardio exercise.
- Cellular Health
NASA has found that delivering near infrared deep into body tissue can quadruple cell health and tissue growth.
The near infrared delivered by the Sunlighten mPulse sauna stimulates white blood cell production, collagen growth, and cell regeneration by increasing cellular energy.
It has also been shown that near infrared can restore enzyme activity and reduce cellular death by half which means that soft tissue injuries like strains and strains heal more quickly.
Detoxification helps strengthen the body and eliminate harmful chemicals and wastes that impair the body’s biological processes.
The sweat induced by infrared saunas is different than sweat produced during exercise. This is because during exercise, the sympathetic nervous system is activated which is the body’s fight or flight mode. This inhibits efficient toxin elimination.
Relaxing in an infrared sauna helps induce sweating while you’re in a parasympathetic state and therefore encourages proper detox because the body is relaxed and not stressed.
Substances that can be released and eliminated after multiple sauna sessions include pesticides, phthalates, lead, copper, cadmium, manganese, arsenic, nickel, and mercury.
- Healthy Circulation
Infrared wavelengths penetrate deep into the soft tissues of the body where they heat up the core and surrounding muscles. This increases blood flow even after your sauna session is over. Blood flow can be increased from the normal 5-7 quarts per minute to as much as 13 quarts per minute. This is how the body reaps the cardio-like benefits of using an infrared sauna without exercising.
This increased blood flow to the peripherals helps reduce inflammation, speed up healing and recovery, and decrease pain.
- Natural Anti-Aging
One study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy showed significant improvements in skin appearance and elasticity after 12 weeks of near infrared sauna therapy. Participants experienced reduced wrinkles and crow’s feet and improved skin tone, clarity, firmness, and softness.
Another study found that the regular use of infrared saunas improved the skin’s PH and ability to hold moisture while reducing sebum and acne breakouts.
Those with psoriasis and eczema have experienced improved skin barrier function and a reduction in inflammation.
- Pain Relief and Flexibility
One of the best reasons to invest in an infrared sauna is because of their proven ability to reduce even chronic pain.
Many studies have shown that those who suffer from chronic pain have experienced up to a 70% reduction in pain levels after just one session of infrared sauna therapy. Pain further decreased and remained low even after the session was over.
Near infrared is especially good for penetrating tissues and increasing cellular growth from the inside.
Additionally, near infrared heat encourages white blood cell production which help reduce inflammation and pain.
Doing stretches while using the sauna was shown to increase flexibility threefold!
- Sleep Improvement
Taking a warm bath or consuming a hot drink before bed are known remedies for encouraging restful sleep, but did you know that using the sauna in the afternoon can drastically improve sleep quality?
This is because the decrease in body temperature before bed signals to the body that it is time to produce melatonin.
When an infrared sauna is used in the afternoon hours, the significant rise and then lowering in body temperature tells the body loud and clear it’s bedtime.
- Stress Relief and Relaxation
There is nothing quite like relaxing in an infrared sauna to help reduce the day’s stress. In fact, it’s the perfect place to meditate and allow for peace and quiet.
Using an infrared sauna increases endorphins which helps encourage a positive mood and serene relaxation. Infrared rays also promote the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which protects new neurons in the brain from getting damaged due to stress.
By using an infrared sauna a few times per week, you can help rebalance your body’s stress response which in turn will help to naturally balance cortisol levels.
- Weight Loss and Metabolism
Incredibly, the use of an infrared sauna on a regular basis, at least 20 minutes three times per week, has been shown to lower weight and waist circumference in a three-month period. These sessions were shown to burn up to 600 calories – that’s like running 6 miles while sitting down!
This is because the heat produced by infrared rays raises your body temperature by a whole 3 degrees and increases heart rate which mimics a cardio workout.
Using an infrared sauna more regularly helps boost metabolism, improve sluggish thyroid function, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce body fat – all of which help with weight loss and preventing obesity.
- Wound Healing
Sunlighten mPulse infrared saunas are the only saunas on the market that produce near infrared light using LED technology. This is the same technology where research concluding that near infrared therapy greatly enhances the wound healing process.
One study concluded that human cell growth increased by an astounding 155%-171% while wound size decreased by 36%!
Have you ever experienced the benefits of an infrared sauna? Please share in the comments below!
You may also enjoy reading:
Harry T. Whelan, Ellen V. Buchmann, Noel T. Whelan, Scott G. Turner, Vita Cevenini, Helen Stinson, Ron Ignatius, Todd Martin, Joan Cwiklinski, Glenn A. Meyer, Brian Hodgson Lisa Gould, Mary Kane, Gina Chen , James Caviness. NASA Light Emitting Diode Medical Applications From Deep Space to Deep Sea. CP552, Space Technology and Applications International Forum-2001, edited by M. S. El-Genk. Copyright 2001 American Institute of Physics 1-56396-980-7/01.
Margaret T.T.Wong-Riley, Huan Ling Liang, Janis T. Eells, Britton Chance, Michele M. Henry, Ellen Buchmann, Mary Kane, and Harry T. Whelan. Photobiomodulation Directly Benefits Primary Neurons Functionally Inactivated by Toxins: Role of Cytochrome C Oxidase. JBC Papers in Press. Published on November 22, 2004 as Manuscript M409650200. Copyright 2004 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
Dr. Masakazu Imamura, MD, et al. Repeated Thermal Therapy Improves Impaired Vascular Endothelial Function in Patients With Coronary Risk Factors. Vol. 38, No. 4, 2001. Journal of American College of Cardiology: pp 1083-1088.
B.A. Russell, N. Kellett & L.R. Reilly. Study to Determine the Efficacy of Combination LED Light Therapy (633nm and 830 nm) in Facial Skin Rejuvenation. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 2005; 7: pp 196-200.
Kowatzki, D., Macholdt, C., Krull, K., Schmidt, D., Deufel, T., Elsner, P., et al. (2008). Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: A controlled study. Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland)
Internal Medicine (Tokyo) Aug 15, 2008 by Matsushita K, Masuda A, Tei C. The First Department of Internal Medicine, Kagoshima University Hospital, Kagoshima, Japan.
Lidija Kandolf-Sekulovic, Milena Kataranovski, Milos D. Pavlovic. Immunomodulatory Effects of Low-Intensity Near-Infrared Laser Irradiation on Contact Hypersensitivity Reaction. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2003; 19: pp 203–212, Blackwell Munksgaard.
Journal of the American Medical Association, August 1981.
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