Saunas seem to be one of the most well-known and universally accessible forms of relaxation. Infrared saunas, in particular, are the relative new kids on the block, and are being hailed as a comparable alternative to traditional saunas (although it should be mentioned that there are some differences). In this blog post, we will explore how infrared saunas affect your body and what you can do to best benefit from them.
Remember though, the information contained within this article is strictly for informational use only. We always recommend that you consult your health care practitioner before engaging in regular sauna use.
What Are Infrared Saunas?
Infrared saunas rely on radiation as opposed to convection and conduction used by traditional saunas, heating your body directly rather than the entire room. By using ceramic, incoloy, or carbon panel heaters, they emit infrared light which is then absorbed by the skin’s cells; the most prevalent being far-infrared light. Modern technology and innovation has allowed for newer infrared heaters to emit a range of infrared light (in waves) such as near, mid, and Temperatures are typically lower (averaging 120-150°F) providing a gentler, soothing, experience.
The radiated head causes your body to warm and hence sweat; kickstarting the benefits of thermotherapy. The panel heaters are built-in to the surrounding walls and occasionally the ceiling, which means that your body is being targeted from all directions. With traditionally saunas, the heat tends to rise, meaning that higher seats can be noticeably hotter than lower seats.
Infrared Saunas are most commonly known for their “dry heat”; as a result of the lack of traditional heater and sauna stones, infrared saunas lack a core element of the sauna experience that many people enjoy: the löyly. This is the steam aspect of the sauna, caused by throwing water over the hot stones. Nevertheless, a key advantage of an infrared sauna is the greater space (which can be enhanced with removable benches), which allows you to stretch and even practice hot yoga.
Although not quite as hot as the traditional sauna, infrareds are still able to provide therapeutic benefits in quite a few ways. To get an idea of their benefits, let's take a look at what they can do for you.
What Are The Benefits of Using An Infrared Sauna?
Much like a traditional sauna, infrared sauna use can be classified as thermotherapy. You may have heard of cryotherapy - thermotherapy is the opposite: it is the application of a substance or heat to increase the body’s tissue temperature.
The following is a list of some of the well known benefits to thermotherapy, and regular infrared sauna use:
- Improved skin and hair condition,
- Improved quality of sleep,
- Improved respiratory function,
- Relief from muscle ache,
- Relief from joint pains,
- Improved circulation and cardiovascular function,
- Fights fatigue.
There are other claims touted such as improved weight loss, detoxification, etc. although there has been some debate about these. So let’s instead delve a little deeper into the concrete benefits that we do know about...
Your Energy and Quality of Sleep
Infrared saunas have shown to help the body enter a parasympathetic state by affecting the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body's rest and digestion response, which typically works when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It essentially undoes the work of the sympathetic division after a stressful situation.
As a result of this, it decreases the body’s respiration and heart rates and increases digestion. Ultimately, this state allows your body to heal and recover, resulting in better sleep quality, thereby boosting your energy levels.
Furthermore, studies have shown that perceived fatigue significantly decreased after regular infrared sauna therapy. In addition, negative moods, including anxiety, depression and fatigue significantly improved after therapy.
The sauna quickly heats up your skin, causing you to sweat. As the moisture is released and absorbed into your skin, it results in a cooling sensation: a feeling that your body is "cooling down." With an infrared sauna, the heat is quickly released into the air rather than your body resulting in a safe, comfortable temperature.
Another important quality of an infrared sauna is its ability to stimulate collagen production. Collagen keeps your skin to feel supple and firm and is necessary for keeping your skin looking young and healthy. As you age, however, you lose collagen faster than you produce it. This eventually leads to thinning and sagging skin. The infrared sauna helps stimulate collagen production preventing these unsightly signs of aging from developing. There is also some compelling evidence that sauna use can aid in treating acne.
The infrared sauna also helps preserve and repair your hair. One of the most common problems in the hair and scalp is dandruff. Dandruff primarily consists of dead skin, sebum (oil), and bacteria that accumulate on the scalp layer of hair. When these substances are allowed to build up, they can clog up pores resulting in a greasy looking appearance, dryness, and tightness. The infrared saunas' ability to quickly heat your body causes your sebum to rapidly sweat off which prevents this build-up from occurring.
Your Respiratory System
Engaging in regular sauna use has shown to result in improved respiratory function, particularly in those suffering from asthma and bronchitis. This is a result of decreased pulmonary congestion and increased forced vital capacity, according to Crinnion et al.
Your Stress Levels
In 2005 a team of Japanese scientists studied how thermal therapy could influence a loss of appetite and subjective complaints in patients with mild forms of depression. Over a four week period, they found that there was a statistically significant improvement in appetite, ability to relax and even a reduction in complaints relating to physical discomfort.
We’ve already written a great article on weight loss and how your muscles are impacted due to regular sauna use. In short, regular sauna use has shown to improve the release of growth hormones, induce heat shock proteins, improve insulin sensitivity, and regulate lipids. All of these combined, your muscles are going to see some great benefits from growth and hypertrophy, to improved recovery.
That makes regular sauna use, a great supplement to any fitness regime.
A study conducted on rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis patients over a four-week period showed clinical improvements in terms of pain, stiffness and fatigue when specifically using far-infrared saunas. Infrared treatment showed significant short-term beneficial effects, and potential for further study.
Sauna use has shown to benefit post-myocardial infarction and hypertensive heart disease; or in layman’s terms: heart attacks and high blood pressure. A study on a group of men who had experienced heart attacks in the previous 4-6 weeks of the study showed no adverse effects from sauna use. In fact, it showed cardiac workload similar to brisk walking.
Furthermore, a further group of 46 men saw a decrease in blood pressure similar to those using anti-hypertensive medication.
What You Can Do To Get The Most Out Of Your Infrared Sauna:
Part of the beauty of a sauna is its ability to calm your mind and body. It has been proven that using infrared saunas at least once a week can have some very positive effects on your body and mind. In addition to being able to relax, it is also possible to use an infrared sauna for optimal cholesterol levels, aided weight loss, and energy enhancement.
To benefit from using an infrared sauna, your body needs to be in a healthy state. If you already have some health problems, it may be best to consult with your doctor before beginning this type of sauna routine.
The Medical 5 Ultra Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna
Eat a small, healthy meal when using an infrared sauna. You want to provide the body with adequate nutrients to help prevent nutrient deficiencies that occur during detoxification and weight loss programs. One easy way is by having a salad before and/or after your sauna. This will increase your rate of assimilation and absorption of essential nutrients into the bloodstream which will further enhance your benefits.
Make sure to drink plenty of water during your sauna sessions. Although you will be sweating, you do not want to become dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, it will be difficult for your body to detoxify properly and absorb nutrients properly.
Tip: Add in a light workout before your sauna session. By adding in this session, you will further increase your rate of fat loss and improve your overall health and wellness. Make sure the workout is at least 20 minutes long, but not more than an hour. This is because if it is too demanding, it can cause dehydration which can have the opposite effect on the sweat-induced detoxification of your skin and scalp.
Infrared saunas are becoming increasingly popular with both celebrities and sports teams. Infrared saunas have been known to help alleviate itchy skin, stress headaches, tension headaches, muscle pain, weight loss, and much more. Infrared saunas can be used as a stand alone supplemental treatment for health problems or they can be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy such as acupuncture or herbs. To get healthy and enjoy the benefits of an infrared sauna all year round, you should look into purchasing your own today. At Thermaliving, we offer up a range of Infrared Saunas, both Indoor and Outdoor, and with select models offering up Full Spectrum Infrared as well!
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Oosterveld FG, Rasker JJ, Floors M, Landkroon R, van Rennes B, Zwijnenberg J, van de Laar MA, Koel GJ. Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. Clin Rheumatol. 2009 Jan;28(1):29-34. doi: 10.1007/s10067-008-0977-y. Epub 2008 Aug 7. PMID: 18685882.
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