Infrared Saunas: 5 Benefits You Can’t Pass Up
Nothing beats a 10-20 minute sweat session in a sauna.
You feel relaxed, rested, and the heat helps relieve any sore muscles and improves your overall health and well-being.
But suppose the high temperatures of a traditional sauna are just too much for you to handle. In that case, an infrared sauna offers the same benefits yet without the extreme heat.
What is an infrared sauna?
Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you within the room. Rather, they use infrared lamps to directly warm your body’s core temperatures. Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures (usually between 40˚C and 60˚C) than traditional ones, which is typically between 90˚C and 105˚C. Infrared sauna lovers state that the heat penetrates deeper than the warmed air from conventional saunas. This allows them to experience a more intense sweat at a lower temperature.
As the surrounding environment is more tolerable, it enables more sauna users to remain in the sauna longer whilst still increasing their core body temperature.
What are the health benefits of using infrared saunas?
Health benefits vary and naturally are dependent on the individual user. Although in reality, the same health benefits apply to both traditional and infrared saunas, namely:
- increase in sleep
- more relaxed
- weight loss (disputable, as weight loss is from sweating. Re-hydrating replaces the lost water)
- relief of joint pains and sore muscles
- clearer skins and pores
- improved blood circulation
Whilst there are several studies and research on the health benefits of traditional saunas, studies into using infrared saunas are new. However, the early signs are encouraging:
- Research found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome benefited from using an infrared sauna as part of an overall treatment.
- Another study found that infrared saunas helped decrease muscle soreness and increase recovery from strength-training sessions.
- Others have found that infrared light therapy saunas may reduce blood pressure.
Similarly, there are no reports of adverse effects so far, beyond the cautions about any sauna experience.
The good news is even if your sweat session doesn’t do all of the things it claims to do, at least it will feel good at a lower temperature.
Differences between using infrared and traditional saunas
The goals of using saunas vary by individual. Generally, the goal is to obtain relaxation, stress reduction, sweating (detoxifying) and relieve aches and pains.
Both types of saunas provide these benefits, although the conditions to achieve them are different.
Both sauna types are relatively dry. Yet infrared saunas are closer to normal home humidity levels unless switched on for extended periods.
The traditional sauna is drier (10% or lower) until a bather sprinkles water over the stones to obtain more humidity, and thus temperature. Bathers do this to get their favourite sauna environment by how much they throw on the stones.
In infrared saunas, you control the temperature, but the humidity is whatever it is.
Whilst perspiring in either sauna, people will experience deep relaxation. Their sore muscles and aching joints will likely feel relief. The perspiration process burns some calories, though the amount of calories burned is questionable and depends on the individual.
It’s essential to address the differences because many opinions exist about saunas that have to do more with personal experience, cultural tradition and health benefits.
Yet it is easier to determine which is more suitable for you by focussing on the differences below:
- Sauna temperature
- Heating method
- The time it takes to heat the sauna
- Amount of energy used for a typically sized sauna area
- Socialising with others
The infrared sauna temperatures are usually between 40˚C and 60˚C. However, unlike traditional saunas, the goal in an infrared room is not to achieve a high temperature.
Instead, in an infrared sauna, the bather wants the emitters to remain active because infrared energy provides the benefit of the deep penetrating infrared heat when the emitters are on. Therefore, the temperature difference is almost irrelevant since profuse sweating results in both sauna types, but heating the body is different. The bather will feel hot and sweat profusely in an infrared sauna but at much lower temperatures.
Thus, if the goal is to spend more extended periods in the sauna, the infrared sauna is a good choice.
In a traditional sauna, bathers achieve perspiration when the bather enters a heated room. When adequately heating a conventional sauna, users tell by noticing the room walls are warm, the air temperature has reached the set temperature, and the stones are scorching.
The heating process most often involves an electric heater that heats a compartment of stones that radiate the heat throughout the room.
When reaching the desired high temperature, the elements cycle on and off to maintain it.
Most traditional sauna users pour water over the rocks to create more steam that raises sauna humidity levels.
The benefits of pouring water over the stones include:
- making the sauna more comfortable
- moistening nasal passages
- allowing aromatherapy by mixing essential oils with the water.
In an infrared sauna, the heat waves penetrate the body to heat the body and raise its core temperature. Infrared energy then warms the joints and muscles. When this occurs, the body temperature increases and begins to perspire. In an infrared sauna, the heaters need to remain on constantly.
Since there are no stones to retain heat, the sauna cools if the emitters are switched off. Thus, even though most of the energy converts into efficient infrared energy, infrared saunas are designed for continuous operation.
The time it takes to heat the sauna
Both saunas’ heating time is very different.
Using a traditional sauna needs 30-40 minutes for the room to achieve the desired temperature and properly preheat the stones. Naturally, the heating time is impacted by the saunas insulation, the room’s ventilation, and the room temperature once heating has begun. A well-constructed sauna will typically achieve the desired temperature in around 30-40 minutes. For hotter temperatures, the sauna needs to heat up for longer.
Once the sauna achieves the set temperature, the heater will cycle on and off, typically operating about 50% of the time. The insulated walls and the heated stones will keep the room hot at the required temperature.
For infrared sauna rooms, a person may begin bathing when switching on the sauna. The heaters begin emitting infrared energy, so users’ time to start using the room is much shorter.
The length of a recommended sauna session is around 10-15 minutes. However, due to lower air temperatures and feeling the effects of infrared heat faster than traditional saunas, bathers can spend a total of 20-30 minutes in an infrared sauna.
From an economic and environmental standpoint, energy use has become a more critical factor in a buyers’ decision-making process. Neither sauna type will cause a substantial increase in a household electric bill.
Still, traditional saunas tend to be larger (hence use more electricity) than infrared saunas. However, traditional ones are undoubtedly available in smaller sizes if the need to conserve energy is paramount.
Amount of energy used for a typically sized room
For a two-person traditional sauna, the top bench can comfortably seat two or three people and is long enough to lie down during the sauna session.
Typically a sauna heater runs for 75% during the first hour and 50% of the following hours. Thus, the longer the sauna session, the less energy is consumed per time spent using it.
A two-person infrared room is usually physically smaller than a traditional sauna. The infrared heating system typically uses less energy as it heats faster. Users use it for longer, not having to retire to cool down (due to the higher temperature). Overall, infrared saunas are cheaper per se.
Socialising with others
Finally, there is the social experience when using the two sauna types. Whilst our culture has lost some of the traditional sauna experience’s social benefits, it can be very socially rewarding.
From some family time, time spent with loved ones or socialising with friends – the traditional sauna experience is a popular social interaction for many. Traditional saunas are large enough to allow several people simultaneously to some sauna social time. However, traditional saunas restrict people to around 10-15 minutes each session because of their higher temperatures.
Using an infrared sauna means a longer session time (around 20-30 minutes). The temperatures are lower and more manageable for those who cannot stomach higher temperatures. Thus, better for social experiences.
Infrared sauna user guidelines
Whether you have a sauna at home or visit a health club or spa, most of the guidelines are similar.
Most will follow the below tips:
Clothing. Some bathers will wear swimsuits, whilst others prefer to go naked.
Feeling unwell. Best to not use the sauna if you’re feeling ill.
Select the desired temperature. Average temperatures for infrared saunas range from 40˚C to 65˚C, with beginners starting at the lower end. For sauna novices, it’s best to begin with 40˚C for several sessions before raising the temperature.
Length of a session. For novices, begin with 10-15 minutes. You can add additional time for every new session until you can tolerate times around 20-30 minutes. Never stay too long and become dehydrated.
Hydrate regularly. Ensure you drink enough water before going into an infrared sauna, drinking more if you find higher temperatures uncomfortable.
No alcohol. Avoid drinking the stuff.
Sauna activities. Read a book (not a smartphone), listen to music, read, meditate, listen to music, chat with friends – simply relax and take it easy. Never nod off and fall asleep.
Post-sauna. Let your body cool down, drink plenty of water and take a shower or bath.
Weekly sessions. At first, if you are healthy and experience no problems, then 3-4 sessions a week will be fine. If you become more experienced, then you can do it daily.
Should a bather have any healthcare conditions, including heart problems, high blood pressure or receive medical care. In that case, it is best to check with your doctor first before having an infrared sauna session. Even though infrared saunas are relatively safe, you don’t want to take any chances concerning your health and safety.
Buying an infrared sauna
When researching a potential purchase, consider how you plan to use your sauna and what health benefits seem most important to you – whether physical, mental or social health benefits. In reality, both sauna types have substantial heat bathing benefits.
Your aim should be to find a suitable sauna that fits within your home, budget and health goals.
Need assistance in picking which sauna is best, contact us. We offer both traditional and infrared ones.