Infrared saunas couple health benefits from infrared light and heat-induced sweat for an incredibly relaxing experience.
But with health risks involved, is it possible to enjoy the benefits of a sauna without the communal dangers?
Portable options are making sweat sessions more accessible to the public, and the perks are notable.
Saunas are one of those things in life that seems both relaxing and immediately disconcerting, all at the same time. Being embraced by warmth, having the opportunity to sit peacefully and let all of life’s stressors slide away… that sounds like absolute heaven.
But is there space in the day that I really want to feel like I walked out of a pool, covered in my sweat and perhaps the sweat of the others around me? Do I really want to sit idle, fidgeting most likely, uncomfortable with being so flimsily dressed around others, if clothed at all? Such high levels of public exposure are not everyone’s thing, and it can be even more difficult to grapple with it during a worldwide pandemic.
The term “sauna” itself describes any heating system that helps the user to produce an extreme amount of sweat. An elevated space heater experience, if you will. Whether you love a sauna or not, we can all agree it’s not a place to take a first date. (Unless, of course, you are ready to dive into the deep end with them.)
The history of the sauna is actually really incredible. The earliest form has been traced back to 7000BC Finland. While those saunas were dug directly into the earth and benefitted from the stone and natural resources around them, they are thought to have been a more central staple to life in Finland. As they progressed, they became more like cottages built into hillsides, with added amenities as the years went on. When water seemed difficult to come by, they were used widely to bathe. Evidence suggests that mothers gave birth in these hollowed out bits of earth and stone, and bodies were prepared for burial and cremation as well.
The health benefits of the sauna experience are actually very well accounted for in scientific studies, and relatively widely known. In fact, infrared saunas provide added light therapy that earlier versions couldn’t. Let’s dive into some of the best reasons to pursue a good shvitz in an infrared sauna.
Infrared saunas promote mental health
As mentioned above, infrared saunas allow for a moment to pause. Like any other decadent spa experience, you have time to close your eyes and really tune in to the moment. Many people visualize the beads of sweat that accumulate and roll off their body as troubles being extracted and falling away from them. Choosing a mental exercise or meditation to focus on can really help to make your sauna time work to your benefit.
Through meditation – or even just taking time to breathe and let your mind wander or relax – you can help to concertedly reduce inflammation in your body, as well as in your brain. Regular sweat sessions can help to set you up for productivity and a more regulated sleep schedule, which all contribute to positive mental health patterns.
Infrared saunas can help minimize stress
Aside from the mental relaxation that can come from a sauna session, the sheer heat can throw your body into fight or flight mode. Saunas operate at temperatures our bodies aren’t (or, shouldn’t be) accustomed to on a regular basis. In an unknown situation, we often have stress responses – increased heart rate, panic attacks, feelings of discomfort and overwhelm, etc. – that come along to hang out while we adjust to what we aren’t used to. Over time, having to adjust so often trains and regulates your body’s fight or flight response so that you aren’t so shaken by things like temperature differences anymore.
Infrared saunas may help reduce cardiovascular risk
If cardiovascular disease runs in your family – and even if it doesn’t, really – it is suggested that spending time in the sauna may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disaster. A 2018 international study concluded that “higher frequency and duration of sauna bathing may be related to a lower risk of [cardiovascular disease (CVD)] mortality in a representative population-based sample of female and male participants.”
These results may stem from the fact that infrared saunas are linked to more streamlined blood flow. Several studies over the last two decades indicate improved hemodynamics in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF). Routine sauna therapy for 15 minutes, 5 times per week aided hemodynamic function – or blood flow, reduced symptoms, and improved vascular endothelial function and cardiac function in struggling patients.
Infrared saunas could complement a weight loss routine.
According to the Parkinson’s Resource Organization, “Sweating is actually good for your health, as it releases toxins buried in the fat cells underneath the skin. Heavy sweating is a great way to facilitate your body’s natural ability to detox.”
While many people have been quick to assess a sauna’s role in weight loss based on lengthened heightened heart rates similar to a runner’s post-session, there isn’t a lot of evidence that directly supports this theory. A number of the toxins that are removed during sauna sessions could very well be free radicals that agitate the fat cells or compound them. However, any weight loss experience could be linked to decreased stress levels. Better cardiac function could also be responsible for a healthier ability to enact exercise in one’s routine.
People today do not have access to the esteemed bath houses, racquet clubs, and gyms as once was a societal staple. These locations are no longer the community events and highlights they once were, as general interests diversify and people find themselves living more chaotic lives with increased distractions. Even those who do might not feel safe being in a communal space right now, or truly ever, since the events of the last couple of years. However, the benefits of the experience are pretty substantial. Suffice it to say, a more portable, at-home solution may be your new go-to for some of those trademark health benefits.
And portable, at-home friendly solutions do exist. Perhaps now is the time to invest in something that will benefit your space and your life, as well as that of friends and family in the future. If you don’t have the space to dedicate to your sauna in a living space, the Sauna Shower Converter is an apartment and small home-friendly option that does exactly what the name suggests. Connect it to your shower wall, and experience the sauna’s effects basked in a red glow. (Be sure to start with fewer bulbs and work your way up to all 4 lamps with this option if you choose to treat yourself.)
Sauna Space’s Luminati pocket sauna is only 55 lbs and can be set up in a relatively condensed corner of any room. It’s simple design is both practical and chic as it leverages mitochondrial light therapy to provide similar results to a full-body, full-on sauna experience without the extreme heat. If you’re looking for something slightly more on-the-go to target specific parts of your body with sauna therapy, Sauna Space’s Photon is a cost-effective option that provides lighter levels of detoxification.
If you’re less comfortable with the idea of having your entire body submerged in heat for 20-60 minutes at a time, or are on a tighter budget and need something more affordable, then the Thera360 PLUS Portable Sauna might be preferred. This economical model provides an all-natural bamboo chair to hang out on while your efforts may help increase circulation and decrease pain and inflammation in your body – and those are just common, more immediate effects. This model is especially pleasing for those who experience claustrophobia or overwhelm in heated spaces, since you have the option to comfortably sit with your head emerging from the zipper at the top and your hands free from the heat in two other openings so you can read a book, talk on the phone, or watch a video on a device.
Whether you’re choosing to dip your toe (and entire body) into a portable or on-sight infrared sauna experience, remember to limit your heat exposure time based on your comfort and posted guidelines and restrictions. It is never suggested to drink alcohol before an infrared session, instead hydrate up. Anyone who plans to work out after their session should keep the pre-sweat to a minimum. People with low blood pressure and kidney disease, or people taking diuretics or medications should avoid infrared experiences. Be sure to discuss the importance of sauna function and frequency with your medical practitioner to make sure it safely supplements your current wellness routine.