Most people are familiar with a sauna; many health clubs have one! A sauna provides what some might describe as heat bathing – warm air circulates in a closed room, and the heat warms the body causing profuse sweating. Sitting in the sauna is relaxing, so it reduces stress, and it can improve blood circulation while removing toxins from your body through your skin. The sauna can even lead to weight loss, but it is temporary. Sorry! In addition to offering a weight loss benefit, relaxation, and stress reduction, a sauna can relieve muscular aches and pains. After a rigorous workout at the gym, taking a shower and sitting in a sauna is soothing to the mind, spirit, and body.
There are two types of saunas – the traditional sauna and the infrared sauna. The conventional sauna uses intense heat that can go as high as 194 degrees Fahrenheit or 90 degrees Celsius. In the traditional sauna, you control the temperature and humidity. Pouring water over the rocks releases moisture into the air.
The infrared sauna has the same benefits as the traditional sauna but with a lower temperature. In the infrared sauna, you can only control the temperature. Light is used to create heat, and just your body is warmed, unlike the traditional sauna where the air around you is heated. The temperature in an infrared sauna is from 110 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius), and it reaches a ceiling of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The heat waves caused by the light in an infrared sauna penetrates your body, raising your temperature, and causing you to sweat.
Infrared light or infrared energy uses wavelengths of light to penetrate the body. The energy from the light penetrates the skin and is absorbed by the deep tissue in your body. According to a consumer health article by Dr. Brent A. Bauer for the Mayo Clinic, infrared saunas have been used to treat certain health issues. Dr. Bauer indicated in the article that infrared saunas have been known to have a therapeutic impact on diseases such as, “high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, headache, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.” In the same article, Dr. Bauer cautions that additional studies must be conducted before doctors can definitively verify the benefits of an infrared sauna in the treatment of chronic disease, but early testing is promising.
You might be asking yourself, what is the optimal temperature setting for a home infrared sauna? How high should I set the temperature? How hot is too hot? The optimal environment for an infrared sauna is between 110 – 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 43 – 54 degrees Celsius. Each session should last approximately 15-20 minutes. You can always go outside, cool down, drink some water, and then reenter for an additional 10-15 minutes. The optimal heat setting is an individual choice, and the decision depends on what benefit you’re seeking from your sauna experience. If for example, you want to soothe aches and pains and improve blood circulation, you might want a higher temperature, but if you want to remove toxins from your body and purify your skin, you might want to use a lower temperature.
In an infrared sauna, because your body is absorbing light energy, the actual temperature of the sauna is not as crucial to your body as the fact that you are receiving infrared heat. Infrared saunas have an excellent therapeutic effect as Dr. Bauer suggests.