What do you know about saunas?
If you've experienced one, chances are you're familiar with the feeling of comfort and relaxation that they can provide. You may have heard about some of the health benefits. You might know that they originated in Northern Europe.
But did you know that saunas date back 4,000 years or more? Or that they can have benefits ranging from heart and brain health to acute ailments like arthritis or headaches? Or that exercising in certain types of saunas can provide extra perks?
It would be excessive to list the many benefits of sauna therapy here. Suffice it to say, they are plentiful and well-documented.
Saunas have changed minimally for thousands of years, but modern technologies have brought new innovations. In particular, the use of infrared light has made a big impact in sauna therapy.
So what are infrared saunas and what are the differences between infrared vs traditional saunas?
If you're interested in sauna therapy but you're not sure which type to pursue, read on to learn more.
How Does Sauna Therapy Work?
Fundamentally, a sauna provides its benefits by heating up the body beyond normal ambient temperatures. This induces physiological changes to push the body into a condition called " heat stress."
Physical stress, such as that caused by heat or exercise, leads to healthy adaptations in the body. In the case of heat stress, it leads to increased blood flow, lower blood pressure and heart rate, detoxification, and improved circulation.
How long a user, or bather, should stay in a sauna and at what temperature depends on the type of sauna and the person's goals. The more you use a sauna, the more heat-conditioned you become.
Newer users should usually start with lower temperatures and shorter sessions. With experience, you can increase the temperature and duration of your sauna use.
The Lowdown on Traditional Saunas
Traditional saunas exclusively use ambient heat to increase the body's temperature. Some sauna traditions focus on dry heat while others add moisture to the atmosphere to increase the intensity.
In both types of traditional saunas, a heater is used to warm the inside air. The difference between the two is in humidity levels.
In a dry sauna, the air has a very low level of humidity. Because of this, it frees your body to sweat more. In addition, because air transfers heat more slowly than water, the feeling is less intense and users can stay inside longer.
The interior of a steam sauna includes a heated mass of rock along with a ladle and a bucket of water. Bathers ladle water onto the rocks to create lingering bursts of heated steam.
Some people prefer the intensity that the increased humidity of a steam sauna brings. On top of that, breathing the steam can have additional respiratory benefits and allows for the addition of essential oils.
Using Traditional Saunas
The time it takes to heat a traditional sauna depends on its size, but generally takes around 45 minutes. Normally, these types of saunas are used between 150-195°F.
Typically, a bather will stay in the sauna for 15-20 minutes at a time, then come out and cool off for 5-10 minutes before going in again if they choose.
It's recommended that a bather have one to three sessions in a traditional sauna depending on personal preference. It only takes one to begin experiencing health benefits.
What Are Infrared Saunas?
Infrared saunas have made a big impact on sauna therapy in recent decades. They still utilize the principle of heat stress, but they work differently than traditional saunas.
Infrared saunas use light energy to apply heat directly to the skin without so significantly heating the ambient air. There is evidence that light therapy from infrared saunas can have additional health benefits.
Infrared saunas typically take 15-20 minutes to heat up and are used between 115-140°F. However, the use of one of our radiant sauna tents eliminates the need to preheat at all, so you can save time and get in the sauna faster.
Infrared saunas can be safely used twice a day for sessions of 15-60 minutes each, depending on the user's experience.
The light used in these saunas can be in the far- (FIR) or near-infrared ranges (NIR).
FIR light gets absorbed by the water contained in our skin cells and therefore does not penetrate as deeply into the body. It still stimulates heat stress and has some additional light therapy benefits, such as anti-inflammatory responses.
NIR light is not absorbed by water. Because of this trait, it is able to penetrate deeply into the tissues of the body. The deep penetration of this type of light provides unique benefits not found in other types of sauna therapy. For this reason, we highly recommend NIR sauna therapy over FIR. The Sauna Fix system allows a user to safely and comfortably take a NIR sauna in their own home, and the portable tent also makes it easy to take your sauna on the road.
Benefits of NIR
Research has found that NIR can have various therapeutic effects. It can stimulate the production of collagen, which may heal damaged joints and cartilage. It can also help improve the quality of your skin.
One of the most striking benefits of NIR, however, is improved energy. The light penetrates deeply into the body's cells and stimulates the production of ATP.
ATP is the energy unit of the cell. Producing more ATP means more energy. NIR sauna users report having more energy throughout the day and not needing stimulants, such as caffeine, to keep them going.
What Are Infrared Saunas for Exercise?
One additional benefit of using infrared saunas is that they can be used to augment the benefits of yoga or other forms of exercise.
In one study, weight loss was significantly greater in participants who did their exercise inside an infrared sauna than outside. We offer a Hot Yoga & Exercise Tent that was specifically designed for this purpose. Combine your workout with sauna therapy for optimal benefits.
Learn more or see saunas designed for exercise here.
Infrared Vs Traditional Saunas
When comparing infrared vs traditional saunas, remember that both types have excellent health benefits. With proper use, they have no drawbacks.
Traditional saunas are generally a bit more cumbersome - they are not portable and they take longer to come up to the correct temperature. They also require greater energy expenditure.
Infrared saunas provide the heat therapy benefits of traditional saunas as well as the additional benefits of light therapy, especially when using NIR. While many infrared saunas are built like traditional ones, portable versions are also available.
No matter what type of sauna you use, it's crucial to make sure you stay properly hydrated. Pay close attention to your thirst when using one. We recommend replenishing your body's minerals with Healthy Salt after a sauna session. Also, err on the side of caution with your heat tolerance, even once you're used to the experience.
If you'd like to learn more about infrared saunas, click here.