The practice of using saunas to promote health and wellness is a centuries old practice. While there’s no denying that sauna therapy is one of the most popular wellness treatments that is used for a wealth of purposes, including the reduction of inflammation and pain, detoxification, improved sleep, relaxation, and anxiety relief, it actually started out as a means of survival. It’s true!
While the Finnish are created with creating the first saunas around 2,000 BC, regions throughout northern Europe used them, too. The first rudimentary saunas were caves and holes that were dug into the ground and draped with animal skins. During the day, fires were burned inside the huts or caves on piles of stones, they were extinguished, the smoke aired out, and the stones continued to warm the inside of the cave or holes throughout the night. People (and animals, too) would then gather inside the heat-filled huts or caves, where they would be protected from the frigid temperatures. They would also pour water over the top of the stones to create steam, and then bask in that steam. In addition to the warmth and protection they felt, these ancient people also found that they enjoyed a number of other benefits; pain relief, reduced inflammation, improved skin health, and more.
Modern Saunas and the Introduction of Infrared Saunas
Today, the premise of sauna therapy remains very similar as it did centuries ago – sitting inside a heated “hut” to soak up the warmth and the benefits that that warmth offers. Of course, there have been some changes. Instead of huts or caves built into the ground or into hillsides, cedar-lined chambers or rooms are used, and benches are built inside that users can sit or lay on to kick back and relax. The heating methods have also changed. Though some fires are still used in some places to heat saunas, electric- or gas-powered heating elements have become more commonplace, and they, too, are topped with rocks, which heat up, and water is poured over the top of them to create steam.
In recent years, a new type of heating technology has come onto the scene for use in sauna therapy: infrared technology. This technology has become extremely popular, and more and more people are taking notice of the benefits that it offers.
What is an infrared sauna?
Infrared saunas are very similar to traditional saunas in that their goal is to increase body temperature to promote health and wellness. They’re also usually cedar-lined chambers or rooms, and they feature built-in benches or seats that you can kick back and relax on. Where infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas, however, is the manner in which they heat the space; instead of an electric- or gas-powered heating element or a fire-burning stove, they are equipped with panels that emit infrared waves, like the sun emits naturally; in fact, it’s these rays that are responsible for the warmth you feel when the sun hits your face.
How do infrared saunas emit infrared rays? They feature panels that are outfitted with technology that’s specially designed to generate these rays. Infrared light is attracted to and absorbs objects that contain moisture, including the skin. As such, unlike traditional saunas, which heat the air around you and heat your body via a process known as convection, which is similar to the manner in which an oven heats food, infrared saunas heat your body directly. As such, your body can reap the same benefits of heat therapy that are experienced in a traditional sauna, but the air surrounding you is cooler. As such, if you don’t tolerate heat well, an infrared sauna may be a more comfortable way to enjoy heat therapy, as the maximum temperature, on average, is about 150 degrees F, while in a traditional saunas, the temperature can reach temperatures of up to 200 degrees F or more!
How to Maximize the Benefits of an Infrared Sauna
The benefits of infrared sauna are many, as the rays of light penetrate deeply into the layers of skin, allowing your tissues and organs to take advantage of heat therapy. Some of the most notable benefits that you can reap from this advanced heating technology include:
- Improved immune health
- Detoxification of heavy metals
- Reduced stress levels
- Lower anxiety levels
- Reduced cellulite
- Increased energy levels
- Faster healing
- Improved melatonin production, which helps to promote better sleep
- Pain relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Gene expression modulation
- Weight loss support
- Lower oxidative stress
- Hair growth support
- Rejuvenated skin
While you’ll be able to reap these benefits with any amount of time you spend in an infrared sauna, there are some things that you can do to maximize these advantages. To make the most of your infrared sauna sessions, here are some tips you should definitely consider trying:
- Bring some towels. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed when you’re in a sauna it’s this: you’re going to get sweaty. While that’s the goal and it’s a good thing (sweat your body’s natural method of detoxification), it can get pretty sticky and uncomfortable. To improve your comfort, bring some towels with you to wipe away built-up sweat from your face, arms, legs, torso, etc. Doing so will not only improve your comfort, but will also help to prevent you from reabsorbing the toxins that you have expelled.
- Undress completely. Saunas aren’t really a place for modesty because if you really want to experience the benefits that heat therapy offers, you’re going to want to have all of your skin exposed to the heat. If you’re uncomfortable, you can wear a bathing suit, but if possible, see if you can schedule a private appointment at an infrared sauna near me.
- Set a timer. Saunas are super-relaxing, so it’s really easy to lose track of time and even fall asleep! Ideally, you should spend about 20 to 30 minutes in an infrared sauna; any more than that and you could end up suffering some adverse effects, such as dehydration. To avoid overdoing it, set a timer before your session begins.