People have been practicing sauna therapy for thousands of years. What started as pits dug into hillsides with fireplaces as a way to keep warm during icy cold Finnish winters has become one of the most popular health and wellness practices. Infrared Sauna Therapy helps to detoxify the body, promotes relaxation, and can even strengthen the immune system (just to name a few benefits), which is why people from all walks of life, including athletes and those who just want to improve their wellness naturally, swear by it.
While sauna therapy has been practiced for centuries, new advances in this type of therapy have been made; the development and use of infrared saunas, for example. What is an infrared sauna? What are the benefits of infrared sauna? Are there any downsides? Below, we’ll explore these topics so that you can determine if visiting infrared saunas near me would be worth your while.
What is an infrared sauna?
In recent years, infrared saunas have become increasingly popular in the world of functional medicine. Both users and practitioners report that this type of sauna therapy has positive impacts on alleviating a variety of physical and medical ailments, such as chronic pain and Lyme disease.
So, what is an infrared sauna? They’re actually quite similar to traditional saunas, as they use heat in controlled environments in order to promote detoxification via sweating and relaxation, pain relief, and even as a form of treatment for chronic illnesses. While both traditional and infrared saunas aim to offer many of the same goals, they manner in which they differ is how they generate and transmit heat to the body.
- Traditional saunas. Traditional saunas are chambers that are constructed of heat-resistant wood (usually cedar) and filled with heat via a heating element, such as an electric or wood burning stove. Water is poured on rocks that are situated on top of the heating element to create steam. They heat the air to a very high temperature (usually between 175 and 195 degrees F), and due to the steam, the air becomes very dense, which causes the body to sweat.
- Infrared sauna. Infrared saunas aim to provide experiences and benefits that are similar to those that a traditional sauna provides; however, they use newer technology to heat up the space and deliver heat to the body. The chambers are usually constructed of wood, and they feature ceramic or carbon panels that use infrared radiation to generate and fill the space with an impressive amount of heat. Infrared radiation is a naturally occurring wavelength of energy. The heat that comes off of your body when you’re hot, or that rises from a hot sidewalk, is infrared. The warmth produces by this wavelength penetrates the body through the skin. Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than traditional saunas (about 155 degrees F), and they do not produce any steam. They’re usually smaller, they don’t use as much energy, and they don’t cost as much to operate as traditional saunas.
Infrared Sauna Benefits and Disadvantages
So, now that you know what an infrared sauna is, you’re probably wondering about the pros and cons of this type of heat therapy. Below, we’ve outlined the advantages and disadvantages of infrared sauna use.
Infrared sauna benefits
- Improved sleep. It’s been found that infrared saunas illicit better sleep; in fact, people who suffer from sleep disturbances have reported a marked increase in their sleeping patterns after infrared sauna use. The infrared radiation penetrates deep into the skin cells, and when you step out of the sauna and into cooler air, your brain releases greater amounts of melatonin; the sleep hormone that your body naturally produces and is triggered when you start cooling down in the evenings, preparing you for sleep.
- Lower heat. As mentioned, infrared saunas operate at a lower temperature than traditional saunas, while offering the same effect. Typically, traditional saunas operate between 150 and 180 degrees F, while infrared saunas usually reach temperatures that range between 120 and 140 degrees F. If you have a difficult time tolerating extremely high temperatures but want to enjoy the benefits that heat therapy provides, an infrared sauna may be a better option for you.
- Reduced pain. Pain relief is one of the most notable benefits of heat therapy, and infrared saunas have been found to offer significant benefits in the management of both chronic and regional pain. It can help to alleviate joint and muscle pain that is associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and fibromyalgia, as well as muscle strains, sprains, and stiffness.
- Clearer skin. Sweating opens and flushes out the toxins that get trapped in the pores. This happens in both traditional and infrared saunas; however in the latter, you sweat less, so it may be able to help to improve the appearance of your skin even more.
Infrared sauna disadvantages
- Dry heat. Whereas traditional saunas produce moist heat, infrared saunas generate dry heat. While that may be beneficial for other reasons, it can pose some problems; for example, it may lead to overheating and even dehydration.
- Dry skin. While heat therapy can be good for the skin, for some people, the dry heat that infrared saunas produce can cause dry skin. If you believe this would be an issue for you, just make sure you moisturize well pre- and post-session.
- Health issues. Though infrared saunas can provide a wealth of health benefits, for some individuals, there is a chance that exposure to the dry heat and infrared radiation can cause adverse health effects; most notably, cardiovascular issues and hypotension. Those who suffer from these health issues already are most at-risk of experiencing problems, as exposure to the dry heat may exacerbate the problem.
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