There are several studies linked to in this post in relation to the information provided. Ya’lls welcome.
It took me awhile… hearing people go nuts over their new infrared dry saunas. Time and time again it came up in podcasts, books, and blog posts so I put my little research cap on. It took me awhile to pull the trigger but when I did, and we set it up, the benefits started rolling in. Everything from better to sleep to improved endurance (just to start).
Far Infrared Sauna Explained
Far infrared waves are able to penetrate deeper into your body unlike a traditional sauna (that’s just heat). You’ll only need to have air temps in the range of 110-140 for maximum benefit (unlike traditional saunas where the temp needs to go well over 140).
Note: with an infrared sauna, about 20 percent of the energy heats the air, 80% penetrates the body. The radiant heat is able to penetrate below the skin.
The sun naturally generates infrared light at a frequency that’s invisible. Far infrared therapy via a sauna utilizes the same frequency which provides a warming effect in the body. It’s thought that FIR waves can penetrate up to three inches deep and provide broad spectrum relief.
Everything from detoxification to mitochondrial health, the infrared sauna might be the missing piece to your healthcare routine. Keep reading to learn more on how far infrared light therapy can make a positive change in your life.
Our sauna came flat packed and we pieced it together, it seats 3 and there’s panels on the right side, left side, back, legs, and floor. There’s no water needed. All you need is space, and a dedicated 120V / 20AMP breaker and 20AMP outlet.
With our particular model it takes about 30 minutes to warm up to temp. The warmth doesn’t penetrate to the outside of the unit.
Let’s get in to the benefits of using a Far infrared sauna:
Improved Mitochondrial Activity
Oh… the sweet powerhouse of the cell. If you’re in to health and wellness even a little bit you know how important it is to have healthy mitochondria. With regular infrared use you’ll alter cells, cell membranes, cell fluids (particularly: water molecules). At a cellular level, altered mitochondrial activity is taking place (this will boost your metabolism among other things).
If you’ve got Mitochondrial dysfunction you’re more likely to have neurological and muscular degeneration, cardiovascular disorders, obesity, and diabetes. Far infrared (FIR) is one way to improve mitochondrial function (at least at the level in which it penetrates).
There are many perceived ways in which we can improve mitochondrial health, why not add infrared heat?
Release Toxic Materials
Water molecules vibrate when impacted with infrared waves (and when they heat up). This process is natural and assists in releasing gasses and other toxic materials.
Your sweat glands also give your body a way to eliminate toxins. A lot of detoxing occurs via the liver and kidneys. However, sweat is another effective method for reducing toxins in the body.
Speaking of removing toxins… with heavy sweat comes a loss of essential minerals, AND is acknowledged in this study as an excretory route for toxic metals. These metals include Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury. While the levels may be low, removing toxins via sweat is just one of the benefits of an infrared sauna.
Just make sure you replenish your essential minerals before and after sauna use.
Reduce Headaches and Improve Heart Health
After sauna use blood pressure decreases. During infrared exposure we see an increase in blood vessel diameter. Warm blood vessels expand, smooth muscles around relax and widen. This is termed as “vasodilation”. Think: better (increased) blood flow.
The opposite: vasoconstriction is high blood pressure. Think: heart attacks and headaches.
If you get headaches all the time, you should give therapeutic infrared sauna use a try right away.
Increase Growth Hormone
Your pituitary gland secretes a hormone that stimulates growth. hGH has a regenerative affect on nearly every tissue, muscle and organ in the body. Regular sauna use has been found to improve hGH levels.
Whether you’ve aged, are working out extensively or you’ve just got aches and pains, infrared sauna use should positively impact recovery improvements (and time to recovery).
Deep sweating experienced via FIR and heat removes bacteria from the epidermal layer of the skin (including the the sweat ducts). You also increase your capillary circulation (connection between blood and tissue).
A study was conducted that found after 12 weeks of infrared technology participants experienced a reduction in wrinkles and better skin tone. The big takeaway: more elasticity, clarity and smoothness with infrared sauna use.
Better Night Sleep
Sauna use prior to bed (or anytime throughout the day) can aid in a better night’s sleep. If you’re going to sauna before bed (like me), make sure to cool off prior to bed. The protocol for me: after leaving the sauna stand outside (if it’s cold) till you shiver then take a cold shower to rinse off (don’t bother with soap all the time). Do this one hour before bed and if you’re really cool wear blue blocker sunglasses to block the blue light and scare off the ladyfriend.
A Workout Without Working Out
Infrared Sauna use thins the blood. The body increases the amount of plasma in the blood in response to the heat.
You get more blood and it’s thinner (while it circulates). Your body also starts to make more red blood cells. Through a study in New Zealand they found athletic performance increased. Read: sitting in the hot sauna makes you faster… I like it.
Don’t take this as advice to not workout (not that you would). You need muscles, lift some heavy stuff on the regular.
Infrared Sauna Tips
Food / Water & Electrolytes
Just like Momma said about swimming, wait about an hour (or more) after eating before jumping in the sauna. Digesting food takes energy, it’s best to let your body focus all of its energy on the affects of the FIR. If you practice intermittent fasting (IF), go in a fasted state (not dry fasting though, that’s a lot of electrolyte depletion – unless you’ve got a therapeutic reason to do so).
Consume a lot of water and follow that up with a bunch of quality (no calorie) electrolytes. I even suck on high quality, flaky sea salt, might sound crazy but it tastes so good. Avoid sugars, well in life… stop eating sugar and if you’re struggling… start with drinks. The sugar contained in drinks like Gatorade are criminal, they’re doing a lot of damage to you (oh wait… this is a post on infrared sauna, sorry).
Start slowly. You’re probably not going to sweat a lot at first (unless your body is used to sweating). That’s okay! Remember, it’s not about the heat, it’s about the incredible value that comes from Far infrared heat.
For your first time, get in at about 105 and let the temp grow. Stay in for 15-20 minutes. After your body gets used to the sauna, spend 20-35+ minutes. If you don’t feel good in your first few sessions after the first few minutes, get out and try again later. Seek medical advice from a qualified individual.
Monitor Heart Rate
Wear a heart rate device and monitor your heart rate (especially if you have a history of heart problems). Your heart rate will increase fairly dramatically at the 10-20 minute mark in the sauna. My bpm will rise over 40+ bpm typically / from my resting heart rate. If it rises to an amount that you’re uncomfortable with, seek professional medical counsel.
Also: take special precautions if you are a diabetic or have any heart or circulatory issues. Seek medical counsel prior to starting FIR therapy.
Nothing on the Skin
Get rid of lotions and anything you applied to your skin. You’re going to want no barriers when you start sweating.
Go naked (within reason). If you can’t go naked, don’t worry, far infrared will penetrate through a towel or swimsuit. But if you’ve got one of these bad boys at home, birthday suit time! Make sure to place a towel under your butt for all the drips (under your feet too if you want), it’s a good practice in order to keep the sauna clean.
Focus & Relax
Practice posture, stretch, utilize breathing techniques. View your sauna time as a time to relax and/or learn.
Get ample sauna time prior to getting sick (especially when you feel the symptoms coming on). Don’t be afraid to use it for 2-3 times a day for up to 30 minutes per session. This study indicates that regular sauna use probably reduces the incidence of common colds.
There are researchers who believe sauna heat reduces symptoms because it improves drainage. Another common thought is that high temperatures help weaken cold and flu viruses. However, it’s not yet clear as to why.
Dr. Andre Lwoff (Nobel‐Prize winner) believed that high temperatures during infection were able to combat the growth of an infection.
When you’re finished, cool down (let your body stop sweating) and then take a cold shower. Ditch the soap for most of your shower ritual, maybe just pits and bits.
If you have the space and money, an infrared sauna should be added to the to-do list. The benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. This is a very safe way to improve longevity and a sense of well being.