Aug 26, 2023

Infrared Sauna Therapy: Benefits and Risks Comparison

Infrared saunas use dry heat, with light fixtures reflecting heat directly onto your body as a form of therapy. Research supports a variety of potential health benefits that infrared saunas may offer, ranging from improved cardiovascular and lung function to pain reduction and skin rejuvenation. But sauna bathing may not be the safest option for everyone.

This article discusses the potential benefits of an infrared sauna and information on who should not use this type of heat therapy.

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An infrared sauna's temperature setting usually is between 113 and 140 degrees F, which is lower than the temperature in a traditional sauna. That's because an infrared sauna uses lights that heat the body directly rather than heating the surrounding air in the room.

Still, in an infrared sauna, the actual temperature of your skin can quickly jump to 104 degrees, while your pulse rate may rise by 30% or more. Many people sweat up to a pint of liquid during an infrared sauna session.

Infrared sauna bathing is a form of whole-body thermotherapy, or heat therapy. The increased temperature of heat therapy can help improve circulation and blood flow to the body, supporting various bodily functions.

While much more evidence is needed, research suggests infrared sauna bathing might be helpful for the following:

Initial research also supports potential health benefits for sleep, metabolism, and immune function.

While various health benefits have been linked to infrared sauna use, some risks may be involved, particularly for certain people. Keep in mind the following factors:

Gauge how your body might react and keep the initial infrared sauna session length to five minutes your first time. From there, sessions don't need to last more than 20 minutes.

Using a sauna is typically safe for most healthy adults. But some people with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease, should avoid this activity. Experts also recommend against sauna usage for pregnant people. Always check with a healthcare provider regarding whether infrared saunas are right for you.

It’s common to access infrared sauna therapy at a gym or another place of business. Infrared sauna blankets are also available at home or on the go.

The various heating options come in different types of infrared wavelengths of energy, including:

There’s no scientific evidence regarding how long it takes to notice any benefits from infrared sauna use, as it can vary by person and circumstance. Some people report feeling an improvement in mood, skin appearance, or pain immediately following a single session. But as with other therapies and treatments, results are more likely to come after several sessions.

Although sweating is a normal process that helps your body stay cool, take caution when using a sauna to detoxify (remove toxins) or cleanse the body, to lose weight quickly, or to improve your overall health.

Several complementary medicine approaches offer similar potential benefits as an infrared sauna, including physical mind-body practices like heat/cold therapy, yoga, and other relaxation techniques.

If infrared sauna bathing isn't suitable for you but you like using temperature to help soothe the body, you might consider other forms of heat therapy. Research suggests the various cardiovascular, metabolic, and other health benefits of using heat or cold. For instance, you might consider using a heating pad on specific body parts in small increments to help relax muscles and encourage healing.

Another alternative might be taking up yoga for its exercise and stress-relief benefits. Yoga has been shown to improve fitness, posture, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, stress relief, coordination, sleep, and digestion. If you want to combine this practice with an added heat element, such as hot yoga, keep in mind the risks, including dehydration and overheating.

Infrared saunas are a popular relaxation technique using dry heat aimed at the body rather than heating the entire room, like other saunas. While this heat therapy may offer circulation, metabolism, and musculoskeletal benefits, more research and scientific evidence are needed to fully back these claims.

Infrared saunas may not be a safe choice for people with certain health conditions, and they can cause dehydration and blood pressure changes. Always check with a healthcare provider before using an infrared sauna to be sure this alternative therapy is right for you.

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By Cristina MutchlerCristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.

Cardiovascular health: Lung function: Pain relief: Stress reduction: Skin rejuvenation:Detoxification: Dehydration Light-headedness Blood pressureOverheatingNear-infraredMid-infraredFar infrared