There are lots of different options for sauna - dry sauna, steam sauna and infrared sauna which has some subsets - far infrared, near infrared, full spectrum infrared - for example.
For the dry or steam sauna, radiant heat is used. The temperatures get up to 158-212 degrees F.
Yikes, that's HOT!
For the infrared sauna, most use ceramic heat lamps to generate infrared waves. The adjectives used to describe the saunas in the infrared category refer to their proximity to the visible spectrum of light waves.
The wave energies don't need heat to be effective so the typical infrared sauna will produce results in the temperature range from 112-130 degrees F.
So the near infrared are closer to the visible red light spectrum (around 660 nanometers (nm)) - so they range from 780nm to 1400nm - and far infrared would be further away - beyond 3000nm and up.
The full-spectrum has all the infrared wavelengths, near (up to 1400nm), mid (1400-3000nm) and far (3000nm on up). This blend means different levels of penetration to allow a variety of beneficial actions on your tissues.
Since the ceramic heaters create EMF (electromagnetic frequency radiation), it is important to do your sauna therapy in a low EMF sauna to avoid the unwanted effects of EMF exposure.
If you read about the benefits of infrared sauna, they seem too good to be true but countless people have testimonials as to the benefits they received from regular sauna therapy. And there are quite a few studies on the real benefits of regular sauna.
So what's the short list?
BURN BELLY FAT! Did I get your attention? Repetitive use of infrared sauna therapy can increase your metabolism and core body temperature and has been reported to burn 300 calories. One study showed that using the infrared sauna for 45 minutes 3 times a week helped participants drop an average of 4% body fat over 4 months. 1% per month! - when they ramped up to 5 times a week for 30 minutes at 110 degrees they lost 4% over 8 weeks. (1)
Cardiovascular benefits: lower blood pressure, improved heart rate variability, improved circulation and improved cardiovascular fitness. The improved cardiovascular function may also improve athletic performance and allow muscles to recover more quickly after a workout. (4)
ANTI-AGING - Immune system support: In one study, participants who regularly used infrared sauna had significantly fewer episodes of common colds then those who did not. The effects were noticeable after regular consistent use of sauna therapy for at least 14 weeks. Also, the photobiomodulation (big words!) from the near-infrared sauna may stimulate mitochondria of immune stem cells to reduce the age-related decline in ability to regenerate themselves. Less immune stem cells means less ability to fight cancer and pathogens that cause disease. So pump up your immune mitochondria with some full spectrum sauna! (2)
Another anti-aging effect is seen on the skin - infrared causes increased collagen production to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The sweating also opens pores and removes impurities to help improve overall skin health.
Stress reduction - when the adrenal glands are happy, the rest of the body functions much better. By relaxing in the sauna for just 20 - 30 minutes, you allow your adrenals to take a pause and this builds a better environment for your nervous system to relax and reap the benefits of happy adrenals. I recommend listening to meditative or 'spa' music while in the sauna.
Detoxification - by mobilizing your pathways to create more sweat, which is one of the major paths to elimination of toxins. Make sure to hydrate before each session so you can produce plenty of toxin laden sweat.
Wound healing: by delivering more oxygen to tissues via improved circulation, with regular use infrared sauna can speed up the healing process, also helping reduce inflammation and speed regeneration of damaged tissue.
Pain relief: Heat can stimulate the production of endorphins - chemicals that mute pain signals, so you perceive the pain as much less severe.
If you're ready to check out a full-spectrum infrared sauna experience, come see our latest addition at Miller Functional Medicine!
2. Denis Odinokov and Michael R Hamblin. Aging of lymphoid organs: Can photobiomodulation reverse age-associated thymic involution via stimulation of extrapineal melatonin synthesis and bone marrow stem cells? J Biophotonics. 2018 Aug; 11(8): e201700282.
3. Shanshan Shui, Xia Wang, John Y Chiang, and Lei Zheng. Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2015 Oct; 240(10): 1257–1265.