What is Far Infrared?
Far infrared saunas heat the body directly rather than heating the air around your body. These rooms are often described as infrared heat therapy rooms because heating elements reflect heat in the form of light that is emitted directly onto the body. In a far infrared sauna, about 20% of the heat goes to heating the air and the other 80% heats your body. This radiant heat penetrates the skin more deeply than traditional saunas. Because the air around your body is not heated, infrared saunas are often more tolerable than traditional dry or wet saunas. The temperatures in far infrared saunas are typically much lower.
How Does Far Infrared Work?
Far infrared waves penetrate into our body and activate the sweat glands. The sweat glands are one of the tools that the body at hand to eliminate toxins. The skin is actually the largest organ of the human body and has been called many times; “the third kidney” because of its ability to discharge large amounts of waste material through the sweat glands. It is one of the best mechanisms the body has for elimination.
Potential Health Benefits
Far infrared saunas are believed to offer a number of health benefits, including improved circulation, detoxification, pain relief, and relaxation. They may also help boost immune system, stimulate metabolism, offer cardiovascular benefits and improve skin health.
Risks & Side Effects
Most researchers investigating the health benefits of far infrared saunas note that few side effects are associated with their use. However, to stay safe, there are some factors to keep in mind.
- Dehydration: It's possible to become dehydrated if you don't drink enough water. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your session to stay hydrated.
- Lightheadedness: Even if you hydrate properly, lightheadedness may occur. It's recommended to move slowly both in the sauna and as you move out to prevent falling or collapsing.
- Overheating: If you are not used to using any type of sauna, there is a risk of overheating. That's why it's important to keep sessions short when you begin and use the lowest heat setting, if possible.
If you start to experience any of these side effects, exit the sauna immediately. Drink plenty of water and cool off by draping a cold washcloth over your head to bring your core temperature down. If your heart is pounding or racing and you still feel dizzy or lightheaded, seek emergency medical attention.
Who Should Avoid Far Infrared Sauna?
Certain people should exercise caution when using any type of sauna, including a far infrared sauna.
- People with certain medical conditions: Even though far infrared sauna sessions may provide benefits to people with medical conditions, particularly high blood pressure and heart conditions, you should speak to your health care provider before using it for enjoyment or as treatment.
- People who are taking certain medications: Talk to your doctor about using a sauna if you're taking diuretics, barbiturates, or beta-blockers, since they may hinder your body's ability to produce enough sweat to regulate your core temperature. Those taking medications that cause drowsiness should also seek medical advice before using a sauna.
- People who are under the influence of substances: You should not use any type of sauna while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- People who are pregnant: If you're pregnant or think that you might be pregnant, you should avoid steam rooms or saunas until you receive personalized advice from your health care provider.
- People with health concerns should always talk to their health care provider before trying a far infrared sauna.
What to Expect
If you're ready to try a far infrared sauna but still have a few lingering questions, here's a rundown of what you can expect.
- How warm will it be? Most far infrared saunas will have temperatures ranging from 100˚F to 150˚F.
- How long will it last? Beginners should start with 15-20 minute sessions and build from there. Experienced sauna-goers will stay anywhere from 30–40 minutes.
- What should you wear? Wear loose, breathable clothing that you don't mind sweating in such as a t-shirt and baggy shorts. You can also wear a bathing suit. Be sure to bring a change of clothes, too.
- How often can you go? For your first few visits, it's a good idea to stick to just one visit per week.
As you get comfortable with the treatment, gradually increase the time, temperature, or frequency of visits.
How to Prepare
You'll use the infrared sauna the same way that you would use a traditional sauna, except that the temperature most likely won't be as high. Before you try an infrared sauna for the first time, follow these steps to stay safe and make the most out of your session:
- Drink plenty of water beforehand: Hydrate before the session to avoid lightheadedness.
- Shower before you go: Just as you would shower before entering a public pool to prevent the spread of bacteria, it's a good idea to shower before using a shared sauna.
- Choose a safe temperature: When using a sauna for the first time, it's smart to use the lowest temperature setting (if possible).
- Schedule a shorter session: Those new to infrared saunas should start with shorter sessions at a lower temperature.
- Move slowly during and after: Be sure to give your body time to adjust after use. Moving too quickly from the sauna room can result in lightheadedness.
- Hydrate before and afterward: Remember that you will lose water during the sauna, so it's important to replenish that water so that your body can recover effectively.
To make your far infrared sauna experience more enjoyable, you might bring your own portable Bluetooth speaker or play music on your phone, just be sure the sauna your using allows it—some places may play their own music. Towels are usually provided, but you may bring your own if you think you'll sweat a lot or plan to take another shower afterward. And of course, you can also bring a friend along so you have someone to chat with during your session.