This post has been a LONG time coming! I first posted about infrared sauna therapy on Instagram months ago and immediately received a ton of questions - what is it? what are the benefits? AND (mostly) where can I experience this myself?
I'll try to answer these questions here + share a bit more about what to expect if you choose to try infrared sauna yourself! Alright, let's get right to it!
What is infrared sauna therapy?
Infrared saunas use heat and light to relax and detoxify the body. These saunas omit infrared light waves that create heat in the body, causing you to sweat and release stored toxins.
What are the benefits of infrared sauna therapy?
In addition to helping your body release stored toxins, infrared saunas can help you lose weight, relax, relieve unwanted pain, increase your circulation, and purify your skin. The biggest researched benefit seems to be the coronary benefits, most notably in their ability to help normalize blood pressure and reduce the chance of congestive heart failure.
Are all saunas the same?
There are three different levels of infrared sauna: near, middle, and far. These different levels represent the different sizes in infrared wavelengths and refer to the intensity of the treatment. Most people find that:
- near-infrared levels are best for wound healing and increased immune function
- middle-infrared levels are best for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation
- far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes
In addition to the different infrared wavelength size, there are two different physical types of saunas: a sauna room and a sauna bed. I'm going to briefly cover what you can expect with each of these experiences.
Before you go...
I think this goes without saying but it would be irresponsible of me not to emphasize it: You need to be well hydrated, well rested and properly fed before heading to either the sauna room or sauna bed. Think of it as you would a workout - drink plenty of fluids before your session and make sure you've eaten something solid. You'll also want to give yourself time after to re-fuel (both food + liquids) and recover (i.e. don't plan drinks with your girlfriends for 30 minutes after your appointment).
What to expect - sauna room
What to wear: bathing suit or your birthday suit ;)
How long to stay in: Varies - usually you start between 15-30 minutes and can work your way up to an hour.
My experience: I visited the HigherDOSE sauna at ABC Carpet and Home in NYC. The "room" itself was pretty tiny - I booked with a friend and we were both surprised at the size of the sauna (barely big enough for us both to sit comfortably - you could definitely not lay down). I did appreciate that the door and part of the ceiling of the sauna room was glass - this made it feel less cramped, but if you are claustrophobic this may not be the option for you.
Once I got in, I started sweating pretty quickly. I stayed in for 30 minutes and while I was definitely hot, I was not uncomfortable and felt like I could have lasted longer. Afterwards, I felt good, like I had just had a few hours in the sun (which was wonderful considering it was the dead of winter in NYC!). My skin was glowing and I slept super soundly that evening.
What to expect - sauna bed
What to wear: comfortable, breath-able clothing that covers your skin (i.e. cotton leggings, socks and a long sleeved shirt).
How long to stay in: 55 minutes. According to Shapehouse (where I've done all my infrared sauna bed sweats), this is the ideal amount of time for this treatment because 45 minutes is the absolute minimum time and after 55 minutes you don't see any increase in benefits.
My experience: I visited Shapehouse in LA for my sauna bed session. After changing into my sweat clothes (Shapehouse provides a set of clothes or you can bring your own), an attendant took me back to my bed. The sauna bed is sort of like a sleeping bag set up on a massage table. The attendant helped "tuck" me in and set me up - adjusting the headrest, asked me if I needed support under my knees, anything to make sure I was comfortable. She also helped me find a show to watch (at Shapehouse each bed has it's own TV with everything from HBO to Netflix).
The first half of the session was quite pleasant - I felt warm but not super hot, and I was watching TV! Fun! Probably around 35 or 40 minutes, things got a little more intense. I could feel myself sweating more, and even felt my heart beat increase (which I read is totally normal). 10 minutes before the session was over, the attendant came back in with a cool lavender towel which she placed on my forehead. These last 10 minutes were hard - I was VERY hot and feeling pretty worn out. It's recommended that you stay in the bed the whole time, but I was told I could take my arms out of the bed if I needed a little break.
After my time was up, the attendant was back and took me to the "Relax room" where I was given tea and orange slices and had a chance to cool down. I felt like I had done a hard workout, which was great since all I had done was watch TV for an hour! Ha! That day and the next few days, I noticed that my body felt more toned, lighter even, and my skin was visibly brighter and clearer.
Are there risks?
From my research, there are no major risks if you are in good health. That being said, if you do have a health condition or take certain medications, you may want to talk to your doctor before booking your sauna session. Also, sweating is not recommended for pregnant women.
The bottom line
I love infrared sauna therapy. I prefer the beds, but see benefits from both types and definitely want to continue this fun form of self-care moving forward.
Where I sweat:
HigherDOSE // NYC
Shapehouse // LA
PORTABLE SAUNA // WHAT I USE IN MY HOME!! **NEW**
Want to learn more? Here are a few articles I found helpful in doing my research:
WHEW! That was a lot. I hope that this blog post answered your questions and helped you understand a little bit more about infrared saunas. Now I want to hear from you - have you tried an infrared sauna bed or room? Did you enjoy the experience? If not, is it something you are interesting in doing in the future? Let me know in the comments below!