10 Next-Level Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

From enhanced detoxification to improved heart health, infrared saunas provide a variety of health benefits. As someone who uses my infrared sauna on a daily basis, I can attest to these benefits firsthand and it is a tool I recommend on a regular basis to many of my patients in my telehealth functional medicine clinic. But with a higher price tag, are they worth the investment? In my personal opinion, absolutely, but let’s take a deeper look at the top infrared sauna benefits and how they can impact your health for the better.

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What Is An Infrared Sauna?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate your body’s skin barrier to raise your core temperature. This is different from a traditional sauna that has to heat the air before it actually heats you. Because of these differences, an infrared sauna gets less hot, allowing you to spend more time inside reaping the benefits.

Infrared saunas typically emit far-infrared, but the infrared spectrum consists of three different wavelengths – each with their own healing capabilities. Near-infrared (NIR) penetrates the least past the skin barrier to help more on a surface-level by fighting against signs of aging and helping to heal wounds. Mid- infrared (MIR) goes a little deeper to help reduce inflammation and chronic pain and far-infrared (FIR) goes the deepest into the body to help with chronic pain as well as draw out toxins. I always recommend Sunlighten to anyone looking for an infrared sauna as they are the only brand to offer three separate heating elements to deliver all three spectrum benefits at peak wavelengths. The mPulse line has preset wellness programs, including one for pain relief.

Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Infrared saunas help heal many chronic health problems through targeting key underlying factors that contribute to many of these illnesses. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love infrared saunas as a functional medicine benefit:

1. Lowers inflammation

Almost every health problem – autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, brain problems, and hormonal imbalances included – can be traced back to inflammation gone wild. Infrared saunas naturally calm down inflammation in the body with studies showing that far infrared therapy can lower (1) pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-a.

2. Restores energy

A recent study (2) showed that after 20 days of consistent infrared sauna use, participants with chronic fatigue syndrome saw significant improvement in their symptoms.

3. Supports detoxification

The amount of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis has risen exponentially. This rise of toxins is pervasive in our environment and bodies with more and more studies linking (3) our exposure to the rise of autoimmune and other chronic diseases. Sweating is the body’s way of naturally detoxing, so with a simple infrared sauna session, you can help flush out these chemicals.

4. Enhances muscle recovery

Infrared helps deliver more oxygen to muscle cells for faster repair and pain relief. A recent 2023 study published in Biology of Sport (4) found that enjoying an infrared sauna session after exercise improved neuromuscular performance and alleviated muscle soreness.

5. Boosts immunity

Raising body temperature is a natural way to help your immune system fight off (5) viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Research has found (6) that with regular use, infrared heat induces hormetic stress which activates and strengthens the immune system as it increases core body temperature and activates heat shock proteins. Together, this can help fight off infections like COVID-19.

6. Reduces chronic pain

Infrared saunas work to stimulate circulation to bring down inflammation throughout the whole body. They also have the ability to increase the production of white blood cells which help fight inflammation and calm swelling to alleviate chronic pain. (7)

Research also shows that infrared saunas can reduce pain even for those dealing with painful conditions like, fibromyalgia, (8) chronic headaches, (9) and rheumatoid arthritis, (10) by releasing your body’s natural painkillers, or endorphins, which have an opioid-like effect.

7. Improves skin health

Studies have shown that people who used saunas had an improvement (11) in both skin hydration and overall complexion. In fact, infrared saunas have been scientifically proven to revitalize your skin’s appearance since red light and near-infrared LED technology can increase both collagen and elastin. Also, far infrared waves can increase circulation to help regenerate skin cells.

8. Eases stress and anxiety

You can down green juice and kale all day, but if you also feed your body a slice of stress every day, your body will still have a problem. Studies show that chronic stress raises inflammation which is linked to multiple different health problems. Infrared saunas promote relaxation and give you a chance to zen out and recharge. Sauna use can restore (12) balance to the (HPA) axis, when out of whack, is responsible for adrenal fatigue.

9. Improves heart health + longevity

Consistent sauna use has been shown to dramatically reduce the risks associated with heart disease as well as your risk of dying from other health causes. In fact, those who use saunas between four to seven times a week are 48 percent less likely to die from heart disease compared to those who only used a sauna once a week. (13)

Infrared sauna therapy acts like a passive cardio workout, which helps your heart by strengthening the endothelial cells in the heart walls to improve circulation and lower blood pressure.

10. Reduces cancer risk

Using an infrared sauna can also benefit cancer patients. One study found that a one-hour sauna session at 109 degrees F killed off (14) bone cancer cells.

Infrared Saunas And Vibration Therapy

Vibration therapy is just one more way to ease chronic pain by using low frequency vibration to contract and relax muscles – 30 to 50 times every second – it gives the whole body a workout just from standing or sitting still to increase blood flow, strengthen joints, and increase growth hormone to repair and regenerate muscle and reduce overall pain.

Sunlighten has enhanced the infrared sauna experience with the amazing benefits of vibration therapy with the addition of their SO Sound Therapy option. This technology uses sound waves synergistically with their infrared saunas to deliver the most targeted relief for chronic pain. The SO Sound System attaches to specific locations in the Sunlighten sauna to emit tactile elements from the music it produces. Unlike a subwoofer where the volume has to be really loud to experience the vibrations, the SO Sound System produces soft musical harmonic resonance to produce the same effects on your body.

Are Infrared Saunas Safe?

Recommended treatment times for infrared saunas range from 10 to 30 minutes, and with proper use, pose no serious side effect risk and are safe for the majority of people. Due to the higher temperatures and sweating, some people can experience lightheadedness. Here’s what you should keep in mind when using or considering using an infrared sauna:

  • Hydration: It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated since you are losing fluids through sweating. Drink water before using an infrared sauna to prepare your body and after using it to replenish yourself from the sweat loss.
  • Underlying conditions: If you have heart problems, are on medications, or are sensitive to heat, it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor to make sure infrared sauna use is right for you.
  • Length of time: If you’re new to using an infrared sauna, start out with a duration of 10-15 minutes. From there, you can increase the time in increments of 5 minutes. This way you can work your way up to the suggested 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Temperature: You should also start out at a lower setting when it comes to temperature if you are just beginning to use an infrared sauna. 

What Should You Look For In An Infrared Sauna?

There are obviously great infrared sauna benefits, but that doesn’t mean they are all made equal. You want to look for brands that test for EMFs, electromagnetic fields, since high doses can be harmful to your body, especially if you plan on using this sauna on a regular basis.

There are many fantastic brands, but my personal favorite is Sunlighten since they go above and beyond with testing and providing low-EMF infrared sauna systems.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe. 

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  1. Chang, Yuanmay. “The effect of far infrared radiation therapy on inflammation regulation in lipopolysaccharide-induced peritonitis in mice.” SAGE open medicine vol. 6 2050312118798941. 10 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1177/2050312118798941
  2. Masuda, Akinori et al. “The effects of repeated thermal therapy for two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of psychosomatic research vol. 58,4 (2005): 383-7. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2004.11.005
  3. Powell, J J et al. “Evidence for the role of environmental agents in the initiation or progression of autoimmune conditions.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 107 Suppl 5,Suppl 5 (1999): 667-72. doi:10.1289/ehp.99107s5667
  4. Ahokas, Essi K et al. “A post-exercise infrared sauna session improves recovery of neuromuscular performance and muscle soreness after resistance exercise training.” Biology of sport vol. 40,3 (2023): 681-689. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2023.119289
  5. Ostberg, J R et al. “Regulation of immune activity by mild (fever-range) whole body hyperthermia: effects on epidermal Langerhans cells.” Cell stress & chaperones vol. 5,5 (2000): 458-61. doi:10.1379/1466-1268(2000)005<0458:roiabm>2.0.co;2
  6. Cohen, Marc. “Turning up the heat on COVID-19: heat as a therapeutic intervention.” F1000Research vol. 9 292. 24 Apr. 2020, doi:10.12688/f1000research.23299.2
  7. Kandolf-Sekulovic, Lidija et al. “Immunomodulatory effects of low-intensity near-infrared laser irradiation on contact hypersensitivity reaction.” Photodermatology, photoimmunology & photomedicine vol. 19,4 (2003): 203-12. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0781.2003.00040.x
  8. Matsumoto, Shuji et al. “Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice vol. 17,3 (2011): 162-6. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004
  9. Kanji, Giresh et al. “Efficacy of regular sauna bathing for chronic tension-type headache: a randomized controlled study.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 21,2 (2015): 103-9. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0466
  10. Oosterveld, Fredrikus G J et al. “Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects.” Clinical rheumatology vol. 28,1 (2009): 29-34. doi:10.1007/s10067-008-0977-y
  11. Kowatzki, D et al. “Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study.” Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 217,2 (2008): 173-80. doi:10.1159/000137283
  12. Kukkonen-Harjula, K et al. “Haemodynamic and hormonal responses to heat exposure in a Finnish sauna bath.” European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology vol. 58,5 (1989): 543-50. doi:10.1007/BF02330710
  13. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542–548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187
  14. Hou, Chun-Han et al. “Hyperthermia induces apoptosis through endoplasmic reticulum and reactive oxygen species in human osteosarcoma cells.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 15,10 17380-95. 29 Sep. 2014, doi:10.3390/ijms151017380

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Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Gut Feelings

Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
Between What You Eat And How You Feel