Top 10 Infrared Sauna Benefits + How Does It Work?

Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Infrared saunas provide several health benefits, from enhanced detoxification to improved heart health. As someone who uses my infrared sauna daily, I can attest to these benefits firsthand!

I recommend an infrared sauna to many of my patients, but with a higher price tag, are they worth the investment?

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Prices for a basic 1-2 person infrared sauna can range from around $1,000 to $2,500. In my personal opinion, it’s worth the investment in your health, but let’s take a deeper look at the top 10 health benefits an infrared sauna provides to see if you agree.

How Does It Work?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate your body’s skin barrier and raise your core temperature. This is different from a traditional sauna, which has to heat the air before it actually heats you.

Because of that difference, an infrared sauna gets less hot, allowing you to spend more time inside and more quickly reap the benefits.

The infrared spectrum consists of three different wavelengths, each with its 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.
  • Far infrared (FIR): Goes the deepest into the body to help with chronic pain and draw out toxins. Infrared saunas typically emit far infrared wavelengths.

I recommend Sunlighten to anyone looking for an infrared sauna. They are the only brand to offer three separate heating elements to deliver all three spectrum benefits at peak wavelengths, and I’ve been using mine for over two years. The mPulse line even has preset wellness programs, including one for pain relief.

Is It Safe?

Recommended treatment times for infrared saunas range from 10 to 30 minutes. With proper use, they pose no serious risks and are safe for the majority of people.

Due to the higher core temperatures and sweating, some people can experience increased heart rate and 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’ll lose fluids through sweating. Drink water before and after using an infrared sauna to prepare your body and to replenish yourself from the sweat loss.
  • Underlying conditions: If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, are at risk for heart failure, are on medications, or are sensitive to heat, talk with your healthcare provider 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: If you are just beginning to use an infrared sauna, you should also start out at a lower temperature and slowly work your way to high temperatures.

Top 10 Infrared Sauna Health Benefits

Infrared saunas help heal many chronic health problems by targeting key underlying factors that contribute to many of these illnesses. Here are the top 10 potential benefits (backed by research) and why I recommend regular sauna use to my patients:

1. Lowers Inflammation

Almost every health problem (autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, brain problems, and hormonal imbalances) can be traced back to inflammation. They aren’t a cure-all, but infrared saunas naturally ease inflammation in the body, with studies showing that far infrared sauna therapy may lower pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-a. (1)

Sauna bathing with infrared heat has also been shown to reduce inflammation by widening blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow in deep tissues, muscles, and joints.

Lower inflammation in these areas may ease chronic pain associated with conditions like arthritis (more on that below).

LISTEN: Autoimmune-Inflammation: Top Causes, Functional Medicine Labs, Diet + Lifestyle Factors, The Nervous System Component & Exactly How To Heal 

2. Restores Energy

A recent study showed that after 20 days of consistent infrared sauna use, participants with chronic fatigue syndrome saw significant improvement in their symptoms. (2) This benefit of sauna use is most likely due to increased blood circulation.

Using an infrared sauna can improve energy levels by stimulating blood flow and enhancing mitochondrial function — the powerhouse of the cell responsible for generating energy.

Heat therapy also promotes the release of norepinephrine, which can improve brain function, increase energy, and contribute to better sleep-wake cycles.

3. Supports Detoxification

The amount of toxins we are exposed to daily has risen exponentially. These toxins are pervasive in our environment and bodies. Studies link toxin exposure to the rise of autoimmune and other chronic diseases. (3) Thankfully, our bodies are intelligent and know how to flush toxins.

How? Through sweat! Sweating is the body’s way of naturally detoxing. Sweating at the higher temperatures generated by an infrared sauna can help flush out toxins absorbed from the environment, such as heavy metals and chemicals.

The deep penetration of infrared sauna heat makes this process even more effective compared to traditional saunas.

4. Enhances Muscle Recovery

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

This is particularly beneficial for athletes looking to shorten their recovery times and enhance muscle repair.

5. Boosts Immunity

Raising body temperature is a natural way to help your immune system fight off viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. (5)

Research has found 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. (6) Together, these benefits can help fight off infections like COVID-19.

6. Reduces Chronic Pain

Infrared saunas work to stimulate circulation and 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, chronic headaches, and rheumatoid arthritis, by releasing your body’s natural painkillers, or endorphins, which have an opioid-like effect. (8, 9, 10)

7. Improves Skin Health

Studies have shown that people who used saunas had an improvement in skin hydration and overall complexion. (11) Far infrared waves can increase circulation to help regenerate skin cells.

Infrared saunas help revitalize skin’s appearance, as red light and near-infrared LED technology can increase collagen and elastin.

8. Eases Stress and Anxiety

You can eat superfoods all day, but if you also feed your body a steady stream of cortisol (aka stress), you still won’t experience a sense of well-being. Chronic stress is the source of multiple health problems. And guess what? Infrared saunas promote relaxation so you can zen out, lower cortisol levels, and finally recharge.

Sauna use also restores balance to the (HPA) axis, which, 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 and even increase longevity. Those who use saunas between four to seven times a week are 48% less likely to die from heart disease compared to those who only use a sauna once a week. (12)

Infrared sauna therapy acts like a passive cardio workout. It helps your heart by strengthening the endothelial cells in the heart walls, improving circulation, and lowering blood pressure.

10. Reduces Cancer Risk

The detoxifying impact of infrared saunas may also reduce oxidative stress linked to cancer risks as well as cardiovascular and degenerative diseases. One study found that a one-hour sauna session at 109 degrees F killed off bone cancer cells. (13)

What Should You Look For In An Infrared Sauna?

All infrared saunas are not 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.

Infrared Saunas + Vibration Therapy

Vibration therapy is just one more way to ease chronic pain during sauna baths. The additional low-frequency vibrations contract and relax muscles 30 to 50 times every second, giving the whole body a workout just from standing or sitting still.

This increases blood flow even more, strengthening joints and increasing growth hormone production (which repairs and regenerates muscle and reduces overall pain).

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. They’re the brand I personally own and have used for the longest time. Yes, it’s an investment up front, but the payoff could add years of health to your life.

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, Y. (2018). The effect of far infrared radiation therapy on inflammation regulation in lipopolysaccharide-induced peritonitis in mice. SAGE open medicine, 6, 2050312118798941.
  2. Masuda, A., Kihara, T., Fukudome, T., Shinsato, T., Minagoe, S., & Tei, C. (2005). The effects of repeated thermal therapy for two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of psychosomatic research, 58(4), 383-387.
  3. Powell, J. J., Van de Water, J., & Gershwin, M. E. (1999). Evidence for the role of environmental agents in the initiation or progression of autoimmune conditions. Environmental health perspectives, 107(suppl 5), 667-672.
  4. Ahokas, E. K., Ihalainen, J., Hanstock, H. G., Savolainen, E., & Kyröläinen, H. (2022). A post-exercise infrared sauna session improves recovery of neuromuscular performance and muscle soreness after resistance exercise training. Biology of Sport, 40(3), 681-689.
  5. Ostberg, J. R., Patel, R., & Repasky, E. A. (2000). Regulation of immune activity by mild (fever-range) whole body hyperthermia: effects on epidermal Langerhans cells. Cell Stress & Chaperones, 5(5), 458.
  6. Cohen, M. (2020). Turning up the heat on COVID-19: heat as a therapeutic intervention. F1000Research, 9.
  7. Kandolf‐Sekulovic, L., Kataranovski, M., & Pavlovic, M. D. (2003). Immunomodulatory effects of low‐intensity near‐infrared laser irradiation on contact hypersensitivity reaction. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 19(4), 203-212.
  8. Matsumoto, S., Shimodozono, M., Etoh, S., Miyata, R., & Kawahira, K. (2011). Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 17(3), 162-166.
  9. Kanji, G., Weatherall, M., Peter, R., Purdie, G., & Page, R. (2015). Efficacy of regular sauna bathing for chronic tension-type headache: a randomized controlled study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(2), 103-109.
  10. Oosterveld, F. G., Rasker, J. J., Floors, M., Landkroon, R., van Rennes, B., Zwijnenberg, J., ... & Koel, G. J. (2009). 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, 28, 29-34.
  11. Kowatzki, D. I. C. K., Macholdt, C., Krull, K., Schmidt, D., Deufel, T., Elsner, P., & Fluhr, J. W. (2008). Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study. Dermatology, 217(2), 173-180.
  12. Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2015). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 542-548.

Hou, C. H., Lin, F. L., Hou, S. M., & Liu, J. F. (2014). Hyperthermia induces apoptosis through endoplasmic reticulum and reactive oxygen species in human osteosarcoma cells. International journal of molecular sciences, 15(10), 17380-17395.

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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 Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

Gut Feelings Dr. Will Cole 6

Gut Feelings

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