Exploring the Science Behind Infrared Saunas: How They Work and Why They're Effective

Timothy Munene Timothy Munene
Exploring the Science Behind Infrared Saunas: How They Work and Why They're Effective

Infrared saunas have transformed the wellness industry, changing people’s understanding of relaxation and health. Various studies suggest that regular use of infrared saunas can help relieve multiple health complications.

Recent research reveals that using the infrared sauna can improve cardiovascular function, boost the immune system, and promote relaxation. Learning the science behind infrared saunas can help you understand how they operate and why they are effective. First, let’s determine what sets infrared heat apart from traditional heat. 

Why Infrared Heat is Unique

Unlike conventional saunas, which operate by heating the air around the unit, their infrared counterparts leverage infrared light to discharge light. Your body absorbs the light, which heats it directly.

Gas, wood, and the electric stove are used in heating traditional saunas, explaining why the room temperature rises to a high degree, triggering sweating as your body responds to the surrounding heat.

On the other hand, the direct heat transfer in infrared saunas enables them to work at low temperatures while providing penetrating and deep warmth. 

The Science Behind Infrared Saunas and Their Evolution

Exploring the science behind infrared saunas is essential to understanding them extensively. For starters, while radiation has been used for medicinal purposes for many years, it varies, with different types of radiation having distinct effects on the body. Radiation, in general, is part of the electromagnetic spectrum and is differentiated by its wavelength. 

Visible light represents a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers. Ultraviolet light from X-rays and the sun are some forms of radiation with momentary wavelengths.

Infrared radiation has a prolonged wavelength, making it invisible to the human eye. It also has various applications, with the latest and most advanced being its use in saunas. The infrared scope comprises far, mid, and near-infrared waves. 

Scientific Papers and Research on Infrared Saunas

Various researchers have studied the health gains of infrared saunas and come up with the following findings.

One study in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine revealed that regular infrared sauna use can relieve symptoms in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. 

A review in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health specified the possible cardiovascular gains of regular infrared sauna use, such as improved endothelial function and blood pressure. 

According to research appearing in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, infrared saunas can be an effective and safe treatment for patients with ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Understanding the Inclusion of Infrared in Saunas

To understand the infrared sauna concept, it’s essential to explore a brief backstory about the conventional sauna. Also known as traditional saunas, these units have been used for relaxation and fitness since time immemorial. However, their downsides have prompted researchers to find alternative plans.

The conventional sauna's core downside is the unit's high temperatures, which usually reach between 150-195°F. Some people struggle to handle the high temperatures, often cutting short their sessions and unable to achieve their intended goals.

To counter this problem, researchers identified infrared as a viable solution. Infrared radiation usually penetrates up to 4 centimeters inside the skin and transfers energy through heat. The ability to generate heat introduced infrared into saunas.

Wavelengths inside an infrared sauna heat your body without heating the air around the unit. As a result, the temperature inside the cabin is usually lower and more bearable, enabling you to spend more time inside the sauna.

Deeper Heat Penetration Provides Greater Benefits

Infrared heat penetrates deep into the skin, unlike the superficial heat of traditional saunas. Deep heat penetration effectively stimulates the sweat glands, promoting a detoxifying and more profound sweat.

At a cellular level, this heating expels toxins from the body more efficiently. Deep heat penetration from infrared saunas helps relieve muscle joint pain and soreness. The heat seeps deep into the muscle joints and tissues, providing more intense and lasting relief than the warmth of traditional saunas. 

How Regularly Should You Use the Infrared Sauna?

Use the infrared sauna according to your tolerance levels and health goals. If you’re a beginner, start with one to three 15-30-minute sessions weekly. Increase your sessions gradually as you build your tolerance. Remember to hydrate sufficiently before, during, and after your session and avoid overexposure to excess heat. Here are tips to help you schedule your infrared sauna sessions. 

·       Your Intended Experience

Advanced infrared saunas have various features to transform your bathing experience. Some feature heavy-duty panels, state-of-the-art lighting controls, electricity shielding for enhanced security, and cozy backrests. However, the unit can get super-hot, especially for beginners.

If you can’t tolerate excess heat for a long time, start with one or two weekly sauna sessions until you get accustomed to the practice. Two 20-30-minute weekly sessions can help your body get used to the heat.

People who have used the traditional sauna before will have minimal difficulty acclimatizing to the infrared sauna. Follow your frequency schedule to the letter to maximize your health gains. 

·       Dehydration and Exhaustion

Hydration and fatigue are crucial factors to consider when determining the frequency of your sauna sessions. Avoid getting in the sauna immediately after your workout, jog, or sports practice. If you must have the sauna session, consider postponing it until you’re relaxed. The waiting period will help you recover from your exercise, enabling your body to easily withstand the heat. Jumping in the sauna immediately after a workout increases the risk of feeling dizzy and dehydrated. 

·       What Goals do You want to Achieve?

Schedule the frequency of your sauna sessions based on your goals. For example, you may wish to visit the sauna to lose weight, improve your heart health, or alleviate aches. Here are tips to help you curate the proper infrared sauna session schedule based on your goals.

  • Get three to four 30-60-minute infrared sauna sessions weekly to alleviate joint and muscle pain
  • To lose weight, 30-45-minute sauna sessions weekly should suffice
  • For enhanced detoxification, consider visiting the sauna three to four times weekly for 25-35-minute sessions
  • For healthier skin, plan two to three 15-25-minute sessions weekly
  • To improve cardiovascular health, schedule two to three 10-15-minute sessions weekly for the first week, then increase the sessions to three to four 30-45-minute sessions weekly

·       Health Conditions

While infrared saunas can help alleviate various issues, too much exposure to heat can be dangerous if you have underlying conditions. For example, if you have hypertension, your sauna schedule should be less intensive.

One to two 15-20-minute sessions would be better than three to four 30-45-minute sessions. Again, if you have a skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema, you want to have as few sauna sessions as possible to avoid a flare-up of the problem.

Consult your healthcare provider before incorporating saunas into your routine to prevent complications while maximizing the effectiveness of your infrared sauna use.


Infrared saunas provide a scientifically proven and unique wellness approach. Incorporating infrared heat therapy into your wellness routine can be an effective way of reaping physical, health, and mental benefits. Consult your healthcare provider before starting your sauna sessions, more so if you have underlying health conditions. 

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