There’s nothing quite like a 20-minute sweat session in a sauna. You feel more relaxed and rested after you’re done, and the heat helps relieve sore muscles and improves your overall health and well-being.
But if the high temperatures of a traditional sauna are just too much for you to handle, an infrared sauna may offer the benefits of a sauna without the extreme heat.
If you are preparing for your first session or if you are a frequent visitor, we’ve collected our most frequently asked questions here for you. From what to expect from your first visit to all the ways that infrared therapy helps heal chronic illnesses, we hope these help you feel comfortable, peaceful, and at ease before, during and after your visit.
Compared to the standard sauna, which dates back almost 2,000 years, infrared saunas are new and trendy, and devotees say the invisible light is able to deeply penetrate tissues and kick up the level of detoxification, increasing the muscle-soothing and happiness-boosting benefits. “In a traditional sauna, the hot air heats your body and makes you sweat, whereas, in an infrared sauna, your body absorbs the infrared heat.
We’ll be taking a look at the science of saunas, soon. In the meantime, if you’re a newbie and are thinking of trying one out, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to make the most of your time inside. (After all, carving out time to sit and sweat isn’t always easy!)
So, before you book your first session, review these need-to-know tips from the pros.
What is an infrared sauna?
Unlike a traditional sauna, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you. Instead, they use infrared lamps (that use electromagnetic radiation) to warm your body directly.
“These saunas use infrared panels instead of conventional heat to easily penetrate human tissue, heating your body before heating the air,” explains physical therapist, Vivian Eisenstadt, MAPT, CPT, MASP.
An infrared sauna can operate at a lower temperature (usually between 120˚F and 140˚F) than a traditional sauna, which is typically between 150˚F and 180˚F.
Manufacturers claim that in an infrared sauna, only about 20 per cent of the heat goes to heat the air and the other 80 per cent directly heats your body.
Supporters of infrared saunas say the heat penetrates more deeply than warmed air. This allows you to experience a more intense sweat at a lower temperature.
Eisenstadt says this environment is more tolerable, which allows you to stay in the sauna longer while increasing your core body temperature by two to three degrees.
What to Expect
After checking in at our front desk, you will be guided to one of our three private rooms, each with a full-spectrum infrared sauna. Before or after your sauna session, enjoy complimentary herbal teas in our Relaxation Area. We recommend wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, and arriving a few minutes before your session.
Inside the infrared sauna room, you will find plush towels and a waffle robe, filtered alkaline water, and a booklet where you can discover chromotherapy and learn more about infrared. For 25 minute sessions, we recommend spending 15-20 minutes in the sauna, and for 55-minute sessions, we recommend spending 40-45 minutes in the sauna. This allows for a few minutes to get changed, drink some water, and cool off afterwards.
The IR saunas are pre-set to detoxification mode. Still, using the Android tablet in each sauna, guests can customize their treatment with one of seven wellness programs and utilize apps to listen to calming or energizing music with Spotify or Pandora or meditate with Headspace. You can also choose to plug your phone directly into the speaker system in the sauna to play your favourite music or podcast.
You’ll sweat deeply, enjoy a moment of quiet and relaxation, and leave feeling refreshed and energized!
Tips to Get the Most Out of an Infrared Sauna Session
Lay off the booze
Drinking before a visit is always a no-no. Having too much alcohol the day before can make you feel extra dehydrated in a sauna.
Drink water, instead!
Not drinking enough water is the most common mistake people make when visiting a sauna. You’re going to sweat a lot, so hydration is crucial. “Treat a visit to the sauna-like a sweaty workout, and make sure you are drinking more water than you would on a normal day”, I recommend a litre of water per session, some of which you should drink right before you step inside. “The rule of thumb is if you are thirsty when you get out, you did not drink enough when you were in the sauna.
Sit up straight
While laying across the bench is fine (and relaxing!), sitting up to reap the benefits. This way, the heaters will be directly aimed at the front and back of your body. “You want your body to absorb as much of the infrared as possible, so you want the infrared directly at your body core, both front and back.”
Feel the rainbow
You will probably notice a nifty little chromotherapy (or colour therapy) guide showing the different colour light options and their benefits. For example, green is a relaxation booster, while yellow is a stress-buster. Try to resist the urge to flick through all 12 colour options during your session. Instead, sit directly under the lights and allow three to five minutes for each colour to get a significant benefit.
Embrace the iPhone ban
Smartphones are not allowed in infrared saunas, since the light and heat can mess with the hardware. While some spots provide Netflix or live TV in their boxes, challenge yourself to forgo the distractions and embrace the digital detox. I like to sit in there and meditate, and other times I like to lay down and relax.
Make time for cool-down
When scheduling your session, make sure you leave yourself enough time to get back to your core temp and wash away the sweat. “We recommend a five to 15-minute cool down and a cold shower depending on how long your session is. The shower is important because sweating is one of your body’s main natural detoxification processes, and you want to wash away all that stuff you sweated out, so your skin doesn’t re-absorb it. Plus, “people tend to re-enter their hectic daily life without any transition. Easing back in will help prolong the relaxation.
Wear loose-fitting clothing after
You may continue to sweat a bit after. To avoid having to force a pair of tight jeans or compression leggings up your sweaty legs, opt for something loose, breathable, and comfortable. Try packing a pair of wide-leg yoga pants, a cotton tee, and a loose sports bra.
Schedule your sessions based on your needs
If you’ve got sleep issues, an early evening sauna can help you relax before bed. On the flip side, you can use an early morning visit to help you tackle the day ahead. “For many people, using the infrared sauna in the morning helps them start their day better.
Visiting the sauna while you’ve got your period is also a good idea. “It can help with menstrual cramps, as the infrared lights increase blood flow and circulation, while the heat melts away pain and discomfort.
Reasons Why Visiting an Infrared Sauna Will Give You More Than a Good Sweat
It’s Beneficial For Your Skin
Probably one of the biggest things that I noticed after my sweat was how good my skin looked. As someone who has struggled with adult acne and frequent redness, that’s saying something. All of the blind pimples that had been buried beneath the skin prior were significantly smaller, and many of my blackheads seemed to have magically disappeared.
Similarly to how your pores open after taking a nice, hot shower, the infrared sauna can improve the appearance of your skin by helping clear out any dirt or impurities that often clog pores. “Our bodies naturally store harmful toxins and heavy metals, and our infrared saunas can help remove these impurities in your cells to aid in skin rejuvenation and overall wellness.
Continuing to take care of your skin post-sweat by bringing along a facial oil or lotion to hydrate the face afterwards. You can also rest easy knowing that sitting in an infrared sauna won’t damage your skin. The wavelengths heat your body from the inside, without exposing yourself to harmful UV rays.
Gets Your Heart Rate Up
Remember when I said I was too lazy to work out? While sitting in a sauna for an hour does not compare to a typical workout class, it was pretty interesting to see how quickly my heart rate skyrocketed, and the sweat began to pour. After about 30 minutes, I truly felt like I was putting in much more effort than just sitting down, listening to a murder mystery podcast. Since your body is working so hard to produce sweat and cool your body down, it truly can feel like you’re working out and may even aid in fat loss, according to this study by Binghamton University.
It’s Great For Your Mental Health, Too
Infrared saunas aren’t just beneficial for your physical health; they also benefit your mental and emotional health. First of all: I can’t recommend spending an hour sitting alone in a room without your phone enough. Getting some time to sit with me without any distractions was great mindfulness practise and resulted in a clearer, less cluttered mind. But besides the forced digital detox, my emotional state felt similarly to how I feel post-workout: I was in a great mood, had more energy, and felt much less stressed than I was before.
Infrared saunas can be even more beneficial for mental clarity. Many people say ‘I feel so relaxed,’ or ‘I’m renewed!’ and this is because infrared saunas boost your endorphins similar to working out.”
It’s Great For Muscle Recovery
I already know from my hot yoga practice that adding a little bit of heat to your body can do wonders for tight and sore muscles. I always plan to take hot yoga after a class like spin or Pilates because of how much the heat helps ease any muscle soreness. You can expect a similar result while using an infrared sauna. Because the heat is reaching your muscles, joints, and tissues, you will feel your body relax, and your muscles loosen. It’s also a great form of active recovery; without having to move much at all, you can still feel like you’re doing something for your health.
It Could Be A Natural Healer
While there are still more studies that need to be done on the scientific benefits of infrared saunas, there are frequent sweaters who consider the practice instrumental in healing many of their health issues. Uses infrared saunas to help alleviate symptoms of Lyme disease.
Olivia’s sister has also found healing properties in the infrared sauna. “Some have Crohn’s disease and have healed their eczema and psoriasis by using the infrared sauna daily. As long as your doctor says it’s safe, there’s no harm in giving it a try.
Can children use the infrared sauna?
In general, children above the age of 12 can use the infrared sauna for a brief session. Children who are prepubescent are not able to thermoregulate (regulate their body temperature through proper sweat production) as well as adults do, so please consult with your primary care provider before using the infrared sauna.
How do you use an infrared sauna?
Many people will do infrared sauna treatments at a health club, spa, or doctor’s office, while others will purchase and build one in their home. If you decide to give an infrared sauna a try, it’s important to know that they don’t come with universal instructions.
There are guidelines you can follow, but ultimately, how you choose to use an infrared sauna is up to you. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Drink water. Make sure you’re hydrated before going into an infrared sauna. Drink a glass of water before your session. You can also bring water into the sauna, especially if you’re sensitive to higher heats.
- Choose the temperature. The average temperature for an infrared sauna ranges from 100˚F to 150˚F, with beginners starting at the lower end and more experienced users at the higher end. If this is your first time, start with 100˚F. You may want to stay at this temperature for a few sessions. You can always increase the temperature each session until you reach 150˚F.
- Length of time. For first-time users, start with 10 to 15 minutes. You can add time each session until you reach the suggested time of 20 to 30 minutes. Saunas come with a timer, so make sure to set it. You don’t want to stay in there too long and risk becoming dehydrated.
- Clothing. How you dress is your choice. Some people will wear bathing suits, while others prefer to go in naked.
- What you can do while in the sauna. Relax, read, meditate, listen to music, or visit with friends. Just don’t go to sleep.
- After the session is over, when your session is done, it’s suggested that you take your time and let your body cool down. Once cooled down, feel free to take a shower or bath. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
- A number of sessions per week. Most facilities that offer infrared sauna treatments recommend using the sauna three to four days per week. If you are healthy and tolerate the four days, you can use the sauna daily.
An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to create heat. This type of sauna is sometimes called a far-infrared sauna — “far” describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which in turn warms your body. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.
The appeal of saunas, in general, is that they cause reactions similar to those elicited by moderate exercises, such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate. An infrared sauna produces these results at lower temperatures than does a regular sauna, which makes it accessible to people who can’t tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna. But does that translate into tangible health benefits? Perhaps.
Several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headache, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and found some evidence of benefit. However, larger and more-rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results. Some of these studies were also performed with patients using the traditional sauna.
On the other hand, no adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas. So if you’re considering trying a sauna for relaxation, an infrared sauna might be an option.
Infrared saunas offer one of the most relaxing ways to break a sweat. Unlike traditional steam or stone saunas or even sauna blankets for that matter, infrared treatments are comfortable from start to finish and are less likely to make you feel faint or short of breath. What’s more, they lend you that flushed, fresh-from-the-steam-room glow that we all strive for.