{"id":555823464521,"title":"Sauna Benefits: Are Infrared Saunas Healthier Than Regular Saunas?","created_at":"2021-09-03T12:48:39-04:00","body_html":"\u003cscript type=\"application\/ld+json\"\u003e\/\/ \u003c![CDATA[\n{\n \"@context\": \"https:\/\/schema.org\",\n \"@type\": \"Article\",\n \"headline\": \"Sauna Benefits: Are Infrared Saunas Healthier Than Regular Saunas?\",\n \"keywords\": \"sauna, infrared sauna, sauna benefits, infrared sauna benefits, dry sauna, far infrared sauna, steam room vs sauna, sauna health benefits, do saunas help you lose weight\",\n \"description\": \"Our MD reviews some of the proven health benefits of sauna use, and we explore whether infrared saunas are healthier than traditional saunas based on medical research. We also examine whether saunas can help with weight loss.\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/blogs\/health\/sauna-benefits\",\n\"author\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Taylor Graber MD\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/taylor-graber\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/taylor-j-graber-md-81351642\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Content Partner\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"medicine, health, anesthesiology, iv therapy, science, drugs, pharmaceutical, medical research, scientific research, medical journals, entrepreneurship, healthcare, orthopedic surgery, biomedical engineering\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"University of California San Diego\",\n \"Arizona University\",\n \"University of Arizona College of Medicine\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"contributor\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Calloway Cook\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/calloway-cook\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/calloway-cook\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"President\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"entrepreneurship, dietary supplements, herbal supplements, eCommerce, medical research\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": \"S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University\"\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"editor\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"DJ Mazzoni\",\n \"honorificSuffix\": [\n \"M.S.\",\n \"R.D.\",\n \"C.D.N.\",\n \"C.S.C.S.\"\n ],\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/dj-mazzoni\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/dj-mazzoni-rd-cdn-cscs-00a33038\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Medical Reviewer\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"exercise, drugs, pharmaceutical, health, workout, strength and conditioning, nutrition, dietetics, medicine, medical research, scientific research, scientific method, healthcare, patient care, wellness\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"State University of New York College Oswego\",\n \"D’Youville College\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"image\": {\n\"@type\": \"ImageObject\",\n\"url\": \"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/Sauna_Benefits_Thumbnail.jpg?v=1642458477\",\n\"width\": \"2050\",\n\"height\": \"2050\"\n},\n\"citation\": [\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/28633297\/\", \n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30077204\/\",\n\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC5941775\/\",\n\"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/blogs\/health\/relief-factor-review\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/23859414\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/24363555\/\",\n\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC3699878\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/33471046\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30239008\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/23411620\/\"\n],\n\"mentions\": [{\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"blood pressure\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"pain\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"airway function\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"traditional sauna\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"calories\"\n }\n],\n\"datePublished\": \"2021-11-11\",\n\"copyrightHolder\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n},\n\"publisher\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/\",\n \"description\": \"Illuminate Labs is the most transparent supplement company in the U.S., and is a leading publisher of research-based health information.\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"supplements, science, nutrition, exercise, health, medication, pharmaceutical, wellness, diet, weight loss, medical research\",\n \"publishingPrinciples\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/editorial-guidelines\",\n \"memberOf\": [\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"U.S. Chamber of Commerce\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.uschamber.com\/\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Certified B Corp\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.bcorporation.net\/en-us\/\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Natural Products Association\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.npanational.org\/\"\n }\n ], \n \"logo\": {\n \"@type\": \"ImageObject\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/Illuminate_Labs_Favicon_48x48_7595c3cc-e27b-47b8-a4fe-edcc7ed9b29a.png?v=1666502785\", \n \"width\": 48,\n \"height\": 48\n},\n \"foundingDate\": \"2019-01-30\",\n \"sameAs\": [\n \"https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/illuminatelabs\",\n \"https:\/\/twitter.com\/illuminatelabs\",\n \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/company\/illuminate-labs-supplements\",\n \"https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/channel\/UCpgSJAsIPb-fZ25djtTxBEA\"\n ]\n }\n}\n\/\/ ]]\u003e\u003c\/script\u003e\n\u003cmeta charset=\"utf-8\"\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003cspan\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cimg src=\"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/SaunaArticleHeaderImageOptimized_a01b8ced-ddc2-47d7-8f4d-5a08b7225d21.png?v=1636599945\" alt=\"\"\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e\u003cspan class=\"dc\"\u003eS\u003c\/span\u003eauna use is becoming an increasing health trend, and for good reason. Using the sauna has been associated with a host of health benefits in medical studies.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan class=\"dc\"\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn this article we’ll review some of the proven health benefits of sauna use, and explore whether infrared saunas are healthier than traditional dry saunas.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eProven Benefits of Sauna Use\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003ch3\u003e\u003cspan style=\"text-decoration: underline;\"\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eReduced Blood Pressure\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/h3\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSaunas have been known traditionally to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system, but it’s only recently we’re seeing these benefits proven in medical research.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/28633297\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e from Finland tracked men for nearly 25 years and found that those who used the sauna were significantly less likely to develop hypertension, even when other conflicting factors were controlled for like obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and family history of hypertension.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn 2018 some researchers \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30077204\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003epublished a review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e examining many medical studies on saunas and cardiovascular health. They found that long-term sauna use reduced risk of hypertension, but suggested more research was needed.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe proposed mechanism by which saunas reduce blood pressure is an improvement in endothelial function. The endothelium lines the inside of blood vessels, and its dysfunction is the cause of many chronic diseases.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch3\u003e\u003cspan style=\"text-decoration: underline;\"\u003e\u003cstrong\u003ePain Reduction\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/h3\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eUsing the sauna may help relieve chronic pain, which is one of the most debilitating and increasingly common conditions in the modern world.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC5941775\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ethorough research review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e assessed clinical trials on saunas for pain management and found that all 7 studies reviewed showed a positive effect. Patients had different types of pain in each study: some with chronic fatigue syndrome, some with rheumatoid arthritis, and others with general chronic pain. In all cases saunas were effective for pain reduction.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe reason saunas were effective for pain wasn’t explored in this review, but we’d suggest it’s due to two things: a hormetic response and the anti-inflammatory effects of sauna use.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eHormesis is the process of biological adaptations to short-term stressors. Humans generally respond favorably to certain short-term stressors like the extreme heat of a sauna. It makes the body more resilient and influences metabolism in a favorable way.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSaunas have also been shown to have a generally anti-inflammatory effect. Since much chronic pain is mediated by long-term inflammation, as we discussed in our \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/blogs\/health\/relief-factor-review\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eRelief Factor review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e, this would directly benefit chronic pain patients.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch3\u003e\u003cspan style=\"text-decoration: underline;\"\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eImproved Airway Function\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/h3\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThere is less research on this topic, but early studies have found sauna use to be effective in improving airway conditions.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/23859414\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e found that sauna use improved airflow in patients with allergic rhinitis, and \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/24363555\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eanother study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e found similar airway benefits in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients. The second study also found that patients had improved exercise tolerance after sauna treatments.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThese studies suggest that sauna use may improve lung function, which is impressive since very few treatments (outside of standard exercise) have been found to do so. We hope there’s more research done on this topic in the coming years.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eInfrared Sauna Vs. Traditional Sauna\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eInfrared saunas use novel technology so it’s often assumed by consumers they’re healthier, but this isn’t necessarily the case.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA traditional sauna heats the body by simply heating the room. Most saunas are called “dry saunas” which indicates the room has high heat and low humidity. Steam rooms, often called “wet saunas” have high heat and high humidity. Most saunas at gyms are dry saunas.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eInfrared saunas work by using specific wavelengths of light to heat the body directly. The room itself doesn’t heat up.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe main mechanism of action in both infrared and traditional saunas is a beneficial cardiovascular effect in response to significantly increased body temperature. This is the same for both types of saunas, so we can assume neither is likely to be significantly healthier than the other.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe cardio benefits and also the detoxification benefits of significant sweating should be the same for both regular saunas and infrared saunas.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne area where infrared saunas may provide additional health benefits is the exposure to certain wavelengths of light, but research in this field is still emerging. We know \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC3699878\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003efrom medical studies\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e that far infrared light (FIR) can penetrate the skin up to 1.5 inches, and directly impacts biological processes and cellular signaling.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMost of the studies showing the benefit of red light therapy involve longer wavelengths than that used in saunas. A \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/33471046\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ereview of many studies\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e done on red light therapy (which is also called Low Level Light Therapy) found that it was effective for skin improvements as well as some inflammatory conditions, but the wavelengths used were lower than nearly all commercial infrared saunas would use.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOverall we can conclude that there may be some additional health benefits to infrared sauna use over traditional sauna use, but there isn’t currently enough research supporting it to justify the expense just for the secondary health benefits.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eEven for consumers considering an infrared sauna for the secondary skin and other health benefits, we would recommend considering red light therapy at lower wavelengths instead, because there’s significantly more research on it and the longer wavelengths can penetrate more deeply into the skin.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eAnother benefit of regular sauna use is the cost is much more affordable compared to infrared saunas. Many gyms have saunas included, while infrared saunas are usually a specialty treatment with a high cost per trip, or need to be purchased for thousands of dollars.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eSauna Side Effects\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSaunas generally have low risks and have been used by humans for thousands of years. There are even medical trials on saunas being used by high-risk populations like \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30239008\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ethose with heart failure\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e (which showed improvements in the patients).\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne often neglected side effect of saunas is \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/23411620\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ethey can cause\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e negative changes in male fertility parameters like sperm count and motility.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe testicles are extremely sensitive to heat, and exposures to extremely high heat like saunas impact sperm function. These changes are usually reversible, but it may be advisable for men seeking to have children in the near future to avoid saunas.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe also recommend that patients with chronic health conditions speak to their doctors before beginning sauna use. Even though it’s a healthy practice, like exercise, the short-term stress to the body can be a risk factor for those in poor health, and only a doctor can determine if a patient is healthy enough to begin sauna use.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eDo Saunas Help You Lose Weight?\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSaunas can be effective as a weight loss practice because they increase metabolic rate and calorie burn similar to exercise. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eHowever we believe that some of the unsourced claims online about the potential weight loss are exaggerated. Many sites (most selling saunas or gym memberships) claim you can lose up to 600 calories in a regular sauna session and we haven’t seen any medical data supporting that.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe’d expect the calorie burn to be similar to a moderate-intensity workout, so perhaps 100-200 calories in a regular session but this is just our guess and there haven’t been any studies specifically on this topic.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eConclusion\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eSaunas have many health benefits and can be a beneficial health practice for both healthy and unhealthy people. We don’t believe based on available research that infrared saunas are better than traditional saunas. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThis may change as more research comes out about secondary benefits of light therapy, but most of the benefits seem to come from light devices emitting longer wavelengths of light than those emitted by infrared saunas.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eTraditional saunas are significantly more cost-effective, and are what we’d recommend to nearly all consumers.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e","blog_id":49281925193,"author":"Calloway Cook","user_id":26601750601,"published_at":"2021-11-11T00:01:02-05:00","updated_at":"2022-10-23T01:48:50-04:00","summary_html":"\u003cmeta charset=\"utf-8\"\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan\u003eWe review some of the proven health benefits of sauna use, and explore whether infrared saunas are healthier than traditional dry saunas based on medical research.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e","template_suffix":"","handle":"sauna-benefits","tags":"_related:sauna"}

Sauna Benefits: Are Infrared Saunas Healthier Than Regular Saunas?

Sauna Benefits: Are Infrared Saunas Healthier Than Regular Saunas?


| |
| |


Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Sauna use is becoming an increasing health trend, and for good reason. Using the sauna has been associated with a host of health benefits in medical studies.

In this article we’ll review some of the proven health benefits of sauna use, and explore whether infrared saunas are healthier than traditional dry saunas.

Proven Benefits of Sauna Use

Reduced Blood Pressure

Saunas have been known traditionally to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system, but it’s only recently we’re seeing these benefits proven in medical research.

One study from Finland tracked men for nearly 25 years and found that those who used the sauna were significantly less likely to develop hypertension, even when other conflicting factors were controlled for like obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and family history of hypertension.

In 2018 some researchers published a review examining many medical studies on saunas and cardiovascular health. They found that long-term sauna use reduced risk of hypertension, but suggested more research was needed.

The proposed mechanism by which saunas reduce blood pressure is an improvement in endothelial function. The endothelium lines the inside of blood vessels, and its dysfunction is the cause of many chronic diseases.

Pain Reduction

Using the sauna may help relieve chronic pain, which is one of the most debilitating and increasingly common conditions in the modern world.

A thorough research review assessed clinical trials on saunas for pain management and found that all 7 studies reviewed showed a positive effect. Patients had different types of pain in each study: some with chronic fatigue syndrome, some with rheumatoid arthritis, and others with general chronic pain. In all cases saunas were effective for pain reduction.

The reason saunas were effective for pain wasn’t explored in this review, but we’d suggest it’s due to two things: a hormetic response and the anti-inflammatory effects of sauna use.

Hormesis is the process of biological adaptations to short-term stressors. Humans generally respond favorably to certain short-term stressors like the extreme heat of a sauna. It makes the body more resilient and influences metabolism in a favorable way.

Saunas have also been shown to have a generally anti-inflammatory effect. Since much chronic pain is mediated by long-term inflammation, as we discussed in our Relief Factor review, this would directly benefit chronic pain patients.

Improved Airway Function

There is less research on this topic, but early studies have found sauna use to be effective in improving airway conditions.

One study found that sauna use improved airflow in patients with allergic rhinitis, and another study found similar airway benefits in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients. The second study also found that patients had improved exercise tolerance after sauna treatments.

These studies suggest that sauna use may improve lung function, which is impressive since very few treatments (outside of standard exercise) have been found to do so. We hope there’s more research done on this topic in the coming years.

Infrared Sauna Vs. Traditional Sauna

Infrared saunas use novel technology so it’s often assumed by consumers they’re healthier, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

A traditional sauna heats the body by simply heating the room. Most saunas are called “dry saunas” which indicates the room has high heat and low humidity. Steam rooms, often called “wet saunas” have high heat and high humidity. Most saunas at gyms are dry saunas.

Infrared saunas work by using specific wavelengths of light to heat the body directly. The room itself doesn’t heat up.

The main mechanism of action in both infrared and traditional saunas is a beneficial cardiovascular effect in response to significantly increased body temperature. This is the same for both types of saunas, so we can assume neither is likely to be significantly healthier than the other.

The cardio benefits and also the detoxification benefits of significant sweating should be the same for both regular saunas and infrared saunas.

One area where infrared saunas may provide additional health benefits is the exposure to certain wavelengths of light, but research in this field is still emerging. We know from medical studies that far infrared light (FIR) can penetrate the skin up to 1.5 inches, and directly impacts biological processes and cellular signaling.

Most of the studies showing the benefit of red light therapy involve longer wavelengths than that used in saunas. A review of many studies done on red light therapy (which is also called Low Level Light Therapy) found that it was effective for skin improvements as well as some inflammatory conditions, but the wavelengths used were lower than nearly all commercial infrared saunas would use.

Overall we can conclude that there may be some additional health benefits to infrared sauna use over traditional sauna use, but there isn’t currently enough research supporting it to justify the expense just for the secondary health benefits.

Even for consumers considering an infrared sauna for the secondary skin and other health benefits, we would recommend considering red light therapy at lower wavelengths instead, because there’s significantly more research on it and the longer wavelengths can penetrate more deeply into the skin.

Another benefit of regular sauna use is the cost is much more affordable compared to infrared saunas. Many gyms have saunas included, while infrared saunas are usually a specialty treatment with a high cost per trip, or need to be purchased for thousands of dollars.

Sauna Side Effects

Saunas generally have low risks and have been used by humans for thousands of years. There are even medical trials on saunas being used by high-risk populations like those with heart failure (which showed improvements in the patients).

One often neglected side effect of saunas is they can cause negative changes in male fertility parameters like sperm count and motility.

The testicles are extremely sensitive to heat, and exposures to extremely high heat like saunas impact sperm function. These changes are usually reversible, but it may be advisable for men seeking to have children in the near future to avoid saunas.

We also recommend that patients with chronic health conditions speak to their doctors before beginning sauna use. Even though it’s a healthy practice, like exercise, the short-term stress to the body can be a risk factor for those in poor health, and only a doctor can determine if a patient is healthy enough to begin sauna use.

Do Saunas Help You Lose Weight?

Saunas can be effective as a weight loss practice because they increase metabolic rate and calorie burn similar to exercise. 

However we believe that some of the unsourced claims online about the potential weight loss are exaggerated. Many sites (most selling saunas or gym memberships) claim you can lose up to 600 calories in a regular sauna session and we haven’t seen any medical data supporting that.

We’d expect the calorie burn to be similar to a moderate-intensity workout, so perhaps 100-200 calories in a regular session but this is just our guess and there haven’t been any studies specifically on this topic.

Get our most popular articles straight to your inbox
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Saunas have many health benefits and can be a beneficial health practice for both healthy and unhealthy people. We don’t believe based on available research that infrared saunas are better than traditional saunas. 

This may change as more research comes out about secondary benefits of light therapy, but most of the benefits seem to come from light devices emitting longer wavelengths of light than those emitted by infrared saunas.

Traditional saunas are significantly more cost-effective, and are what we’d recommend to nearly all consumers.




Illuminate Labs is a proud member of

Liquid error: Could not find asset snippets/search-bar.liquid