What is an infrared sauna? Does it have health benefits?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to make heat. This type of sauna is sometimes called a far-infrared sauna. "Far" describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. A regular 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.

Generally, people like saunas because they cause reactions like those caused by moderate exercise, such as vigorous sweating and an increased heart rate. An infrared sauna gives these results at lower temperatures than does a regular sauna. This makes an infrared sauna a choice for people who can't stand the heat of a sauna. But does that mean there are clear health benefits? Perhaps.

Many studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of long-lasting health problems and found some proof that saunas may help. Conditions studied include high blood pressure, heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, headache, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. But larger and more-exact studies are needed to prove these results. Some of these studies were also performed with people using a regular sauna.

On the other hand, no harmful effects have been reported with infrared saunas. So if you're thinking of trying a sauna to relax, an infrared sauna might be an option.

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June 11, 2022 See more Expert Answers