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 exercise, 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 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.
June 07, 2017
See more Expert Answers
- Laukkanen T, et al. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age and Ageing. In press. Accessed Dec. 7, 2016.
- Laukkanen T, et al. Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015;175:542.
- Kanji G, et al. Efficacy of regular sauna bathing for chronic tension-type headache: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2015;21:103.
- Krause M, et al. Heat shock proteins and heat therapy for type 2 diabetes: Pros and cons. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2015;18:374.
- Tei C, et al. Waon therapy for managing chronic heart failure. Circulation. 2016;80:827.
- Oosterveld FG, et al. Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Clinical Rheumatology. 2009;28:29.