According to Forbes.com, Jennifer Aniston just LOVES infrared sauna: “it just allows for such beautiful, glowing skin and cell rejuvenation and detoxification. It even helps with weight loss and relaxation.”
So hang on, Jennifer Aniston is saying infrared sauna helps her skin look great, as well as helps with weight loss? HELLO! WHERE DO I SIGN UP?
So again, in the name of faithful service to my blog readers, I agreed to take my clothes off one more time, spend 60 minutes relaxing, and call it work.
What EXACTLY IS A Sauna
You probably all have a vision of a sauna in your mind whether you’ve been in one or not – the wooden slats, people in white towels lounging on the benches. You’re not wrong.
The saunas most of us are familiar with today originated in Finland, where it is common to find built-in saunas in many homes. Different from a steam room where moist heat is generated, a sauna creates dry heat, typically generated from a small electric, gas or wood stove. The stove is used to heat up rocks to a high temperature.
I consulted the HowStuffWorks website for more info – I’ll save you the deets. But so you know, it’s not just any old stones. Rocks which can withstand high temperatures without cracking or exploding are used within saunas, which seems like a smart move to me.
The sauna interior is wood for a reason – it’s a material which is both durable, and remains relatively cool even at high temperatures. No scorched behinds here. They also release pleasant aromatics, enhancing the sauna experience.
The sauna is typically heated up to between 158 and 212 °F (70 and 100 °C). You’ll also find a wooden bucket filled with water and a ladle inside the sauna. If you want to heat it up a little more, simply pour some water onto the rocks. The water is immediately turned into steam which adds more heat.
So What About Infrared Saunas?
Rather than generating heat by a stove and rocks, this new high-tech twist on the traditional sauna generates heat differently.
At first glance, an infrared sauna looks the same as any traditional sauna – the enclosed space, the wooden benches. What you won’t see though is the stove, rocks, and water bucket.
Instead the sauna is fitted with panels which emit infrared waves. Infrared is on the electromagnetic spectrum and cannot be seen with the naked eye. What’s cool (or hot) about that, is that it heats up your body directly (rather than heating up the air within the sauna.)
Sounds confusing doesn’t it? I found this great analogy on the JNH Lifestyles website: “Imagine it is a chilly but sunny winter day. You’re bundled up and you can feel the air around you is cold, but when you stand directly in the sun, you can feel the warmth. The sun is able to warm you without warming the air around you. This is [infrared] at work.”
My Infrared Sauna Experience
I get up in the 4am hour on Wednesdays for an early morning gym session. Wednesday is also when I do Tae Kwon Do with my son in afternoon too, so it’s always a killer day for the old muscles.
This seemed to be a good day for my sauna session.
What To Wear (Or Not)
I’ve been to a few different saunas before, including in parts of Europe where sauna nudity is normal, whether they are single-sex or not. However I am British at heart, so I still panic a little at the thought of being full-on nekkie without being fortified by a glass of sparkling wine first.
Unfortunately drinking alcohol before a sauna session is not a good idea, due to its dehydrating effects paired with the sweating that will take place within a sauna. Also, it was 10am on a Wednesday.
I was shown to my private shower and sauna room. I asked whether I should strip down or not. The helpful staff explained that most people go naked, some people keep on swimwear. She kindly offered to get me a robe if I wanted.
In my British panic I said yes to the robe, but I quickly changed my mind when I envisioned myself sitting in 150 degrees swaddled in thick terry towel.
So I locked the door and stripped down. Sometimes you have to be brave for the sake of an authentic blogger experience.
I took a quick shower as I felt that was polite, and in I went!
I had just three decisions to make in the sauna – temperature, lights and sound.
For me, the biggest benefit of the infrared sauna compared to a traditional sauna is that you can control the temperature setting. I decided to start at 130° and take it from there.
I had the option to have lights on or off in the sauna. As I also wanted this to be a mentally relaxing experience, I opted for lights off. Good news though, a pleasant purple glow was emitted so I didn’t have to cope with sitting in both heat and complete darkness.
This sauna was fitted with a radio, phone connector and speakers! I opted to attach my phone and listen to an episode of The Minimalist podcast. Unlike the floating experience, I wasn’t there to totally let go, so I thought a podcast was a good compromise.
The sauna bench was set up with a towel, as well as a backrest also covered with a towel, allowing you to sit back.
I immediately noticed that I didn’t experience the almost claustrophobic feeling I would get in a traditional sauna due to the heat. As the ambient air wasn’t being heated up, I didn’t have the feeling of breathing in hot air which I find quite uncomfortable. So far, thumbs on up on the infrared.
I sat for about 20 minutes listening to the podcast and watched sweat beading up on my body. Because of my early wake-up that day, I was also feeling quite drowsy.
Unlike my husband who is already snoring before a flight takes off, I’m not one of those people who can fall asleep anywhere, in any position. I decided to move the backrest and cover the length of the bench with towels so I could lay down on my back, with my knees bent
It did the trick, and the next thing I knew another 20 minutes had passed. That meant I only had 20 minutes of infrared sauna time left!
It was time to go full throttle so I turned up the heat to the max setting – 150°.
The last 20 minutes were spent back in a seated position, and I loved the heat. I don’t think I could ever handle a 60 minute session in a traditional sauna – the infrared sauna heat was much more bearable.
When my time was up, I got back into the shower and I felt beautifully refreshed and relaxed afterward.
As I was there, I had to take advantage of their amazing zero-gravity massage chair again before reluctantly emerging back into the real world. This chair – it squeezes you, it stretches you, it rubs your feet: it’s worth visiting this place for the chair alone.
The Benefits Of Infrared Sauna
I felt GREAT after my infrared sauna. I felt physically and mentally energized.
That said, I decided I needed to research the benefits of sauna more deeply. Here’s what I learned:
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Science Daily reported on a study in which 100 test subjects spent 30 minutes in a sauna. The sauna time caused an elevation in heart rate that was equivalent to medium-intensity exercise, as well as reduced blood pressure.
Translated that means, you get some of the benefits of a workout, without actually working out. Brilliant!
The subjects also showed improved ‘vascular compliance’ – which is the ability of a blood vessel to expand and contract as needed. Result – improved circulation!
Multiple studies have also shown a correlation between regular sauna usage and decreased risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
Relief From Sinus And Cold Symptoms
Sauna can provide relief from cold symptoms and clear sinuses by dilating the nasal and bronchial passages. Not only that, it is thought that sauna usage may shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the likelihood of catching a cold in the first place. What’s not to love there?
Relaxation & Stress Reduction
The experience of sitting in a warm and quiet room for 60 minutes is definitely relaxing. Some say the infrared sauna specifically provides a superior experience to traditional sauna as the infrared waves are able to radiate deeper into bone and muscle tissue.
You know that sensation of well-being you get from being outside, closing your eyes and feeling the sun on your face? That’s what infrared gives you – indoors, all over your body. Aaaaaah.
Opening Pores & Clearer Skin
When I left my sauna experience, I checked myself out in the mirror and my skin looked fabulous! It looked smooth and dewy – dare I say, youthful??
The process of sitting in heat opens up pores, while dirt and impurities can be expelled through the sweating process. I confidently went on with my day with a makeup free face: perhaps Jen is really on to something here…
Infrared Sauna Conclusions
There are some significant benefits of regular sauna usage that have already been proven. These apply to infrared sauna too, and there are many more benefits that have yet to be studied. There are indications it may be helpful in the treatment of multiple conditions from high blood pressure, to muscle inflammation, to rheumatoid arthritis.
But while the scientists are working hard investigating the many benefits of infrared sauna, you can definitely enjoy a session as a way to unwind, relax and help you get UnBusy. Treat yourself – just like me and Jennifer say: because you’re worth it!