Are you tired, stressed, or just generally physically fatigued? Well, there’s no better way to relax than by letting your troubles melt away in a sauna. While traditional saunas have ruled the relaxation space for a while, a new – and surprisingly popular – type of sauna has emerged as a competitor.
If you want to know what the benefits and perks of an infrared sauna versus a traditional sauna are, you’ve come to the right place. But just remember: nobody knows how to get you to relax better than you do, so make sure to keep your ideal relaxation situation in mind.
Our quick comparison of traditional and infrared saunas will give you everything you need to know. So, all you have to do is book a sauna bathing session and enjoy.
Infrared Sauna Vs Traditional Sauna
Sauna bathing’s health benefits have been bragged about and investigated for years. The more research we do, the more we find that there’s a lot of truth behind these claims.
Saunas have also become extremely popular for their link to relaxation. So, if you’re looking for a way to feel refreshed, a simple sauna session can easily do the trick. What’s more, by releasing tension and letting your mind go, you may even see a few benefits for your mental health, too.
You may have heard about different types of saunas available, with infrared saunas quickly becoming the very popular new kid on the block. But which type of sauna is better?
How Do Traditional Saunas Work?
Traditional saunas are heated rooms that are usually used to induce sweating. They are very often found in gyms to help muscle recovery after a heavy workout, and can also be used as a form of relaxation.
By inducing doing this, saunas have an array of benefits, including the reduction of symptoms like joint pain, arthritis, and fatigued muscles.
There are a few variations of a regular sauna, but the most common heating methods are steam generators or heated rocks. The heated rocks are placed on top of an elemental or electric heater or other warming device and are then covered with water. The hot rocks give off steam that then fills the sauna room.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
Infrared saunas are named after the heating method that they use. But, instead of heating the entire room, infrared saunas work by heating up only the individual.
These saunas use infrared heaters to give off radiant heat. This infrared heat is then absorbed by the surface of the skin and heats the body from the inside to induce sweating. Increased sweating is often linked to the release of toxins from the body.
There are also two types of infrared saunas, namely far and near-infrared. Far infrared saunas use heating elements that emit light in the far-infrared spectrum. Although far infrared can be used for light therapy, it does not permeate the skin as well as near-infrared light.
Saunas using near-infrared elements are used for both heat and light therapies. Near-infrared saunas use light that can penetrate the skin by up to 9 inches, allowing the air in the sauna to stay at room temperature while the body heats up instead.
Similarities Between Traditional And Infrared Saunas
Both infrared and traditional saunas have many wonderful health benefits. Some of these benefits include improving your overall wellness, improving your heart health, helping with aches and pains, relieving stress, burning calories, and improving your skin.
Saunas Improve Overall Wellness
If you’re heading for a sauna session at the gym or while you’re on vacation, you may be interested to know that this relaxing, recreational activity can actually help improve your health.
Firstly, saunas are great for helping relieve stress. This is important for things like mental health, and many individuals that suffer from anxiety and depression have found that using a sauna can help them relax.
But more than just allowing you some well-deserved relaxation and stress reduction, sauna bathing can also improve your cardiovascular health.
Saunas Improve Your Heart Health
Saunas work by exposing you to heat to increase your body’s core temperature. In traditional saunas, this is done by increasing the heat and humidity in the room, while infrared saunas use infrared heat to warm you up from the inside out.
When your body’s temperature increases, it responds by dilating your blood vessels (making your veins wider so more blood can pass through them) and raising your heart rate. This increase in heart rate works to give you better overall blood circulation.
Better circulation means a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and heart failure, and it can also reduce the risk of suffering from a stroke or hypertension.
Saunas Help With Aches And Pains
Both traditional and infrared saunas help relax your muscles and soothe muscle and joint pain. The heat that you experience during your sauna session can also help to release endorphins, making you feel more energized and happier.
Because saunas improve your circulation, they also aid your body’s natural healing process. This is particularly useful after a tough workout where your muscles have experienced a strain or tearing.
Using a sauna regularly after exercise will keep you from injuring yourself and get you back into a state where you’re comfortable faster.
By reducing muscle tension and increasing your sweat output, saunas are beneficial for helping your body rid itself of toxins like lead, mercury, and lactic acid. A build-up of lactic acid can lead to lactic acidosis and can cause health complications like infections, kidney disease, heart disease, and sepsis.
Saunas Help Reduce Stress
The sauna’s heat helps you relax while also regulating cortisol levels in your blood. When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone known as cortisol, but high amounts of cortisol can cause a variety of health concerns, including immune system problems and sleeping difficulties.
Sauna bathing lowers cortisol levels in the blood while increasing serotonin (the hormone responsible for making us feel happy) release. This can help you to get deeper and better sleep at night.
Saunas Help You To Burn Calories
When you’re sweating it out in the sauna, your heart starts to work a little harder. Because your heart is working harder, your body also needs more energy to keep your body moving. So, while you sit in the sauna, your body will actually start to convert calories into the energy it needs.
While it’s true that you can burn up to 300 calories during a sauna session, saunas are not a weight-loss tool. Instead, they can be used as a supplementary exercise tool to help you burn extra calories during your gym session.
Saunas Give You Glowing Skin
Saunas are a great way to help purify your skin. While you may think that sweating can cause breakouts and other skin irritations, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When exposed to perspiration, your skin will start to clean itself by replacing dead skin cells in the epidermal layer. In the same way that sweating rids your body of toxins, it also rids your skin of germs and bacteria that get caught in your pores. And, by cleansing your pores, your skin will have a boost of circulation. This will help your skin look more rosy, glowing, and youthful.
Provided that your sauna is clean and free from any harmful pathogens like mold and fungi, there’s no chance of getting skin breakouts from using a sauna.
Differences Between Infrared And Traditional Saunas
When assessing both traditional saunas and infrared saunas, some key differences set the two apart. These differences include their heating method, room temperature, humidity levels, the time it takes for each sauna to heat up, and the overall experience.
The heating method for a traditional sauna is to heat the entire room by way of steam generators or hot rocks. Once the room has sufficiently hot, the heating elements switch off to prevent the room from overheating.
Similarly, when the room begins to cool, the elements will switch on again to keep the temperature regulated. In traditional saunas, you can increase the humidity levels in the room by gently pouring water over the heated rocks or by adjusting the temperature control panel.
Pouring water on the hot rocks is what gives you the typical clouds of steam that make for the ‘authentic’ sauna experience, but too much steam can be harmful to your lungs.
In infrared saunas, the room itself doesn’t heat up. Instead, infrared waves penetrate the skin to raise your core body temperature, effectively warming you up from the inside. This is different from the traditional sauna method, which heats your body up from the outside using steam.
Infrared saunas achieve this by emitting infrared waves that are similar to the natural wavelengths of the body. This ensures that the body will begin to heat up and absorb the infrared energy. After the energy has had time to soak into the skin, it will reach the muscle and joints of the body and warm them as well. This helps to relax the muscles and induce sweating.
Based on how the saunas are used, the heating time of the two saunas can be drastically different. Traditional steam saunas can sometimes take up to 45 minutes to pre-heat and for the hot rocks to reach their ideal temperature.
Of course, the time it takes to heat up a traditional sauna is directly based on the room’s starting temperature. A cooler room may take up to an hour to heat up, while a warmer room can take as little as 30 minutes. The ideal temperature of a traditional sauna is usually around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the room has heated up to the desired temperature, the heat elements will turn on and off to keep the temperature regulated. These elements will therefore only function for half of the time of the sauna session.
One of the additional and beneficial qualities of hot rocks is that not only do they release heat, but they can retain it, too. This means that it will take much longer for a traditional sauna to cool down, even once the heating elements are turned off.
Because infrared saunas are designed to heat an individual’s body rather than the sauna room, there is technically no waiting time or ‘warming period’ to wait for before getting comfortable. Instead, you can use the infrared sauna as soon as it is turned on.
Some individuals, however, do prefer to wait until the room has warmed up slightly from the residual heat of the infrared panels.
A traditional sauna has an average temperature of between 150 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature at roof level in the United States is 194 degrees Fahrenheit. So, when it comes to traditional saunas, the ceiling right above the sauna heater should be the hottest spot in the room and shouldn’t exceed 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
Infrared saunas are usually set to reach a maximum temperature of between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. But, unlike a traditional sauna, infrared saunas are not designed to reach a high room temperature. The reason an infrared sauna heats up at all is because the heating elements need to be kept on continuously to penetrate the individual’s skin.
So, while you’ll begin to feel hot and sweaty in both a traditional and infrared sauna, the latter is only meant to work at lower room temperatures. This means that sauna bathers can spend a much longer time in an infrared sauna.
Traditional saunas have much higher humidity than infrared saunas. This is because the steam released by the steam generator or hot rocks create a more humid atmosphere. Of course, traditional saunas boast additional benefits that are linked to their increased humidity levels, including cleansing your pores and promoting better sleep.
Infrared saunas are much less humid than a traditional saunas. This is because the room is not heating through steam, but rather through the infrared heating element. While some sauna bathers may prefer the humidity of a traditional sauna, both types are geared towards the same common goal. So, when it comes to humidity levels, it’s all about your personal preference.
Regardless of the humidity levels, both sauna types will induce sweating and subsequently give off various health and wellness benefits.
Overall Sauna Experience
Another difference between infrared saunas and traditional saunas is the overall sauna experience. Traditional saunas are steamy, heated rooms that are ideal for quick sauna treatments. This makes them great for an after-gym session or before a dip in an ice-cold pool or lake.
Because of the intense heat of a traditional sauna, sessions can only be sustained for around 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Some sauna bathers enjoy taking a cold shower or going for a cool swim after their session before they use the room again.
On the other hand, infrared saunas offer bathers a dry and relaxing heat that’s free from humidity. Because infrared sauna rooms don’t reach extreme temperatures, users can enjoy their sauna bathing session for up to as long as 30 to 45 minutes, but you can stick to 10 minutes if you’re looking for something quick.
While infrared saunas reach lower temperatures, they’re more capable than traditional saunas at eliciting a deep and cleansing sweat session. Additionally, infrared saunas allow users to unwind and relax for a much longer time, giving them more time to benefit from their sauna session.
Much like the humidity levels, the overall sauna experience is determined by your personal preferences and what you need therapeutically. While traditional saunas are more popular for a post-workout cooldown, infrared saunas can be more beneficial as a recreational activity to give users a more serene experience.
When it comes to relaxation, nothing screams tranquility quite like a sauna. While traditional and infrared saunas may differ in terms of experience, both sauna types have similar health perks. So, whether you’re looking for a quick way to release some tension, or you want to get away from it all for an hour or so, both saunas are great options.