Far infrared technology has recently swept the health and wellness scene off its feet. Now comes near infrared saunas in hot pursuit of even top far infrared saunas. Claiming to offer all the benefits of the popular far infrared variety and more, is a near infrared sauna really as good as it seems?
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What is near infrared?
Near infrared refers to the wavelength of light used in heating the body during an infrared sauna session. The type of heating elements used in saunas that emit near infrared radiation are generally the Edison heat lamp, which has a tungsten filament which, when electrified, emits heat radiation in the form of light at 600-950nm − part of the visible spectrum of light produced by the sun.
The near infrared sauna experience is deemed to be more natural and more beneficial for the body, since it makes use of another form of therapy to rejuvenate the body: phototherapy. Nature has designed the human body to benefit from the infrared naturally produced by the sun’s rays. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to control the forces of nature into a predictable 35-minute lunchtime or post-workout sauna, so technology has found a means to reproduce the effective bandwidth of light that provides the benefits of light therapy that we would normally achieve from the sun, without other harmful effects such as sunburn. That technology is the Edison heat lamp and near infrared radiation.
How does near infrared differ from far infrared?
The main difference between near infrared and far infrared sauna technology is the type of radiation delivered.
Near infrared uses infrared heat radiation in the range of 600-950nm. Far infrared delivers radiation in the 3000 nm – 1mm wavelength range. Light at this wavelength produces harmful electromagnetic fields, or EMF. For this reason, far infrared heating elements require expensive metal shielding to lower the EMF levels, increasing the cost and decreasing the amount of far infrared radiation entering the sauna. The result is a higher-cost, reduced-efficiency sauna compared to its near infrared counterpart.
As for the effects on the human body, the skin has no photoreceptors that are able to absorb or process far infrared light, so the far infrared saunas can only provide heat therapy, not near infrared phototherapy.
What’s the advantage of near infrared in saunas?
Although there are many physical similarities between near infrared saunas and other sauna types, the near infrared radiation has some distinct advantages that make it a stand out as a top prospect for your next sauna detoxification.
Near infrared uses part of the natural visible light spectrum to provide heat to the body. Utilising the chromophores in our cells, which act as photoreceptors for the near infrared light, exposure to near infrared light acts as light therapy which can penetrate muscle tissue deeper, potentially unlocking even harder-to-reach chemicals and toxins.
How does a near infrared sauna work?
Near infrared saunas use what may be the simplest means of heat therapy there is − natural light.
Compared to traditional saunas which heat a room by burning wood, a gas stove, hot rocks from a fire, an electric coil, or a gas heater, near infrared saunas offer a much simpler alternative. Using simple Edison heat lamps which incorporate a tungsten element to produce specific near infrared light, the body is heated instantly and effectively through light − an inherently natural process.
To make a near infrared sauna, a standard sauna is retrofitted with an Edison light bulb assembly. During your sauna, you are required to sit in front of these heat lamps to benefit from the heat radiation they emit. The behaviour of the near infrared sauna is similar to the far infrared sauna, but with a higher quality heat radiation source and fewer negative effects from EMF.
How do they detoxify the body?
Similar to far infrared saunas, near infrared saunas release toxins from the body through your sweat. Skin is the human body’s largest organ, and sweat is its primary means of toxin elimination. Sweat transmits toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and waste from the muscle tissue and fat stores.
General health benefits from sauna use may include:
- Improved blood circulation
- Enhanced immune system function
- Relaxing tight muscles
- Cleansing the skin
- Improved alkalinity (reduced acidity) of your system
- Boosting the metabolism and releasing toxins
- Relaxing the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight system)
- Increased athletic performance through reduced fatigue
- Increased growth hormone release for muscle development
- Decreased cellulite and body fat
These detoxification benefits generally take around 20-40 minutes to achieve, which is slightly longer than the far infrared sauna.
But which sauna is better?
It’s a good question to ask, and a tricky one to answer.
If you’re familiar with traditional steam saunas, you’ll appreciate how uncomfortable they can be, with the humidity resulting from steam and high temperatures required to achieve detoxification of your body. They tend to use high amounts of energy and take the longest time to prepare, with significant warm-up time involved.
Far infrared saunas are quick, portable and more efficient, but emit high levels of EMF and can only offer heat therapy to rejuvenate the body.
Near infrared offers all the benefits of a far infrared sauna, none of the negatives of traditional sauna, and adds the benefit of phototherapy and reduced EMF emission. Near infrared sauna technology is leading the way by taking the sauna experience even more connected with the benefits of mother nature.
If you thought far infrared was the best technology around, think again. Near infrared is fast becoming the popular alternative to traditional sauna, and for good reason. Safe, efficient, and with higher rejuvenation potential, near infrared may be the boost to your health and wellness you’ve been looking for.