Sauna is a small room used for a hot air or steam bath. In a traditional sauna, moist heat is used to warm the room air that in turn warms your body. This heat is said to be beneficial to the body.
In an infrared sauna, light is used to create heat. For this, a special heater is used that generates infrared radiation similar to that produced by the sun. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you in the room.
- The doctor will ask you to lie on a bench in a 40°F infrared dry sauna for 15 minutes.
- Then, they will take you outside the sauna and bundle you in blankets to keep you warm while you rest on a bed for 30 minutes.
- Water is provided to you throughout the process to maintain body hydration.
What does an infrared sauna do?
An infrared sauna claims to cause similar reactions in the body to those elicited by moderate exercises. Sitting in a sauna causes vigorous sweating and increases your heart rate. It also removes toxins from your body through sweating and relaxes the body and mind. It might affect your heart and blood vessels in ways that are similar to moderate exercises.
An infrared sauna produces these results at lower temperatures than a regular sauna. Therefore, heat is tolerable even by people who have sensitivity toward light and heat.
No side effects have been reported with the use of an infrared sauna. Therefore, you can consider an infrared sauna for simple relaxation. Although large-scale evidence is lacking, several studies have reported the effects of an infrared sauna on the treatment of chronic health problems such as:
- Help in high blood pressure: Heat generates sweating and causes the blood vessels to widen. A study reported that there was a decrease in blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness immediately after a sauna. A Finland study on >1,600 middle-aged men stated that those who took a sauna four to seven times a week had a 46% lower risk of high blood pressure than those who took a sauna once a week. Another study concluded that people who took a sauna two to three times a week had a 24% low risk of high blood pressure.
- Heart failure and heart disease: A study involving people who were receiving standard treatment medications for heart failure reported that a sauna at least twice a week may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Improvement in blood circulation: A hot sauna will not only make you feel good and relaxed but also improve the function of the inside layer of the blood vessels over time. Waon therapy (a type of infrared sauna) improves vascular endothelial function and has effects on blood vessel development. It intensifies the production of a substance called nitric oxide (NO), which is beneficial to the blood vessels. It has claimed to have anti-atherogenic action, increasing systematic blood flow and thus supplying necessary nutrition—oxygen—to each of the organs’ cells.
- Dementia and Alzheimer's disease: Scientists found that men who often have a sauna had lower rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease than those who had a less often sauna. However, more evidence is required to prove this.
There are some pieces of evidence about the benefits of a sauna in the treatment of
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (some evidence).
However, larger and more-rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.
What precautions should be taken care of?
You must take some general precautions while in a sauna such as:
- Avoid drinking alcohol and consuming any medications that may impair your sweating or may cause overheating before and after your sauna.
- Avoid being in a sauna for more than 15-20 minutes.
- After the sauna, cool down your body gradually.
- Drink plenty of fluids such as around two to four glasses of cool water after each sauna to avoid dehydration.
- Avoid a sauna if you are sick and not feeling well.
- People with existing heart disease or other major health conditions should consult their doctor before trying a sauna.
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