Unlocking the Secrets: The Amazing Benefits of Infrared Saunas
Melissa stared glumly at her birthday card. The 'Happy 40th' seemed to be mocking her.
"You don't look too happy," her best friend, Shelly, said. "Enjoy your day!"
"I feel old. I know 40 is the new 30, but I'm feeling every one of those 40 years. Last week I cricked my neck turning over in my sleep. And my doctor told me my blood pressure is too high. I'm just so stressed, with Cindy acting up and Mark being at the Colorado office this quarter."
"You told me," Shelly said. "That's why I got you this."
Melissa took the gift card. "An infrared sauna session at the spa? Oh, this is really sweet, but I can't do sauna sessions. You know heat makes me short of breath. I tried a regular sauna once, and it just wasn't for me."
Shelly shook her head. "This is an infrared sauna. It's different from a traditional sauna. These use infrared heat, not steam, so not exactly like old-school sauna bathing. But unlike traditional saunas, an ir sauna uses infrared waves, so they operate at lower temperatures. Don't worry about heat exhaustion. Many people who have a hard time with heat do just fine with the dry heat in infrared saunas. And heat offers some amazing health benefits … including some I think you'll be really interested in."
Infrared Sauna Benefits For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
"I know you're tired all the time," Shelley said. "I think some of it's your job and Mark being gone and Cindy having a hard time, but I've noticed you just seem really exhausted lately."
"I am," Melissa said. "My doctor thinks I have chronic fatigue syndrome."
"You told me," Shelly said. "Ir sauna therapy may help you have more energy."
Infrared Sauna Benefits Relief From Chronic Pain
Melissa leaned back in her chair and winced. "Ow.”
“Your shoulder again?"
"Heat is also good pain relief," Shelly said. "It's great that you work out, but you've got to pamper yourself, and let your muscles relax."
"It's not just that," Melissa said. "I'm such a mess! I hate my job, I can't help Cindy with her acne, I'm just in Groundhog Day."
Infrared Light: Benefitting The Body Directly
The waitress approached, and took away Melissa's salad plate. "Dessert for you ladies?"
"Do you have a birthday cake special?" Shelly asked.
"We do." The waitress noticed the birthday card on the table and turned to Melissa. "Are you the lucky lady?"
"I am. But no singing," Melissa said. "And no cake. I'm trying to lose weight."
"Guess what?" Shelly tapped the gift card. "Infrared saunas also help with weight loss. I've dropped a size since I started using the infrared sauna regularly, and it's the only thing I've done differently. Sauna bathing actually offers similar health benefits as taking a brisk walk, like increased heart rate and increased circulation. Only it feels like just lying out in the sun on a hot day."
"I'll take the cake," Melissa told the waitress. "She tells me I'll work it off in this infrared sauna bath."
Word Gets Around
"I've never heard of infrared saunas," the waitress said. "But my cousin's family is obsessed with sauna blankets. They swear the high heat is great for their overall health. She has high blood pressure, and her husband has a couple of health conditions. His doctor recommended infrared sauna therapy. They love it."
"See?" Shelly smiled as the waitress walked away.
"But what are the downsides?" Melissa asked.
"That's the beauty of it. There are none. No known negative side effects. Certain people just have to take precautions: if you have heart disease, if you're pregnant, that sort of thing."
"Fine,” Melissa said. “I’ll try it. You're coming with me, right?"
"Yup. Yoga, massage, mani-pedi, sauna, shower … and then dinner at Marco's?" Shelly bounced a little bit. "Perfect girls' day!"
"I haven't heard you this excited since you discovered green tea."
"And all of the benefits of infrared saunas," Shelly said. "You have to make time for yourself. That means more than just burning calories. Just taking 15 to 20 minutes in a sauna can really make a big difference, not just physically, but mentally. You need quiet time to reset and clear your head."
"Do you hear yourself?" Melissa said. "What happened to cranky, uptight Shelly?"
"She got divorced and got in touch with herself. You only get one body. Take care of it!"
"Let the heat carry your troubles away?"
Shelly missed the sarcasm. "Absolutely. But it also really helped my overall health. I'm not just blowing hot air, you know. It's crazy how good these are for you. Here, let me pull up this article I just read. Here's the list: ‘Improved blood pressure, cardiovascular function, increased circulation, increased heart rate ... good for your blood vessels’ … read it yourself! I’m forwarding it."
Melissa was unconvinced. “Mm-hm.”
"Don't give me that look," Shelly laughed. "You know I research everything before trying, never mind buying. And I'm seriously considering buying my own infrared sauna."
Infrared Sauna: Health Benefits
Melissa went home that night with every intention of doing some research on infrared saunas, but instead she fell asleep on the couch. She woke up in the middle of the night, stiff and sore, and realized that she was in too much pain to go for her regular morning jog.
Her week didn't improve from there. She went to work, where a huge workload, combined with office politics and a short-tempered boss, immediately drove her stress levels up. After that, she took her teenage daughter Cindy to a dermatologist appointment, hoping that the next remedy would help clear the teen's acne, but there was no good news there, either.
By the time the weekend rolled around, she found herself looking forward to the infrared sauna session.
Infrared Sauna Therapy: Melissa's First Session
"So, what will this do again?" Melissa asked Shelly, as they drove to the spa.
"You didn't read the articles I sent you?"
Melissa shook her head. "I haven't had time. I just glanced at one: something about how far infrared sauna sessions boost circulation? I've been sick so much ... I think stress is killing my immune system."
"Probably is. Researchers suspect that there's a link between fatigue and impairment in the body's detoxification processes. Infrared sauna therapy may help. That was one of the original appeals of traditional sauna."
They got out of the car. "That's a little woo-woo." Melissa said.
"Not at all," Shelly said. "Many cultures use sweating and steam saunas for health reasons. Persian medicine, Native American rituals, Finnish saunas: even the ancient Spartans used a primitive steam sauna. Why would cultures from all over the world all say the same thing about sauna bathing unless there was something to it? It definitely can help detox your thoughts. You know how stressed I was during the divorce. Workouts and saunas just got it all out of my body. The infrared sauna made a huge difference."
"So why go infrared, then?”
"The jump from traditional sauna to infrared saunas is just a modern makeover. I just read an official study on it. The only difference between infrared sauna therapy and traditional saunas is that these use infrared heat. So you get the benefits of normal saunas, but with the added benefits of infrared light, which penetrates the skin and muscles more deeply. But anyway, the real difference is how you feel." She handed Melissa a bottle of water. “Here. You do need to drink plenty of water before going into the sauna."
Melissa laughed. "You bought the fancy water."
“I bought the good water.”
Melissa drank deeply, and continued to hydrate until they stepped into the sauna. She was still skeptical: the only other time she had tried a sauna, the steam had been too much for her. She was surprised to find the infrared sauna much more comfortable. The soothing music and pretty lights also helped relax her.
She immediately felt her tension easing.
To Melissa's surprise, that night she went home and fell into a deep, sound sleep. She woke up feeling refreshed, rather than groggy. Once she got to work, she had the energy to really focus on what she was doing. The day flew by. She didn't have to force herself to go to her Zumba class: she found herself looking forward to it.
Okay, you were right, she texted Shelly. I slept really well last night. Even Cindy noticed I looked relaxed. I didn't expect to feel that much of a difference.
I told you infrared saunas are amazing, Shelly texted back. You'll feel so much better. I go a few times a week, either to the spa or sometimes to my friend Joanna's. She's the one who got me into it. Let’s go again!"
Okay. Maybe sushi after this time?
Shelly sent a thumbs up.
Learning About The Health Benefits of Far Infrared Heat
Melissa read a few studies, and learned that heat relaxes the muscles and eases tension, which in turn benefits the cardiovascular system and immune system. Heat also causes the heart rate to go up, and also makes blood vessels dilate. That helps with circulation and blood vessel function, much in the way that moderate exercise does.
There were, she found, a whole slew of health conditions that infrared sauna sessions could potentially help with: high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, headaches, type 2 diabetes, and both rheumatoid arthritis and regular arthritis. Relief from sore muscles and joint pain was another big one. Dry saunas—or infrared saunas—also help with chronic pain and arthritis.
Melissa realized that the list included several health conditions that were prevalent in her family. Her senior mother was showing potential signs of early dementia. Both of her grandfathers had Alzheimer's, and her older sister had type 2 diabetes.
Melissa booked a solo infrared sauna session for the following week, this time for the day after an intense workout.
The dry heat in the infrared sauna really helped with her muscle soreness. The difference was noticeable.
Suddenly she was no longer laughing at Shelly.
Infrared Light: Relaxation
All the research really got Melissa thinking about the importance of taking care of herself. She began to treasure her sauna time. Infrared sauna therapy was, really, really good at giving her a space to quiet her thoughts.
Before long, she could not just feel but see the effects of the sauna sessions. She was more relaxed, less stressed. She looked better and felt better.
Infrared Saunas: Weight Loss
The sauna sessions continued. Melissa was enjoying the benefits of better sleep, more energy, and less soreness. She also noticed that her belly had gotten flatter.
Shelly even remarked on it. "I bet it's the sauna," she said.
"I wish," Melissa said, "The sauna only makes you lose water weight."
"Yes and no. It's known that water weight returns quickly. I think there's more to it than that."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you know what cortisol is? The stress hormone? Women tend to react to stress by gaining weight around their midsections. Every time I get really stressed, I seem to gain weight around my stomach."
“I didn’t think of that.” Melissa just smiled. “I just know that you were right.”
Infrared Sauna: Great For The Skin
To Melissa’s surprise, Cindy asked to accompany her to the sauna one day.
"I've heard a lot of models are using infrared saunas," she said. "It's becoming a really popular beauty treatment. It improves their skin tone and texture, and may even help with acne. I guess the light kills bacteria that causes acne. Can we try?"
Melissa brushed her daughter's hair off her forehead. "Sure, sweetie. Just don’t expect too much. I don't want you to be disappointed again."
"Mom, your skin looks great. I don't know if it's the infrared sauna therapy, but you're doing something right. But I’m not expecting miracles. I just want to relax. School is so stressful this year."
Melissa booked a session for herself and Cindy. They took time for a mother-daughter day, which hadn't happened in a while. Cindy absolutely loved the infrared sauna. Melissa was so thrilled to see her daughter relaxed and happy that she decided to make infrared sauna therapy a regular thing for them.
And so, for the rest of the school year, she and Cindy carved out time for those infrared sauna treatments every week.
A Lesson From Traditional Saunas: Wellness Care Matters
Cindy's skin noticeably improved, and she seemed much less tense. She also excelled in track that year.
She came home one day, smiling. "My running times have improved. The coach said she'd heard that infrared light can help with blood flow and increased blood circulation, which may be why I'm performing better."
"Blood flow, increased blood circulation ... Who are you?" Melissa laughed. "You're usually more interested in TikTok."
Cindy shrugged. "It's nice to unplug sometimes. I like the infrared sauna treatments."
Infrared Sauna Therapy: Overall Wellness
Melissa had an epiphany, watching her daughter relax in the sauna. She knows she can always use infrared sauna therapy to relax when she's stressed. That's going to be so helpful for her in life.
When Mark got home the next week, he found Melissa relaxing in the infrared sauna she'd just purchased. Before long, he, too, was using the sauna regularly.
And that’s how, at 40 years young, Melissa learned that relaxing your mind can have a wonderful effect on your body … a lesson she shared with her family.