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The Tradition of Sauna Bathing: From Early Europe to Modern Infrared

Soothing, healing, relaxing and comforting: saunas have a long history of bringing enjoyment to people. Today’s modern saunas originated in Northern Europe, specifically Finland, and have become increasingly popular in many countries since the beginning of the 20th Century. Even the ancient Greek, Roman and Mayan cultures used heated rooms for healing and wellness. Whether to warm up during long, cold winter months, relax sore muscles after a day of hard labor or even to socialize and gather with loved ones, saunas have been popular for centuries for a good reason.

The word sauna comes from the ancient Finnish word for bath or bathhouse, which is why enjoying a sauna may be referred to as sauna ‘bathing.’ A sauna bathing session is usually about 20 - 30 minutes. Many people like to follow a sauna bath with a plunge into a cold pool of water or a cold shower. The health and therapeutic benefits of sauna baths are well documented. Medical studies have shown regular sauna use can promote overall health by reducing cardiovascular disease, healing muscles, and reducing stress's adverse effects.

With at-home saunas, consumers have options. Materials, sizes and even heating elements can all be customized to suit individual needs. Some saunas are built into homes, and others can be freestanding structures placed on a homeowner's property. Let's take a look at the two most common types of saunas, traditional and infrared:

  • Traditional Saunas – typically a wooden room or structure, traditional saunas are heated between 150 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit, or hotter. Water is poured onto heated sauna stones to create steam and heat up the room. While conventional saunas are usually kept at a humidity level of between 5 – 15%, the humidity level can ultimately be controlled by the user through the frequency and amount of water used.
  • Infrared Saunas – these types of saunas don’t heat the air around you but use infrared light to directly heat the body by panels or lamps that emit electromagnetic radiant heat to the skin. These infrared panels or lamps will actually heat up the body first before heating up the air around you. While an infrared sauna still feels very warm, soothing and comforting, they operate at a lower temperature than traditional saunas, at approximately 120 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them a good option for those that are less tolerant to heat.

Traditional saunas are made of softwood – Western Red Cedar, Hemlock, Aspen and Basswood are most common – and use either electric or wood-burning heaters. Sauna sizes can differ, and obviously, the smaller the size, the quicker and easier the room is to heat. For home saunas, 8 feet by 12 feet are standard, but some saunas can be as small as 3 feet by 3 feet. The size of your sauna depends on your needs and placement. Freestanding saunas have the option to be as large as desired, but in-home saunas will be limited to space restrictions.

While a sauna will add quality to your life, it will also add value to your home. Saunas are very popular in modern, new construction homes. Saunas carry a certain air of luxury and can be aesthetically pleasing with gorgeous, grained wood, especially on a snowy winter day. Beyond relaxation and aesthetics, saunas are low maintenance. Unlike pools and hot tubs, which require frequent upkeep, a sauna doesn't require much cleaning other than cleaning the floor.

With health benefits, aesthetic value and luxury significance, a home sauna offers it all. Private sauna bathing at any time, day or night, sets a new standard for home luxury and a healthy lifestyle.

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