When it comes to a sauna experience, most people might picture a rustic wooden building with a steaming pile of rocks. Some folks might think of an indigenous sweat lodge experience, while others might know of saunas at their favorite local spa or gym. When it gets cold in the winter, this crunchy mama is all about cozying up—add the health benefits of infrared light therapy to a chilly autumn day, and I’ll be there!
Oh, but not all saunas and infrared light therapies are made the same! Some folks have tapped into the power of near-infrared light to keep their bodies healthy and optimized. When I first discovered infrared light therapy, I soon learned that proximity of the waves made a huge difference in health benefits.
So, what is the difference between near and far-infrared light, and how do they work together? Let’s look at which is the best approach in terms of health.
Far Infrared Light
Far infrared light, also known as FIR, is considered a thermal type of infrared light. Far Infrared Light’s frequency is a long wave. When the frequency of a wave is long, it produces more heat. This type of heat is not visible to the human eye and compares to the heat you might feel standing next to a fireplace or soaking some rays from the sun when you’re outside.
While this type of heat might feel good and stimulate our bodies to sweat, because of the length of the waves being longer, our bodies do not receive the added benefits of cellular regeneration, tissue growth, and other natural photo-biochemical responses present in red light therapy, which strictly uses near-infrared light.
Still, sweating is a powerful method of detoxing and has a long history of being tried and true in the health communities. Sweat is a powerful tool for any mama looking to cleanse the lymphatic system. As far as light therapy goes, however, there seems to be more support for the abundant benefits of near-infrared light for our cellular health.
Benefits of Thermal-Based Therapies
While near-infrared therapies boast a better reputation overall on cellular health, people have been using heat-based saunas for hundreds of years for good reason. Here are some awesome benefits of a heated sauna:
- Eliminates Toxins via Sweat: It’s no wonder that so many cultures all over the world have used sweat lodges and saunas as a part of their healthcare regimen. Sweating is one of the easiest ways to pass toxins through the body. All sorts of excess minerals and metals detox through our skin. Even chemicals like phytates—chemicals present in toys, fragrances, and some inorganic cosmetics—are measured at higher volumes compared to urine or blood.
- Promotes Circulation and Heart Health: Saunas of all varieties promote the body’s sense of homeostasis. Thermal therapies allow the body to acclimate and heat up, encouraging the tissues to relax into the heat. Much like massage therapy in some ways, far infrared therapy warms the tissues and lets the muscles get proper circulation.
- Great Post-Exercise Tension Relief: Traditional heat-based saunas give muscles the chance to rest into circulation. While this is also great for your heart health, rest is one of the most crucial factors in healing your body’s tissues and gaining lean growth in your muscles, which can improve your exercise performance.
Near Infrared Light
Near-infrared light (NIR) is the light that people come to know as red light therapy. NIR waves are shorter—so much shorter that they do not produce heat, unlike their far-infrared cousins. Though we may not be able to feel the heat, these waves have a profound way of impacting our tissue to regenerate and promote healthy cell growth.
This is a little science-y, crunchy mamas—I’ll bring it down to earth so it makes sense, though! NIR frequency is absorbable in our cells because human bodies can only absorb shorter spectrums of light. Water makes up a big part of our body composition and takes the blunt of bigger waves of light, so our cells don’t get to reap the rewards.
Clinically speaking, near-infrared light has more micro-cellular health benefits because the waves are smaller. We have a near-infrared light panel that we use all the time, even our kids benefit from using this panel!
Benefits of Near Infrared Red Light Therapy
Near-infrared light therapy is a superstar when it comes to cellular health. The benefits listed from thermal-based therapy still apply to near-infrared red light therapy, so keep in mind these are just added to the list of what makes a typical sauna so fantastic.
- Extreme Healing Factor: Near infrared therapy can drastically improve injured tissues and wounds. It has been shown to improve the elasticity of skin by increasing collagen and elastin production—that translates to less wrinkles and fine lines, ladies! Beyond the wear and tear of everyday life, near infrared saunas can also help chronic diseases like fibromyalgia.
- Lowers Ambient Body Pain: A frequent culprit of everyday body pain comes from inflammation. Near infrared light therapy creates a healthy immune response and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. NIR light helps the body to release endorphins, which are our body’s natural pain killers.
- Routine Use Can Reduce Fat and Cellulite: Regular use of NIR light stimulates the mitochondria to produce more cellular energy through ATP. This increases our body’s metabolic rate, improving digestion and promoting food to fuel.
- Lower Electromagnetic Fields: EMFs are given off by all sorts of technology in our world—far infrared saunas give off a lot of waves, too, whereas near infrared light gives off significantly less energy. This helps reduce symptoms to exposure like headaches, feeling stressed, and difficulty sleeping.
Sauna Benefits Either Way
While there are some differences between near and far-infrared saunas, each of them has its own reasons to shine. Personally, I love both saunas. We have an infrared light panel (that sits next to my Peloton so I can get the benefits while also working out!), a large wooden infrared sauna, and a small portable Solo Sauna. If you want to invest in a sauna, shop this link and you will save $600 off a big wooden one or $250 off the smaller Solo (which is my personal favorite — I use it 5-6 times per week!).
Want more amazing health tips to get you and your family through winter? Check the Health and Wellness section of my website out.
Life a little too hectic to read? Put on some headphones and listen to RFRN’s podcast. Hear what me and other savvy crunchy mamas and papas have to say about healthy living, homesteading, and family care.