Imagine if you can alleviate chronic pain, fatigue, and sadness, in a 30–60-minute session. With an infrared sauna, this is real. From performance optimization to mood stabilization and from arthritis to depression, infrared saunas can help in many ways, mainly on the cellular level through promoting homeostasis, stress signaling, vasodilatation, detoxification, and more .
The only drawback is that dry IR sauna sessions are either expensive or a hassle to fit into your schedule, installing a sauna cabin is hazardous, space-occupying, and again, expensive! All these disadvantages are now obsolete with the emergence of infrared sauna blankets. It is efficient, inexpensive, easy to use and move, no electrical modifications required and of course, offers the same effect as a regular infrared sauna.
What is an infrared sauna blanket?
An infrared sauna blanket is an insulated PVC blanket wrapped around IR-emitting mini-bulbs which turn this light into chemical signals that promote a group of biological processes known as photobiomodulation.
That uses for relieving stress and alleviating skeletal pain as well as stiffness. It also improves your blood circulation and overall body functions.
It has all the benefits of a sauna session but without the small talk and the expensive spa rooms.
What is infrared light therapy? And how does it work?
But, why would you need a sauna session in the first place? And how can you be sure that this is not a scam or pseudoscience?
At the Heliotherapy Research Institute, we offer evidence-based medicine where all our data is medically verified by specialized doctors and the scientific data is exclusively collected from peer-reviewed medical articles.
In science classes, we learned that light has a visible spectrum and a non-visible one, well, infrared is one of the invisible spectra of light. Its wavelengths lie between 760 nm and 100,000 nm. The maximum benefit for our body with minimal side effects is provided by waves in the range from 600 to 1000 nm. They offer a unique biological effect known as photobiomodulation .
Regular sauna vs IR sauna
A regular sauna works by heating the air around you, then the heat conducts into your skin and body and loosens your stiffness, and relaxes your mind and body. But in order to reach the required body temperature, you risk overheating and stroke. Also, the heat isn’t evenly distributed making the healing process irregular.
However, infrared saunas have the advantage of emitting light that directly heats and affects the body regularly with no risks.
IR sauna produces thermal and nonthermal effects on your body like increasing your vasculature and blood flow, with some capillary dilatation that offers a hypotensive effect, excessive sweating that excretes most toxins, and extra hydration to the skin.
And, on the cellular level, it promotes photobiomodulation where the photon absorption converts light into signals that initiate a cascade of biological processes depending on the photoreceptor molecule inside the tissue and cell. These processes include stress signaling, mitochondrial processes, cytoskeleton organization, cell proliferation, homeostasis, and much more .
Reaching the required photoreceptor could be controlled by adjusting the source of light, duration, irradiance, and fluence of the device used. This allows healthcare professionals to provide you with the biomedical effect you need to improve your overall health.
What can infrared light therapy help in?
Sauna bathing experts often claim many health benefits for their sessions, which include detoxification, weight loss, increased metabolism and blood circulation, pain reduction, skin rejuvenation and antiaging, improved sleep, cardiovascular and immune functions, stress management, and of course relaxation.
Many studies prove most of these claims, and others require more data and longer follow-up periods.
IR and senior citizens
The latest studies have suggested the great effect of infrared saunas on improving frailty and many symptoms of geriatric syndrome .
IR and skin health
A study  conducted in 2006, investigated the effect of IR on skin elasticity and collagen production, by recruiting 20 patients with moderate facial wrinkles and dark (hyperpigmented spots). They received a daily dose of IR (900-1000 nm) for 6 months. Every 4 weeks a photographic assessment was made by an independent medical observer and skin biopsies were taken twice, once before the regimen and the other one month after completing the program.
The study found a significant increase in fibroblast production which is the building block for collagen and elastin synthesis. This is reflected directly in the patient’s overall appearance. Patients and medical observers reported a 65% improvement in skin texture and a mild 45% improvement in their skin color tone but not the hyperpigmented lesions. The histological biopsies confirmed these findings.
These results indicate the positive effect infrared therapy has on our skin, especially elasticity, texture, and wrinkles. This makes it a safe non-ablative therapeutic modality for photoaged skin.
IR and cardiac health
Showing an overall improvement in 149 patients with congestive heart failure after these sessions. Their 6 minutes walking distance improved, heart size was reduced. Also, patients with peripheral arterial diseases showed improvement in their peripheral blood vasculature too in comparison to the control group that received the required standard medical care only.
IR and musculoskeletal health
A Dutch study  reported an immediate but temporary reduction in pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis during 4 weeks of IR sauna therapy. While 44 patients with fibromyalgia showed subjective improvement in their pain score and FIQ after only 12 weeks of sauna therapy.
Also, 10 patients reported a significant change in their chronic fatigue symptoms with an improved score of anxiety, depression, and fatigue after 4 weeks of sauna therapy.
Infrared sauna and mental health
A randomized controlled trial  investigated the effects of 4 weeks of sauna sessions on 28 patients diagnosed with mild depression. After completion of the sauna course, there was a significant improvement in their somatic complaints, hunger, and relaxation scores in comparison to the control group who received bed rest instead of sauna therapy.
IR and athletic performance
Historically, Finnish athletes were the first to introduce saunas to the Olympic games in 1936. They used it to enhance their performance, cleanse their body, refresh relax and expedite their recovery.
Another study  in 2020, determined the effect of a Finnish sauna as a regeneration method post-exercise on the oxidant-antioxidant balance in healthy men. It recruited 43 men of the mean of age 24 years old, and let them perform a 30-min aerobic exercise on a cycle ergometer and rested for 39 min at a room temperature (Day 1; 20°C) or in a sauna for post-workout recovery (Day 2; 90°C, air humidity 10%). Blood samples were taken 3 times during both study days: Before the exercise (baseline), 20 and 40 min after the recovery.
The results proved that a single Finnish sauna bath as a source of free radicals per se can reduce oxidative stress induced by a 30-min aerobic exercise in healthy men.
In the latest study in 2021 , 36 male football players were acclimated to 9 dry sauna sessions in extremely hot temperatures (100 ± 3 °C), three times a week for 3 weeks. Many physiological parameters were examined before and after the sessions. The results showed a significant improvement in their maximal oxygen uptake, minute ventilation, and breath frequency at the end of their intervention in comparison to the control group.
This proves that a dry sauna can give athletes the advantage of:
- Loosening their stiffness and increasing their flexibility before a game.
- Increased tolerance for anaerobic workouts.
- Excreting toxins through sweating.
- Reducing lactic acid accumulation.
- Improving their blood circulation and plasma volume.
- Relieve muscular pain and refresh their fitness level.
IR and weight loss
A study in 2019 , recruited 45 overweight sedentary males above the age of 25. Their body composition, body mass, and blood pressure were measured before and after their sauna session. They were subjected to four, 10 minutes of dry sessions and 5 minutes of cooldown. After a total of 60 minutes in the sauna, their body mass decreased by a significant average of 0.65 kg. Alongside their heart rate improvement, blood pressure reduction, and energy expenditure in comparison to their body composition.
IR and its long-term effects
Another study  that followed 2315 men over more than 20 years of dry sauna bathing, showed a significant reduction in their high blood pressure, resting heart rate, and LDL levels. Their findings also showed a 66% reduction in the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Are IR sauna blankets safe?
We have proved with evidence-based medicine that infrared therapy in most of its forms is safe. Infrared light therapy is 100% on your skin as it is different than ultraviolet rays that may cause skin harm.
But that doesn’t exclude the fact that misuse of IR sauna blankets may have unwanted ramifications. For example, using the device without drinking enough water to replenish your body may lead to dehydration and symptoms similar to sunstroke.
What to expect when using an IR sauna blanket?
Although everyone has a different experience while using the infrared saunas blanket, most users confirmed that in the first half of the session you feel warm and snuggly then gradually in the second one, you feel really warm and sweaty. This depends on the temperature you set the blanket for and your personal preference. Most home-use blankets start from 158F to 176F degrees.
Wearing loose and comfy clothes makes the experience much more pleasant, also having an audiobook, helps with the restlessness that some users complain of. Other tips include buying the free-hand device as you can easily use your mobile or read a book while enjoying your sauna session.
Drinking water is not a tip, it is a necessity. You must replenish your water intake to avoid discomfort, and heat stroke.
Excessive sweating may be a good sign, but watch out for dehydration and dizziness. So, if you are still new to the sauna experience it is better if you start with a lower temperature for short periods and go higher and longer after checking your comfort levels. Going too much too soon may cause thermal damage to your body.
The relaxing effect also continues after the treatment, as many users experienced mood elevation, after the 1-hour session. This is due to the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system that alters the release of cortisol and other stress-related hormones. Giving you a sense of calmness and inner peace.
🤓 What are the benefits of using an infrared sauna blanket?
Using an infrared sauna blanket has many benefits, including detoxification, weight loss, improved circulation, relief from muscle pain and stiffness, and reduced stress.
📌 How long should I use my infrared sauna blanket?
We recommend using your infrared sauna blanket for 20-30 minutes at a time. However, you can use it for as long as you like. Just be sure to listen to your body and stop if you feel uncomfortable.
🔍 Are infrared sauna blankets safe?
There are very few risks associated with using an infrared sauna blanket. However, it is important to drink plenty of water before and after your session to avoid dehydration. Also, if you have any medical conditions, please consult your doctor before using an infrared sauna blanket.
👀 How often should I use the infrared sauna blanket?
Depending on your goals, you can use the infrared sauna blanket several times a week. However, if you are a beginner, we recommend starting with twice a week so as not to burden the body.
References and sources
- Tsai SR, Hamblin MR. Biological effects and medical applications of infrared radiation. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2017; 170:197-207. doi:10.1016/ j. Photobiol. 2017.04.014
- Sugie M, Harada K, Takahashi T, et al. Effectiveness of a far-infrared low-temperature sauna program on geriatric syndrome and frailty in community-dwelling older people. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2020;20(10):892-898. doi:10.1111/ggi.14003
- Lee JH, Roh MR, Lee KH. Effects of infrared radiation on skin photo-aging and pigmentation. Yonsei Med J. 2006;47(4):485-490. doi:10.3349/ymj.2006.47.4.485
- Lima MV, Ochiai ME, Vieira KN, et al. Thermal vasodilation using a portable infrared thermal blanket in decompensated heart failure. Int Heart J. 2014;55(5):433-439. doi:10.1536/ihj.14-096
- Shanshan Shui, Xia Wang, John Y Chiang and Lei Zheng. Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems [retraction of Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2015 Oct;240(10):1257-65]. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2020;245(14):NP1. doi:10.1177/1535370220940656
- Hussain J, Cohen M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018; 2018: 1857413. Published 2018 Apr 24. doi:10.1155/2018/1857413.
- Bartolomé I, Siquier-Coll J, Pérez-Quintero M, et al. 3-Week passive acclimation to extreme environmental heat (100± 3 °C) in a dry sauna increases physical and physiological performance among young semi-professional football players. J Therm Biol. 2021; 100:103048. doi:10.1016/ jtherbio. 2021.103048.
- Podstawski, R., Borysławski, K., Clark, C. T., Choszcz, D., Finn, K. J., & Gronek, P. (2019). Correlations between Repeated Use of Dry Sauna for 4 x 10 Minutes, Physiological Parameters, Anthropometric Features, and Body Composition in Young Sedentary and Overweight Men: Health Implications. BioMed Research International, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/7535140.
- Sutkowy P, Woźniak A, Boraczyński T, Mila-Kierzenkowska C, Boraczyński M. The effect of a single Finnish sauna bath after aerobic exercise on the oxidative status in healthy men. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2014;74(2):89-94. doi:10.3109/00365513.2013.860616.