Saunas have been used for centuries for relaxation and health purposes. In recent years, there has been an increase in popularity of two specific types of saunas: vapor saunas and infrared saunas.
Both types offer unique benefits and drawbacks, and it’s important to understand these before deciding which one to use. In this article, we will discuss the differences between vapor saunas and infrared saunas, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
Also known as traditional saunas, vapor saunas use steam to heat the air, which in turn heats the body. The steam is produced by pouring water over heated rocks, creating a humid and warm environment. Vapor saunas typically operate at a temperature between 150-195°F, with humidity levels ranging from 10-20%.
One of the primary benefits of vapor saunas is that they promote sweating, which helps to eliminate toxins from the body. The heat also helps to increase circulation, which can relieve muscle tension and soreness. Additionally, the high humidity levels in vapor saunas can be beneficial for those with respiratory issues, as the steam can help to clear out sinuses and improve breathing.
Another benefit of vapor saunas is that they can be a great way to unwind and relax. Spending time in a sauna can help to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of calm and relaxation. This can be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety or depression.
In this video from @BiohackerSummit, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a Ph.D. in biomedical science from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, explores in depth the amazing health benefits of sauna and cold exposure:
Disadvantages of Vapor Saunas
One potential disadvantage of vapor saunas is that they can be difficult for some people to tolerate. The high temperatures and humidity levels can be uncomfortable or even dangerous for those with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or asthma.
Additionally, because vapor saunas rely on water to produce steam, they require a significant amount of maintenance. The rocks must be cleaned regularly, and the sauna itself must be kept clean and dry to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.
How About Portable Saunas?
Portable saunas have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their numerous benefits. Some of the advantages of portable saunas include:
- Convenience: Portable saunas are easy to set up and use anywhere, whether at home, in the office, or on vacation. They are lightweight and can be transported easily, making them ideal for people who travel frequently.
- Cost-effective: Portable saunas are a more affordable option compared to traditional saunas that require installation, plumbing, and electrical work. They also consume less energy, which translates to lower utility bills.
- Health benefits: Saunas are known to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve blood circulation. They can also help with weight loss, detoxification, and alleviate pain in conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Customization: Portable saunas come in various sizes and shapes, and users can adjust the temperature and duration of the sessions according to their preferences. Some models also offer additional features such as infrared heat therapy and Bluetooth connectivity.
- Hygiene: Portable saunas are easy to clean and maintain, reducing the risk of bacterial or fungal infections. They also offer a personal space, which is particularly important for those who prefer to avoid public saunas or spas.
Portable saunas offer a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy the health benefits of saunas at home or on the go.
The Potential Health Benefits of Saunas
There have been several studies conducted in Finland regarding the potential health benefits of saunas, including reducing the risk of dementia and other chronic diseases.
One study published in the journal Age and Ageing in 2017 found that regular sauna use was associated with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in a large population-based study of over 2,000 middle-aged men. The study found that men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 66% lower risk of developing dementia and a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who used the sauna only once per week.
Another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 found that regular sauna use was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, and all-cause mortality in a large population-based study of over 2,300 men in Finland. The study found that men who used the sauna 2-3 times per week had a 27% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 24% lower risk of coronary artery disease compared to those who used the sauna only once per week. In addition, the study found that frequent sauna use was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
While these studies suggest that regular sauna use may have potential health benefits, it’s important to note that they do not prove causation and more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these associations. Additionally, sauna use may not be appropriate for everyone, and it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new health regimen.
Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to emit infrared light, which heats the body directly rather than heating the air around it. This type of sauna typically operates at a lower temperature than vapor saunas, around 120-140°F, with humidity levels of less than 10%.
One of the primary benefits of infrared saunas is that they are more accessible to people who cannot tolerate the high temperatures and humidity levels of vapor saunas. Because the heat is direct, the temperature can be lower, making it easier for those with certain health conditions to use. Additionally, because infrared saunas do not rely on steam, they require less maintenance than vapor saunas.
Infrared saunas also promote sweating, which helps to eliminate toxins from the body. The heat can also improve circulation and relieve muscle tension and soreness.
It’s also said that infrared saunas can help to improve skin health. The infrared light can penetrate the skin and stimulate collagen production, which could help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Disadvantages of Infrared Saunas
One potential disadvantage of infrared saunas is that they may not provide the same level of relaxation as vapor saunas. Because the temperature is lower, the sauna may not feel as intense, which can be a drawback for those who are looking for a more immersive experience.
Additionally, because infrared saunas are a newer technology, there is less research available on their long-term effects. While they are generally considered safe, there may be risks associated with long-term exposure to infrared light that are not yet fully understood.
Here is a great study that dig deeper about the biological effects and medical applications of infrared radiation from National Center of Biotechnology Information.
In conclusion, both vapor saunas and infrared saunas offer unique benefits and drawbacks, and the choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual health considerations.