Popularisation of sauna in recent years has come from Rhonda Patrick and her exposure through Joe Rogan. Specifically the benefits relate to production of heat shock proteins , growth hormone release, feeling good and the additional benefits for detoxification, cleansing and some more speculative claims of weight loss.
Old school sauna runs much hotter and the new breed is infrared sauna which has no steam, no water, no fire. The proven benefits are:
- able to do longer sessions (30 minutes)
- does not provoke facial veins
Just plug it in. There are 2 types of infrared “treatment”:
- Near Infrared
- Far Infrared.
I actually started with Near Infrared a year earlier when I made a DIY setup for to facilitate healing of surgical cuts (more on this later).
This is closest to traditional sauna, the “far” relates to the wavelength (1500nm-10000nm) and the purported (and I can confirm, actual) operation is to heat you from the inside out.
The big concern with Infrared Saunas is the presence of EMF (Electromagnetic Fields – radiation at low frequencies, 50 Hz from our power supplies).
Because I was trained as an electrical engineer and actually did EMF studies back when CRTs were around – I thought it was a valid point, reducing harm is a good thing.
I spent a lot of time researching and the industry is full of scams and mis-information. Clearlight and Sunlighten are 2 top brands:
- Clearlight apparently seems to have excellent EMF credentials. They sell an inclusion of near-infrared that for me was a hoax – small panels that are often too far away from the body for impact. More on this later.
- Sunlighten was underwhelming in the ratings and the local sales contact didn’t demonstrate and specific skill in handling the question – the links sent were dated and based in labs from a deconstructed unit.
I ultimately chose the Sunstream 2019/20 variant of the Evolve 20 EHS as it had excellent EMF credentials (I didn’t measure myself but watched a lot of youtube).
- As mentioned above, google “heat shock proteins” to understand why hormetic stress (Anti-fragility) is great for living beings.
- Longevity and Telomere protection (refer RP on Sauna and longevity and 20 year Finland study)
- Reduced incidence of dementia and alzheimer’s
- The broadest old-school benefit of detox is widely documented. One hilarious side story of sauna is that one popular extreme “Niacin cleanse” was formulated by L Ron Hubbard of Scientology (in)fame. Dr Wilson, mentioned below advises against it. Hubbard’s book has some intrigue that you need to get earlier versions (1970s?) for the magic content.
- Endorphin rush (have a sauna and follow with a cold shower makes you feel great!
- Weight loss – loads of contradictory opinions on this (and whether high/low heats impact results).
- Relaxation, muscle repair, stress relief, inflammatory reduction, relief from arthritic joint pain, better circulation.
- combine with skin brushing for better skin condition.
- Don’t sauna after heavy exercise.
- I drink at least 1 litre of water in a 30 minute session
- Don’t sauna after alcohol.
- are beneficially effected if you cold shower after sauna.
- Don’t push it if you are getting dizzy or panicky.
- Consult your doctor first.
I read a very old school book (or posts) by a Dr Wilson** which provides patterns for DIY use of incandescent red heat lamps (just like your mum had!).
I could go on for hours about the difference between infrared bulbs and normal bulbs coloured red, but these broad spectrum lamps live in the “red” range of the spectrum and adjacent to near-infrared (750nm-1400nm).
I built a grid of 4 Therabulb with switch to control the heat – it gets HOT 🔥. Don’t DIY this at home kids, you can buy them if you don’t have an electrician background.
I purchased an LED panel:
- 100mW/cm2 @15cm
- Color Ratio 660nm (RED) :850nm (NIR) =1:1
This thing generates very little heat, as its basically operating lasers of very narrow spectrum, so not a lot of power (heat) in comparison to the Therabulbs.
This is placed exactly the opposite side, so you can rotate – getting heated on one-side, and getting focussed NIR on the other side. The LED panel on its own would be too cool. Sessions are typically 15mins for 360 degrees (all round) at distances of around 15cm.
If you are to believe Dr. Michael Hamblin, Harvard University, NIR has a lot of benefits:
If there was a pill that was proven to have powerful anti-aging effects on our skin, combat neurological disease, fight depression and anxiety, increase fat loss, speed recovery from exercise, increase strength and endurance, combat certain autoimmune conditions, fight hair loss, and speed healing from injury-all with little to no side effects it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster drug. Hundreds of millions of people would be told to start taking it by their doctors every day. And doctors all over the world would call it a “miracle drug.”Here is the crazy part: That drug exists, But it’s not a pill. It’s red and near-infrared light.Red and near-infrared light have already been proven in over 3,000 scientific studies.”In the next few years, every home with has one more maybe two light therapy devices”
Specific benefit summary:
- Mitocondrial stimulation:
- I used it post an operation for wound healing and think it healed the 7cm cut pretty quickly. The scar exists but barely visible.
- Could be placebo but I think skin tends to be less dry/aged (I don’t put creams/oil on much)
- blemishes and skin health (beauticians use NIR)
- Sleep preparation – I do this before bed several nights a week and think it helps with preparation for bed. I speak elsewhere about how bad is and this Red Light approach seems to counteract that. It can be explained in a Paleo/Naturalistic way: For millenia humans have used campfire light, from an evolutionary perspective we are adapted to have a deep interdependence with red light, therefore we should make use of that. The result is a pre-curser for better sleep.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-24/clinical-trials-for-wearing-led-helmets-treatment-parkinsons/10836906?pfmredir=sm
A hybrid NIR/FIR Hack.
I recently implemented NIR LED bulb inside the sauna, allowing positioning for treating the skin on the face, neck or hands whilst getting your FIR dose.
** Wilson speculates (wildly) that Far Infrared is harmful without any precision of the technology, distances, reasons. If FIR was dangerous, then IR from the sun (yep the heating part) would have killed us off millenia ago. I agree with his comment of EMF risks – perhaps this is what he meant.