Throughout human history, saunas and bathhouses have been built and used in Finland, Rome, Greece, and Turkey. Sweat lodges were even constructed by the indigenous Māori in New Zealand and the Aboriginal people in Australia.
Now with modern technology – you can reap the benefits of a traditional sauna without the expense of a sauna room. This is possible through the use of infrared sauna blankets.
So in this article, we will discuss the advantages and issues of using an infrared sauna blanket.
Sauna Blankets Explained
What are they?
Traditional saunas use hot water and steam to generate heat within a sauna room.
Modern saunas use special electric heaters to generate heat within a sauna room. The scientific term for “heat” is “infrared (light)”. So these types of saunas are referred to as “infrared saunas”.
An infrared sauna blanket is basically an infrared sauna that has been ‘compressed’ into a sleeping bag appliance that you can use at home.
How do they work?
An infrared sauna blanket uses special electronics and materials to generate infrared rays (heat) within a blanket.
Infrared rays can gently penetrate the soft tissue that is underneath human skin, by up to a depth of 1.5 inches.
The infrared rays then heat the muscle cells and blood vessels of the individual who is using the sauna blanket. This will cause the individual to sweat and experience a feeling of deep relaxation.
Infrared sauna blankets also result in increased blood flow and a host of other health benefits.
In other words, an infrared sauna blanket is a comfortable sleeping bag that provides you with all the physiological improvements of using an expensive infrared sauna room.
Also, all infrared sauna blankets have been designed to ensure all the heat stays in the blanket – and the outside of the blanket remains at a normal temperature.
Proven Benefits Of Infrared Sauna Blankets
The benefits of using an infrared sauna blanket are similar to the benefits of using an infrared sauna room.
The heat from an infrared sauna blanket gently goes through your skin and warms up your blood vessels. This causes your blood vessels to expand and this allows blood to flow more easily around your body.
Furthermore, the regular use of an infrared sauna blanket can soften your blood vessels. This will reduce your risk of having to deal with certain heart-related problems.
A 2017 survey by Tanjaniina Laukkanen (from the University of Eastern Finland) found that men who used saunas frequently had lower rates of hearts disease than men who used saunas infrequently.
We can apply this conclusion to infrared blankets because all saunas provide the same health benefits – except that with an infrared sauna blanket, you don’t need to pay for overpriced facilities that offer infrared saunas.
Here is a basic fact about us humans: Coldness makes us miserable. Heat makes us happy. (That is why every year, hundreds of millions of people spend their hard-earned money on holidays to tropical locations.)
So when you use an infrared sauna blanket, the heat from the blanket encourages your body to produce natural feel-good hormones like dopamine and beta-endorphin. The heat from an infrared sauna blanket can reduce your body’s level of cortisol, which is a ‘stress hormone’.
Furthermore, sauna blankets improve the quality of your sleep. This will help your body to deal with the day-to-day stresses of modern life.
And please do not underestimate the importance of relieving stress. Over 75 percent of visits to primary care physicians are associated with stress-related issues!
Lowering blood pressure
High blood pressure (or “hypertension”) is a growing problem in many countries. For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75 million adults in America have high blood pressure (which equates to more than 29 percent of the U.S adult population).
Fortunately, infrared sauna blankets represent an easy way to tackle this increasing health concern.
A study involving more than 1,600 middle-aged participants found that those who used saunas 4-7 times per week were able to cut the risk of high blood pressure by up to 50 percent (compared to participants who used saunas only once a week).
In 2015, Dr. Francesco Zaccardi (of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland) published a study titled Sauna Bathing and Incident Hypertension: A Prospective Cohort Study. The conclusion of the study states the following:
“Regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of hypertension, which may be a mechanism underlying the decreased cardiovascular risk associated with sauna use.”
Furthermore – a 20-year long study in Finland, involving 2,000 men, found that participants who used a sauna:
- 2-3 times per week were 24% less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, compared to men who used a sauna once a week.
- 4-7 times per week were 46% less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, compared to men who used a sauna once a week.
These studies suggest regular use of an infrared sauna blanket can lower your blood pressure. This is because the heat from an infrared sauna blanket can enhance your body’s arterial compliance (flexibility of arteries) and hemodynamic (the ability of blood to flow around the body).
Additionally, frequent use of an infrared sauna blanket can improve the functionality of your body’s endothelium, which is the tissue lining inside your blood vessels.
Soothing tired muscles
An infrared sauna blanket can soothe the pain of tired muscles because the heat from the sauna blanket causes:
- Your blood vessels to dilate. This improves the blood flow around your body, and;
- Your body to pump more blood as a means to dissipate excess heat;
Consequently, your tired muscles will receive more blood – which means more oxygen and nutrients for your tired muscle cells.
In addition, the use of an infrared sauna blanket will cause your body to produce pain-inhibiting hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for making athletes feel good about themselves during a tough workout (this is often referred to as a “runner’s high”).
Based on the work from The North America Sauna Society – it is possible infrared sauna blankets (and infrared saunas) can increase your body’s level of endorphins to increase by up to 200 percent. This means less pain and less discomfort in your tired muscles.
Also, the heat from a sauna blanket will relax your muscle cells. This allows your body to unwind and unravel any tight muscles fibers, joints, or, ligaments.
Decreasing post-workout recovery time
After a tough workout, the cells of your body (especially your muscles) need to prepare for the next workout. To do this, your body needs to do two things:
- Get rid of waste products (like lactic acid) that accumulated during the workout, and;
- Use proteins and nutrients to build new cells (especially new muscle cells).
Both these tasks can be done more efficiently via the increased blood flow that’s associated with the use of sauna blankets.
But if you really want to decrease the recovery times between your workouts – then you will need to improve the mobility of your joints and the flexibility of your muscles. This can be achieved with sauna blankets when they are used as part of a structured workout.
So let’s say you want to decrease your recovery times between running sessions. A good workout structure would be as follows:
- Light cardiovascular exercise – To gradually raise your heart rate (e.g. five minutes of easy jogging);
- Joint mobility exercises – Pay particular attention to your back, hip joints, shoulders, knees, and ankles.
- Dynamic stretching – Perform ‘large’ non-static stretching exercises (like shoulder twists, striders with rotation, rolling glute stretches, etc)
- Easy strength exercises – Like push-ups, squats, etc.
- Neurological preparation exercises – For instance, spend five minutes doing a few running drills.
- The main workout (i.e. go for a run) – This is the ‘core’ of your workout whereby you exert the most amount of physiological strain on your body and muscles.
- Prepare to use your infrared sauna blanket – After you have returned home from your run, you will need to hydrate yourself to (a) replace the fluids you have lost during exercise; and (b) prepare your body for the upcoming sauna blanket session.
- Use an infrared sauna blanket – Use your sauna blanket for around five minutes (at a moderate setting), whilst you still have an elevated heart rate. This will allow your muscles to relax whilst still maintaining a strong blood flow around your body.
- Stretching exercises – After you have used your infrared sauna blanket, your heart rate will still be high and your muscles will still be relaxed. Now is the perfect time to perform traditional stretching exercises.
Using a sauna blanket via the above-mentioned workout structure will (a) enhance your body’s overall strength, flexibility, mobility, and endurance; and (b) help your body to adapt to the heavy workload of intense exercise. These combined factors will result in a decrease in the recovery time that is needed between training sessions.
Reducing rheumatoid health conditions
Rheumatology is a branch of medicine that deals with rheumatic disorders, which pertains to ailments or pain that can be traced to connective tissues or joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common rheumatic disorder. It is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints of the body.
The key to treating rheumatoid arthritis, and most other rheumatoid arthritis health conditions, is by reducing inflammation within the body.
And this is where infrared sauna blankets can help (normal infrared saunas can also be of assistance).
The heat from infrared saunas can penetrate the epidermis (skin) of the human body. The heat is then absorbed by the cells that are underneath the epidermis.
Each cell of the human body has an ‘energy factory’ called the mitochondria. The mitochondria produce a type of energy fuel called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). Human cells use ATP to operate and function.
Mitochondria is sensitive to heat. So when cells absorb the penetrative heat of sauna blankets (or infrared saunas), the mitochondria produce more ATP. This releases nitric acid, which in turn, causes blood to carry more oxygen.
All of this results in a faster blood flow. Your body uses this faster blood flow to:
- Dissipate excess heat via your skin (which is why, on a hot summer’s day, human skin takes on a reddish color), and;
- Provide oxygen to inflamed body regions (such as regions suffering from rheumatoid arthritis) to reduce pain and swelling.
The use of infrared light (heat) to treat rheumatic conditions is well-documented. In 2009, a team of researchers published a study titled “Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis…“.
The goal of the study was to see how rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients responded to eight infrared (IR) treatment sessions during four weeks. (Ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, is a long-term rheumatological condition whereby the immune system attacks spine joints).
The research report states the following:
“In conclusion, infrared treatment has statistically significant short-term beneficial effects and clinically relevant period effects during treatment in RA and AS patients without enhancing disease activity. IR has good tolerability and no adverse effects.”
So if you suffer from a rheumatological condition – then you can ease your pain and strengthen your joints just by using a sauna blanket 2-4 times per week,
Infrared sauna blankets (and the entire industry of infrared saunas) are all the rage on social media. This has led to the proliferation of certain health claims that are untrue.
We will now debunk the most prevalent of these false health claims.
Not a weight loss aid
Suppose you were to weigh yourself before and after a sauna blanket session. A comparison of these numbers will most certainly suggest that you have lost weight via the use of your sauna blanket.
But virtually all of this weight loss would have been due to sweat. Therefore, when your body starts the process of replenishing lost fluid (e.g. when you eat or drink) – you will put this weight back on!
So always remember – sauna blankets are a body-enhancement tool, not a weight-loss tool.
Won’t ‘detox’ your body
If your body needs to get rid of a toxic substance, then it will do so either via your:
- Liver (to filter your blood);
- Lungs (for example – to get rid of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases);
- Kidneys (to excrete waste via urine);
- Intestines (to get rid of parasites and other waste products).
If a toxin is very harmful, then your body might restore to a dramatic action like vomiting (e.g. food poisoning).
But when it comes to sweating – such a process would be an inefficient way to get rid of toxic substances.
Sweating is all about temperature management – not toxin management.
Therefore, it is physiologically impossible to ‘detox’ your body with either a sauna blanket or a sauna room.
Won’t necessarily improve your health
Sauna blankets can enhance the benefits of a healthy style – but they are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
For instance – many online influencers and marketers repeatedly claim that sauna blankets allow you to “sweat as if you were exercising, but without the exercise”. This play of words is misleading and dishonest.
The only way to acquire the benefits of exercise – is to exercise often and hard enough to stimulate a desired physiological response within your body (stronger muscles, less fat, etc).
However, sauna blankets can help you exercise longer and harder. This will enhance and strengthen the physiological response that you want from your body.
Infrared Sauna Blankets: The Verdict
Sauna blankets are an evolutionary next-step in mankind’s 9,000-year history of using heat to eradicate ailments and improve the human body.
If you have specific goals for your health, wellness, or fitness, then a sauna blanket is a wise investment.
Are infrared sauna blankets worth it?
Yes, infrared sauna blankets can be a good investment – but only if: (a) you use them at least twice per week, and (b) you want to achieve specific goals regarding health (e.g. reduced inflammation in joints) or fitness (e.g. reduced recover times between workouts).
Are sauna blankets as good as a sauna?
Using a sauna blanket is more effective than using a traditional sauna.
This is because a traditional sauna uses steam to generate heat. But a lot of this heat is lost via contact with human skin.
However, the heat from a sauna blanket can go through your skin and reach your muscle cells.
What temp should I set my sauna blanket?
You should set your sauna blanket to a temperature of 80-160 degrees Fahrenheit.