Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 14, 2024
3 min read

Infrared saunas are a hot health trend. Spas and gyms offer them to clients and suggest that they provide a wealth of benefits. You can also purchase your own infrared sauna for your home.

Sauna proponents say regular use of infrared saunas helps with everything from blood pressure to weight loss. There have been relatively few scientific studies into the effects of regular sauna use. The results show there are some health benefits to spending time in a sauna, especially if you have certain health conditions.

Saunas use heat or steam to create an atmosphere that will raise your core body temperature. You'll sweat and your heart rate will increase to pump more blood to your skin. This is your body's way of cooling you down. The idea is that this process mimics the effects of exercise and provides similar health benefits.

Where traditional saunas use heating elements to raise the temperature of the air inside, infrared saunas use infrared light to heat your body while the air around you stays unchanged. The result is your core temperature rising without having to sit in a room where the ambient temperature is close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people find this more comfortable than traditional saunas.

As with any trendy spa treatment, there are a lot of claims about what infrared saunas can do. Here’s what the research shows:

Weight Loss. One small study showed that people who regularly used a sauna showed fat loss throughout the study. This may be because using a sauna to raise your core temperature mimics the effect of vigorous exercise. However, there was no conclusive evidence that the sauna was the only cause behind weight loss.

Detoxification. The claims of detoxification are also misleading. The idea of “detoxing” to remove harmful substances from your body is trendy, however, this may be more marketing than science. Most people’s bodies naturally clean out anything they don’t need, no matter whether they spend time in a sauna or not.‌‌

There have been a few studies about sauna use for detoxifying people who had known exposure to harmful substances. These studies showed some improvement in their conditions. But people who don’t have a diagnosed condition probably won’t be detoxed by a sauna.‌‌

While saunas aren’t an express path to weight loss, they appear to benefit some conditions. Evidence suggests that you can use infrared saunas and the traditional sauna in addition to other treatments for multiple health issues.

Cardiovascular Conditions. Saunas may be good for your heart. Some studies have shown that people who have regular sessions in saunas can lower their blood pressure. Other studies show improvements in symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Lung Health. In some studies, people who used saunas had a lower risk of pneumonia. Other people experienced an improvement in asthma symptoms.

Pain Management. Another benefit of saunas is that they may ease pain when using them regularly. Some people reported fewer symptoms associated with conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. One study also showed that saunas might help with tension headaches.‌

The only significant risk researchers have noted is that high heat can lower sperm count. Many experts advise avoiding saunas if you are trying to conceive. Hot tubs pose a similar risk.‌

For typical sauna users, there aren’t significant risks. Some people find that they get uncomfortable due to the heat. It would be best if you drink plenty of water after using a sauna. Sweating and increased body temperature are dehydrating.‌

If you think an infrared sauna might help benefit a health condition you have, discuss it with your doctor. It might be a complement to other treatments you’re currently using. Even if you don’t have a medical reason to consider sauna use, you can still use them. Many people find them to be pleasant and relaxing.