Unlike a traditional sauna, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you. Instead, they use infrared lamps (that use electromagnetic radiation) to warm your body directly. An infrared sauna can operate at a lower temperature (usually between 120˚F and 140˚F) than a traditional sauna, which is typically between 150˚F and 180˚F. Only about 20 percent of the heat goes to heat the air and the other 80 percent directly heats your body. Supporters of infrared saunas say the heat penetrates more deeply than warmed air. This allows you to experience a more intense sweat at a lower temperature.

The supposed benefits of using an infrared sauna are similar to those experienced with a traditional sauna. These include:

  • better sleep
  • relaxation
  • detoxification
  • weight loss
  • relief from sore muscles
  • relief from joint pain such as arthritis
  • clear and tighter skin
  • improved circulation
  • help for people with chronic fatigue syndrome

Many people will do infrared sauna treatments at a health club, spa, or doctor’s office, while others will purchase and build one in their home. If you decide to give an infrared sauna a try, it’s important to know that they don’t come with universal instructions.

There are guidelines you can follow, but ultimately, how you choose to use an infrared sauna is up to you. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Drink water. Make sure you’re hydrated before going into an infrared sauna. Drink a glass of water before your session. You can also bring water into the sauna, especially if you’re sensitive to higher heats.
  • Choose the temperature. The average temperature for an infrared sauna ranges from 100˚F to 150˚F, with beginners starting out at the lower end and more experienced users at the higher end. If this is your first time, start with 100˚F. You may want to stay at this temperature for a few sessions. You can always increase the temperature each session until you reach 150˚F.
  • Length of time. For first-time users, start with 10 to 15 minutes. You can add time each session until you reach the suggested time of 20 to 30 minutes. Saunas come with a timer, so make sure to set it. You don’t want to stay in there too long and risk becoming dehydrated.
  • Clothing. How you dress is your choice. Some people will wear bathing suits, while others prefer to go in naked.
  • What you can do while in the sauna. Relax, read, meditate, listen to music, or visit with friends. Just don’t go to sleep.
  • After the session is over. When your session is done, it’s suggested that you take your time and let your body cool down. Once cooled down, feel free to take a shower or bath. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
  • Number of sessions per week. Most facilities that offer infrared sauna treatments recommend using the sauna three to four days per week. If you are healthy and tolerate the four days, you can use the sauna daily.