What is wet sauna, dry sauna and infrared saunas? What are sauna benefits to health in addition to providing relaxation?
Often when we think of saunas, we think of relaxing hours spent in hot, humid rooms. Not only is this an inaccurate impression in some instances.
A sauna is a room that is heated above body temperature, often above 120 degrees. Typically this heat is accompanied with moisture, as water helps the heat to penetrate more deeply into the body. Traditional saunas employ a heating element of some sort, be it heated rocks or electric coils, which is exposed to water to increase humidity. The above is a rather traditional view of the sauna. However, differing styles and modern technology have resulted in a variety of sauna types.
Wet saunas as previously described are most common. Dry saunas, on the other hand, dispense of the water and use only heated air. Another type is infrared saunas. It generates deeper penetrating heat via infrared energy. Not only are these typically smaller, but the lack of additional moisture makes them easier to clean and maintain. Infrared heat also tends to penetrate even more deeply into the body than does moist heat and, as a result, less time is required to experience many sauna benefits.
There are numerous benefits of saunas. In general terms, Saunas increase perspiration and cause muscles to dilate, thus increasing circulation. Saunas also improve respiration by loosening blockages and clearing respiratory passages in the nose and throat.
Sweating is one of the body's processes for clearing wastes. By excreting water and other oils through the skin, our pores can be kept clear and our skin can breathe more easily. Unless you work up a sweat regularly, your body is likely not clearing its pores as effectively as it could otherwise. By increasing perspiration, saunas improve this process vastly.
Think of your body's muscles as a sponge which absorbs toxins and nutrients alike. If your circulation is ineffective, many of these toxins are not removed as effectively, and your muscles may not get the nutrients they otherwise could.
One of the most important sauna benefits is that it increases circulation. By causing blood vessels to dilate, toxins are removed and nutrients are distributed more evenly. Increased circulation also lowers blood pressure and promotes a more relaxed, balanced state.
Breathing in the moist air of a wet sauna improves respiration by loosening mucus blockages in the nose and throat. Breaking these up has two key benefits. First, the body can get more of the oxygen it needs to combat whatever microbes are causing the sickness. Also, breathing in heated air kills many fragile germs, giving your immune system less with which to contend.
In general, sauna benefits promote health and a more relaxed state of life. You'll sleep better, feel calmer and will generally be less ill with regular sauna use. There are cautions to be aware of, however.
First, take regular breaks. Saunas are well above body temperature, warmer than the hottest bath, so your body needs to cool. Also, take extra care if you are diabetic or have some other condition that results in neuropathy, especially in the extremities. These are likely to overheat first, and if you're unaware of burns then a sauna will do more harm than good. Saunas are great for relaxation, but you should consult with a physician before using them for health reasons.