How Do Infrared Saunas Work?


Alex Tyson

We know that sauna use has been shown to have many health & wellbeing benefits but how do infrared saunas work? With different types of saunas available on the market today it can be hard to know which one is best. Below is information on how infrared saunas work and how they benefit both your body and your mind.

We’re dedicated to improving the health & wellbeing of Kiwis and just love to see the difference our saunas can make to people’s lives. Here is how infrared works to provide the many benefits that make them so popular here in New Zealand and the world over

How Infrared Saunas Work

Saunas have been used in many different cultures for healing, cleansing and purification around the world for centuries. Saunas provide short-term exposure to high temperatures that elicits mild hyperthermia and stimulates a range of bodily responses including cardiovascular, neuroendocrine & cytoprotective mechanisms. When our bodies heat up this activates a cooling response (sweating) but when exposed to higher temperatures where sweating isn’t enough our bodies create a rapid, robust response that affects primarily the skin and then the cardiovascular system.

How infrared saunas work is that they use infrared radiation lamps that emit both visible and infrared light that we feel as heat. This heat warms our body directly and penetrates deep into our body tissue creating a cardiovascular workout while removing heavy metals and toxins. Infrared light can be either near or far infrared spectrums. Saunas that emit both wavelengths are known as full-spectrum infrared saunas.

How Does Infrared Work To Improve Mental And Physical Health & Wellbeing?

Because infrared saunas operate at cooler temperatures than dry saunas, many find them much more comfortable and relaxing. In addition to an enjoyable experience that can help to de-stress there are many other benefits of using infrared saunas such as reduced pain, better sleep & muscle recovery, along with improved weight & energy – but how exactly does infrared work to achieve these benefits?

Pain And Inflammation Reduction

Saunas have been shown to Increase blood circulation which helps to move oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and into the muscles & joints. This can help to reduce inflammation in painful areas.

Weight Loss

Regular infrared sauna has been shown to lower stress hormones which can result in preventing unneeded fat storage and trigger cravings. Because your heart rate is raised during infrared sauna sessions this also provides a gentle cardiovascular workout on the body, helping to burn calories (tip: if you follow your sauna session with a cold shower, this can activate cold shock proteins which may also help assimilate fat too).

Many also find that they drink more water when using infrared saunas regularly which helps to keep you hydrated & can aid in more effective weight loss. And, with improved sleep helping to eliminate sleep deprivation, this can help to decrease the hormone ghrelin which makes us feel hungry as well as decreasing the production of leptin, the hormone that makes us feel satisfied.


How does infrared work to improve sleep? It activates our parasympathetic nervous system which takes us out of a stressful state and in turn, relaxes us – preparing our bodies for a better night’s sleep. Many find their sauna sessions are a great way to end the day, unplug from technology and practice meditation – all effective for aiding better sleep.

Muscle Recovery

How infrared saunas work in terms of muscle recovery is a combination of increasing cell mitochondrial efficiency and improved circulation. Infrared saunas improve circulation by increasing oxygen and blood flow into the muscles, which gives your body the chance to repair and rebuild. And with better relaxation comes better sleep, boosted energy levels as a result of infrared sauna use, this can also help to aid muscle recovery.


When our bodies are heated by infrared saunas, our endocrine systems respond by increasing the production of several important hormones:

  • Beta-endorphins (responsible for the “pleasure” and “analgesic” effects of a sauna)
  • Norepinephrine (which is associated with improved mood, focused attention and raised heart rate)
  • Growth hormone (this hormone progressively declines with age and may contribute to sarcopenic obesity and frailty)

Immune System

Saunas have been shown to improve & stimulate the immune system by increasing white blood cell, lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil counts. Saunas have also been shown to increase molecular proteins known as Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). HSPs are activated when the body is exposed to stressors like exercise, heat & cold and evidence suggests that specific HSPs can have a positive impact on both innate & adaptive immunity whilst also offering protection against neurodegenerative diseases.

Cardiovascular Health

Sauna use induces protective mechanisms (similar to those experienced during exercise) that promote cardiovascular health. Studies on sauna bathing for cardiovascular (and other) health benefits have linked regular sauna usage with improved cardiovascular function via improved endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, modulation of the autonomic nervous system, beneficial changes in circulating lipid profiles, and lowering of systemic blood pressure.

Brain & Mental Health

Examples of how infrared saunas work for improved brain health and mental wellbeing include:

  • Sauna use has been associated with a reduced risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Infrared saunas activate the parasympathetic nervous system which takes us out of a stressful state and helps us to relax
  • Improved sleep can also help to lower stress levels
  • Helping to ‘switch off’ and calm the mind (sauna sessions are a great opportunity to meditate)


Whilst further research is required to determine how infrared saunas work in regards to helping to detox the body, several small studies have shown that saunas can be beneficial in terms of detoxification. Increased sweating levels have been reported to facilitate higher excretion of some heavy metals.

Find Out More About How Does Infrared Work For Better Health & Wellbeing

If you would like to know more about how infrared saunas work and how does infrared work to help improve both our mental and physical health & wellbeing, enquire online. We can provide useful info on the benefits of infrared saunas and guide you on the best sauna for your budget, space and health & wellbeing goals.

We can also send you our Science of Sauna paper on how infrared saunas work with detailed information on the history of saunas, how they work and how does infrared works on the body.


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