Can an Infrared Sauna Help

In the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder

Table of Contents

Learn all about using an infrared sauna for addiction treatment in a holistic drug rehab facility.

What is Infrared?

Infrared radiation, or infrared light, is a type of energy that is invisible to the human eye but can be felt through heat. Most objects in the universe, including the sun and fire, release infrared radiation at different levels. Infrared radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation whose waves occur at frequencies above those of microwaves and below those of red light.

Household appliances that use infrared radiation include toasters, heat lamps, and remote controls. Infrared radiation is also used in saunas, which allow the saunas to operate at much lower temperatures than traditional saunas.

What is an Infrared Sauna?

An infrared sauna is a sauna that uses infrared lamps to heat the body directly, rather than a traditional sauna that heats the air inside the appliance. Infrared saunas use infrared panels instead of conventional heat, which heats up the human body before heating up the air. While a traditional sauna operates at a very high temperature of between 150˚F and 180˚F, an infrared sauna operates at a lower temperature of between 120˚F and 140˚F.1

An infrared sauna is a particularly good option for those who don’t like high temperatures or feel dizzy or faint in traditional saunas. Proponents of infrared saunas claim that the heat seeps into the skin and muscles more deeply than warmed air, allowing the body to experience more sweating at lower temperatures.

Infrared saunas typically increase the body temperature 2-3 degrees, allowing the body to heat up more quickly, without feeling overwhelmingly hot from the surrounding air. As a result, most will be able to stay in an infrared sauna longer than a traditional sauna.

How Infrared Light Affects the Body

Infrared radiation emits both heat and light. The heat emitted increases the body temperature, but the infrared light also plays a role. Near-infrared and far-infrared saunas emit small amounts of red, orange, and yellow light. 

The electromagnetic wavelengths are able to penetrate soft tissue an inch and a half deep, causing vasodilation. Vasodilation occurs when the body temperature goes up, and blood vessels open, helping to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure.2

How to Use An Infrared Sauna

An infrared sauna looks very similar to a traditional sauna: it is a small wooden room that one can sit in, and it typically fits at least a few people. Some gyms or health clubs, spas, and doctor’s offices may offer the use of their infrared saunas, or infrared saunas are available for purchase by private citizens. While every location might be different, here are a few tips for how to prepare for a visit to an infrared sauna:

Drink Water

It is important to drink a lot of water before going into an infrared sauna to avoid dehydration. It is also a good idea to bring water into the sauna to avoid adverse reaction if there is a sensitivity to higher temperatures.

Start at a Lower Temperature

Infrared sauna’s range in temperature. For beginners, it is better to start at a lower temperature and see how it is tolerated, increasing the temperature as needed according to the body’s response to the heat.

Start With 10-15 Minutes

For the first visit using a sauna, spending 10-15 minutes in the sauna is advised to see how the body reacts to the higher temperatures. If spending 10-15 minutes in the sauna is tolerated, increase the amount of time spent in it every session. It is not recommended to spend more than 45 minutes to an hour in a sauna as one can become very dehydrated.

Clothing

Although it depends on individual preference as to what to wear in an infrared sauna, it is not advisable to wear tight or warm clothing, as there is a risk of overheating. Some people like to wear their bathing suits, some people like to wear loose clothing, and some people like to go in the nude.

Relax

During an infrared sauna session, the best activity is to relax, listen to music, chat with friends, and, most importantly, relax!

Afterwards

Once finished with infrared sauna sessions, it is advised to take some time to cool down by taking a shower or a bath afterward and make sure to drink plenty of water to get rehydrated.

Number of Sessions Per Week

Most facilities recommend using the sauna three to four times a week. There is no minimum or maximum number of times one can use a sauna. Some people have only tried it one time, and never again, some people use it daily, and some people use it occasionally.

Benefits of Using an Infrared Sauna

Similar to traditional saunas, infrared saunas offer a number of medical benefits. Keep in mind, however, that there hasn’t been extensive research conducted on infrared saunas, so many of these benefits are based on user experience and small studies.

Suggested benefits include:

Improved quality of sleep: Saunas promote relaxation and rejuvenation, which can aid in better sleep.

Relaxation: The warmth of an infrared sauna can promote feelings of relaxation while relieving anxiety and stress.

Detoxification: Infrared saunas help to increase blood flow and perspiration, which helps to eliminate toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium; drug residues such as alcohol and nicotine, cholesterol, salt, and hormone disruptors.

Weight loss/fat loss: Infrared therapy improves fat burning for energy. Increased body heat increases the rate at which you burn calories are burned, and infrared therapy can eliminate toxins that cause fat storage.

Relief from sore muscles and joint pain: Infrared saunas increase blood circulation, which helps to relieve inflammation, stiffness, and soreness in muscles and joints. Infrared sauna heat penetrates deeply into the muscles, causing muscle relaxation and the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles for muscle recovery.

Clearer, tighter skin: Stimulating the metabolism can improve skin renewal and have anti-aging effects on the skin.

Improved circulation: Infrared saunas will increase blood flow and therefore improve circulation, which can help with heart health.

Help with chronic fatigue syndrome: Saunas have been used for thousands of years to relieve stress and fatigue. The increase in body temperature and then the fast cooling down of the body afterward can leave one feeling refreshed and re-energized. Studies show that infrared sauna treatment can help people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Reduce blood pressure: Infrared saunas increase body temperature, which increases blood circulation, reduces blood sugar, and reduces blood pressure.

Pain relief: Infrared therapy increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and penetrates the tissues to relieve aches and pain.

Boosted immune system: Infrared saunas induce a natural fever which can improve the function of the immune system. A fever is the body’s way of fighting off infection, and an infrared sauna can induce a fever that helps fight off any infection and boost the immune system.

When Not to Use an Infrared Sauna

Although saunas are thought to be relatively safe, there are a few precautions to take and circumstances under which one should not be using a sauna. Drinking alcohol or using substances can cause increased dehydration when using a sauna. Those who are sick or feverish should wait until they are in good health to use a sauna.

For those who are dehydrated or sensitive to heat, the sauna should be avoided, as it could cause feelings of light-headedness, overheating, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion. Those who suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems should consult a physician before using an infrared sauna. Women who are pregnant should also speak to their doctors before using a sauna.

Infrared Sauna for Detoxification

It is well known that many people use saunas for their benefit of detoxification. Toxins from our environment and from substances end up in our bodies and can affect us negatively.

These toxins include cholesterol, nicotine, alcohol, ammonia, sulfuric acids, mercury, aluminium and other environmental toxins and heavy metals.

Infrared saunas cause sweat that contains up to twenty percent toxins, compared to three to five percent toxins found in the sweat caused by a traditional sauna or regular exercise.3 Infrared detoxification allows the heat waves to penetrate the skin more deeply and remove more toxins. This can be particularly useful in the detoxification process of substance abuse treatment.

How Detoxification Works

The first step to the treatment of substance abuse disorder is detoxification, which is the removal of the substance from the body. The detoxification process can be very unpleasant for some people with substance abuse disorders because stopping the use of a substance after its prolonged use can result in severe withdrawal symptoms.

As the body begins to process the last dose of a drug that was taken, it begins to crave more of the drug, and if one doesn’t take more, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms such as muscle cramps and inflammation.

How Infrared Saunas Help Detox

Infrared sauna therapy can help to improve withdrawal symptoms of fatigue, stress, anxiety, muscle cramps, inflammation, pain, rapid heart rate, drug cravings sleep disturbances, low energy, and reduced cognitive function by increasing blood circulation and decreasing blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Infrared sauna therapy can also help to speed up the detoxification process. Although the liver and kidneys filter out and excrete toxins from the body, the sweat glands also support the detoxification process.

Infrared technology specifically increases the number of toxins found in the sweat, which can speed up the process of drug detox. Sweating also releases endorphins, which can help to alleviate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. 

Quicker detoxification means less time spent suffering from withdrawal symptoms and an easier transition into a substance-free lifestyle. In order for people to begin substance abuse treatments such as counseling and therapy, they have to go through the hard process of detoxification.

Are Infrared Saunas Safe for Detox?

Using infrared saunas as part of the detoxification process from substances such as alcohol, nicotine, or cocaine is thought to be relatively safe because there are not many side effects to infrared saunas, particularly because they operate at lower temperatures than traditional saunas. Infrared saunas are also a good option to detox naturally, without the use of any medications that are prescribed to ease withdrawal symptoms (e.g., methadone).

Infrared saunas can also become part of a self-care routine for those who are undergoing substance abuse treatment. If anything, visiting an infrared sauna can help to relax, soothe the body and mind, and make them feel rejuvenated.

Infrared therapy can help to maintain healthy levels of cortisol in the body, which helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Many wellness and recovery centers across the U.S. have begun to adopt infrared detoxification as part of substance abuse treatment programs.

Infrared Sauna Therapy for Addiction Treatment

In addition to the health benefits found in infrared saunas, there are reasons why infrared therapy is beneficial in the treatment of substance abuse. Firstly, infrared saunas are a safe, effective, and natural way of detoxifying. Infrared saunas can increase the speed of the detoxification process to help remove drug toxins from the body while also alleviating withdrawal symptoms. Infrared therapy does not have many side effects, so it can be a good option for those who don’t wish to take medication during substance abuse treatment.

Regular Self-care

Infrared therapy can also continue to be used after substance abuse treatment and can become part of a new, healthier lifestyle. Infrared technology works for both the mind and body to help physically but also improve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Using infrared sauna therapy after substance abuse treatment has ended can also be a good way to avoid relapse. If just out of habit or to promote relaxation, having an infrared sauna session can be a good replacement for turning back to substances.

Physical and Mental Health Improvements

One study published in 2018 that evaluated the effects of infrared sauna detoxification in 109 patients receiving substance abuse treatment found that sauna detoxification led to improvements both mentally and physically for patients.4 There were no cases of dehydration or heat illness. 

The deep detoxification showed traces of cocaine and benzodiazepine metabolites in the sweat and urine of patients who had not been using any substances for a period of time.4 This indicates that sauna therapy can really promote deeper detoxification than how the body naturally detoxifies.

Potential Side Effects or Dangers

An infrared sauna is thought to be very safe, particularly because it operates at lower temperatures than a traditional sauna. As with almost everything, there are, however, a few potential side effects that can be experienced.

Because body temperature is increasing, there is a risk of becoming overheated, dehydrated, or dizzy. This can generally be combatted by drinking enough water before and after a sauna session. Women who are pregnant or people with severe health issues should generally avoid using saunas but can talk to their doctors beforehand to see if it is safe for them to do so.

Essentially, infrared saunas are quite safe, have few side-effects, and have been promoting better health for centuries. While all of the benefits may not have been studied in-depth, there is no harm in trying a sauna and seeing how it makes one feel and the benefits available. Even just twenty minutes in a sauna can provide a quiet place to think and reflect, which is important to overall wellbeing and mental health.

Takeaways

If you have ever been curious about infrared saunas, give them a try! As long as you stay hydrated, and don’t over-do it, you have nothing to lose.

See for yourself how it makes you feel and how it may benefit your health. You may have a new form of self-care on your hands!

Whether you go once a month, once a week, or multiple times a week, using an infrared sauna can be a good way to make time for yourself and to take care of your health.

If you have been struggling with substance abuse, and are looking for a natural way to detox, then an infrared sauna might be an option. Always consult a medical professional before using an infrared sauna.