DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FAR INFRARED AND NEAR INFRARED LAMP SAUNAS
By Lawrence Wilson, MD
see www.drlwilson.com for more great info!
© May 2008, The Center For Development
There are significant differences between any far infrared sauna versus a near infrared lamp sauna of the design we believe is best. Before we explore them, it is necessary to emphasize that the near infrared heat lamps can be quite simply added to most far infrared saunas to gain the advantages the lamps provide.
Here the some major differences between the near and the far infrared types of designs.
NEAR INFRARED SAUNAS ARE ELECTROMAGNETICALLY FAR SAFER
All electrically-powered saunas emit a small quantity of electromagnetic radiation due to their 110-volt wiring. This cannot be avoided, but is not a big problem with saunas.
However, most far infrared saunas emit harmful electromagnetic fields of a microwave type. This has to do with the frequencies they are supposed to emit in the 4-15 micron range. This is similar to the emissions from microwave ovens, cell and portable phones, although saunas emit much less than most telephones.
Some people, especially if one is ill, do not handle this radiation well. It heats the tissues too fast. Also, it damages the tissues a bit, though not significantly in most cases. If one is very ill, however, this could be a factor in one’s healing.
Some companies claim to shield their far infrared emitters, but they cannot get rid of this radiation, as it is a feature of far infrared emission. The only way this type of sauna will not emit a small microwave field is if, in fact, the emitters are not putting out much far infrared radiation. In other words, it really cannot be avoided if the unit is actually putting out far infrared in the amount that they claim it is doing.
In contrast, the lamp sauna emits much less harmful microwave radiation because it does not emit much far infrared.
THE INFRARED LAMP SAUNA IS FAR MORE POWERFUL IN ITS EFFECTS
Two reasons for this are: 1) the heat lamps are far more powerful and focused than almost all far infrared heat emitters. They are hotter and of higher wattage, often.
2) If the design we like is used, all three or four of the heat lamps are placed near each other on one wall. This further concentrates the heat source.
As a result, the lamp sauna energy penetrates inside the body quite a lot deeper and thus the infrared effects tend to be much greater.
Also, color therapy in the lamp sauna and rotating the body adds considerable power to the sauna experience, as described below. One can easily feel these differences if one has been in both near and far infrared saunas.
THE SPECTRUM EMITTED BY A NEAR INFRARED LAMP SAUNA IS SUPERIOR IN SEVERAL WAYS
Visible radiation in the red, orange and yellow color range stimulates the organs of elimination, the liver, kidneys and large intestines. This is an excellent added benefit. Colored lamps can be added to any sauna, but this requires extra wiring and cost and a different bench arrangement in most instances. In contrast, it is built-in to the design of the near infrared lamp sauna.
Also, an infrared lamp sauna emits mainly near and some middle infrared energy. Plenty of research supports the fact that this type of infrared is quite beneficial for the human organism. It assists healing and regeneration of various cells and organs. It also relaxes the body more than far infrared, which is somewhat irritating to certain tissues.
We do not agree with the idea that only far infrared is beneficial for human beings and even animals as well. We do not know where this idea originated, but it is not true.
OUR RECOMMENDED DESIGN OFFERS CERTAIN OTHER ADVANTAGES SUCH AS THE ABILITY TO FOCUS THE ENERGY EVEN MORE POWERFULLY AND TO STIMULATE THE CIRCULATION EVEN MORE
The ability to focus energy easily. With a lamp sauna, one can move a body part closer to the heat lamps to provide more infrared to that part of the body.
For example, one can sit so as to direct more energy to the liver, the sinuses or even to a painful ear. This cannot be done as effectively with a far infrared sauna.
The head is somewhat more sensitive to infrared, by the way. Thus, one should exercise caution regarding moving the head too close to the heat lamps. Limit this to no more than five minutes at a time during a session. Multiple applications, however, are excellent and not a problem.
THE LAMP SAUNA USES MUCH LESS ELECTRICITY.
As electricity costs go up, this is worth considering. Lamp saunas, in my experience, use about 1/4 less electricity to operate.
Sauna therapy requires using your sauna each day for up to an hour or more. When you add the extra time to preheat the sauna, which we recommend for most people, the energy savings of a lamp sauna add up.
NEAR INFRARED SAUNAS MAY BE LESS COSTLY TO PURCHASE, AND ARE DEFINITELY LESS COSTLY TO BUILD FROM SCRATCH
Parts are readily available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and similar stores. The lamps, the most costly parts, sell for $15.00 each or less.
Also, having all the heat lamps on one wall, as we recommend, eases both wiring costs and general construction costs.
ROTATING IN AN INFRARED LAMP SAUNA HAS SEVERAL ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
The lamp sauna design we like best requires the bather to rotate 90 degrees every few minutes to expose different parts of the body to the infrared rays. Here are just some of the advantages of rotating the body during your sauna session:
a) Weight loss. Rotating the body exposes all parts of the body to the infrared and should help weight loss much more than just sitting or lying down during the session.
Fatty tissue has poor circulation, which is one reason weight loss is difficult for many people. The improvement in circulation that occurs due to rotating the body may help weight loss even more than burning calories or other mechanisms.
b) Greater Safety. One can fall asleep if one does not move in a sauna. People have been known to die this way if the sauna timer does not work right.
c) More even heating. Sitting or lying down in one spot causes uneven heating of the body. This is usually not helpful and could even be harmful.
For example, a metal pin or prosthesis could be exposed to too much near infrared and heat up or be damaged by it. Uneven heating of the body also adds some stress to the body. More even heating is safer and assists healing.
d) More even sweating. This is related to the previous reason. As the body is heated more evenly, it also sweats more evenly.
e) Much better circulation. Rotating shunts the blood powerfully from one side of the body to the other. This greatly enhances circulation and assists the healing process.
f) Even less electromagnetic radiation. Lamp saunas emit only tiny amounts of electromagnetic fields due to the electrical wiring most saunas require. Rotating the body, however, keeps any one part of the body from staying close to the wires, further reducing any electrical field effects.
Far infrared saunas emit far more electromagnetic energies, especially if they are powered by 220-volt electricity. Sitting in one position for an hour, for example, will subject certain parts of the body to quite strong fields that are harmful or at least not beneficial in the least.
Higher voltages, such as 220 volts, are even more harmful for the human system, especially in people who are ill or weak. these should be avoided if at all possible.
Also, far infared saunas, with their heat emitters scattered through the unit, have wiring in all or most of the walls of the sauna. This makes it impossible to escape the radiation that comes off the wiring in the sauna.
Lamp saunas use so much less electricity there should be no reason they should be built to work on 220 volts.
g) Muscle relaxation. Rotating and shifting one’s position allows muscles to relax that might otherwise remain tense during the entire sauna session. This is more of a benefit than one may imagine.
h) A more active experience. Becoming more involved in your sauna session by rotating keeps the mind focused on the session and its purpose. This may be helpful, although one can argue that just relaxing and “forgetting” the session is also excellent for some situations.
In general, we believe that becoming more active in the session by rotating is a benefit.
i) Movement is helpful on the central bench. As one sits and rotates, certain movements are possible that are more difficult or impossible on a fixed-style bench. These include neck rolls, for example, and other exercises involving the legs and arms.
ADVANTAGES OF THE FAR INFRARED TYPE
Far infrared saunas may be less intense, and some people prefer this. Also, far infrared saunas I have seen do not require rotating the body every few minutes. This, however, could be arranged in a lamp sauna as well, although we don’t recommend it.
Another advantage of most far infrared saunas is they can be smaller. The reason is the infrared lamps in the lamp sauna are quite large, and protrude into the sauna about 8 inches. One could recess the lamps, placing them partially or wholly outside the sauna, but we do not like this design as it will interfere with the heating and operation of the sauna, most likely.
In conclusion, we much prefer the near infrared design, although in fairness, both types are truly wonderful healing devices fit hey are well-designed and the bather understands how to use them. Perhaps this helps to explain why our feedback is that the near infrared lamp sauna is a far more effective design.
We have a book available, Sauna Therapy, that explains much more about sauna protocols, safety, cautions, and much more. On this website is also a longer general article about Sauna Therapy.