What is a far infrared sauna? Infrared saunas are different from traditional saunas in that they heat your body by using infrared waves rather than heating the air and room temperature of the sauna. This is explained more in detail on my page about infrared sauna vs traditional sauna (I will provide a link to that page a bit further down below, but I don’t want to cause distraction right here at the beginning).
With that out of the way we can further differentiate and categorize infrared saunas in far infrared or near infrared saunas (and full spectrum infrared saunas, to be thorough).
In order to understand the difference between far infrared and near infrared I do have to get a little technical.
Warning: what follows may come across as technical and theoretical, but it is crucial for a good understanding of the concept of far infrared sauna. I promise I will try and explain it as simple as possible. Please bear with me.
Ready? Here we go.
A far infrared sauna or near infrared sauna has to do with the wavelength of the infrared energy that the sauna emits.
In order to understand this, allow me to introduce the concept of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum deals with the wavelengths and frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.
You may or may not know that visible light comes in different wavelengths and frequencies (hence the different colors of the rainbow, each color corresponds with a unique frequency). The higher the frequency, the lower the wavelength. This becomes clearer with the image below. You can see that the wavelength (distance between two tops of the waves) is shorter at a higher frequency than at a lower frequency.
In order to better understand frequency, think of making waves in the water with your arm. When you move your arm back and forth slowly (low frequency), the waves will be further apart (long wavelength). It requires relatively little energy.
Now if you move your arm back and forth more vigorously (higher frequency), you will cause waves much closer to each other (shorter wavelength) and it will require more energy.
This is exactly the same with light waves. Light waves with a higher frequency have more energy and shorter wavelengths than light waves with a lower frequency.
Visible light (the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to which the human eye responds) with the highest frequency (highest energy) is violet or blue light and red light is at the other side of the visible spectrum with relatively lower frequency and lower energy.
I mention visible light, because the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can actually see is only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The image below further illustrates this.
Ultraviolet (to the left of visible light), for instance, has a higher frequency than the frequency of violet light (hence the word ultra violet, ultra is Latin for “above”) and cannot be seen by the human eye.
Even higher frequencies occur in X rays and gamma rays.
In the image, you will also notice the word “infrared” on the right of the visible light section. Infra is Latin for “below” and means frequencies below the frequency of red light.
Microwaves (the waves that heat your food in a microwave oven) and radio waves have even lower frequencies and are also invisible to the human eye.
So now we have learned that infrared light (or infrared heat if you want) has a lower frequency than visible light and that we cannot see it.
A very clear illustration of that are infrared cameras, which we use to “see” living things at night, even when it’s completely dark. These cameras “translate” the infrared energy emitted by the subjects to an image using a process called thermography.
By the way, the fact that living organisms emit infrared energy that can be captured by infrared cameras may give peace of mind to those that are worried that the infrared energy used in a far infrared sauna might be harmful. Infrared energy is completely natural and even your own body emits infrared energy.
Still reading? See, I told you I would try and explain it as simple as possible. Now that we have covered the different frequencies and wavelengths that exist in the electromagnetic spectrum, it’s time to dive deeper into the concept of the far infrared sauna.
If we zoom in further in the infrared portion on the electromagnetic spectrum, we can make a distinction between near infrared, middle infrared and far infrared, based upon the different wavelengths. The image below illustrates this.
Pretty much as is the case with visible light, which exists at different wavelengths (violet color vs red color), infrared radiation also comes in different wavelengths.
So when an infrared sauna manufacturer talks about a far infrared sauna, they are referring to the wavelengths (and corresponding frequencies) of the infrared radiation produced by the sauna.
As you can see in the image above, the far infrared sauna uses infrared radiation that is nearest to the microwave region of the electromagnetic portion, which often is ground for debate.
When doing research on the internet, you will often find claims that these frequencies are a potential health hazard because they are so close to microwaves. I have found that these claims mainly come from manufacturers that market near infrared saunas.
Another subject that often arises in this debate is EMF. EMF is the Electro Magnetic Field that is produced by many electrical appliances (for instance WiFi routers, smart phones, but also electrical wiring in your house).
EMF in a far infrared sauna can be reduced by using properly shielded wiring in the sauna.
If you are worried about EMF levels in your far infrared sauna, you can buy (or rent) a Gauss meter, which can measure the amount of EMF near the infrared heaters or control panels.
I've tried to explain in simple language about the far infrared sauna. If you found this page helpful or if you want to comment, please feel free to let me know in the section below.
I have also written another article on this subject where you can learn about Dr. Lawrence Wilson's ideas on far infrared saunas and more.
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