You've probably been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the infrared sauna system.
In fact, you might be reading this article simply because you've been hearing so much about them from people you know. One of your health care providers might have recommended that you take some detox sessions in an infrared sauna system, or one of your friends might have come back from a day spa all excited about how relaxing infrared saunas can be. But not everyone knows a whole lot about the infrared sauna system and just how it works, so I decided to briefly explain things.
Basically, an infrared sauna consists of a sauna cabin that's been fitted with infrared heaters (sometimes called infrared emitters) that produce invisible infrared energy that directly heats your body. An infrared sauna system is different from a traditional steam sauna, which heats your body indirectly when you sit in the hot, humid atmosphere created when water is poured over hot rocks.
The infrared energy utilized by an infrared sauna system is produced artificially by the sauna's heaters, but it is actually identical to the infrared rays that make up part of the spectrum of energy radiated by the sun 24 hours a day. Solar energy consists of a broad spectrum of electromagnetic energy with a wide range of different wavelengths. We can see some types of solar energy as visible light, but ultraviolet, which is also part of the solar spectrum, is invisible. And although infrared energy is invisible to the naked eye, we do perceive it as heat. Infrared only becomes visible with special devices such as infrared goggles.
As mentioned above, the sun radiates ultraviolet rays, which can damage human skin. The sun also radiates energy in the form of X-rays, gamma rays and cosmic radiation, which can damage human DNA. Everyone knows that we should avoid overexposure to medical X-rays because they can also be harmful. Fortunately, the Earth's atmosphere insulates and protects us from most of the X-rays, gamma rays and cosmic radiation produced by the sun.
All these types of solar energy have different wavelengths. Infrared has a different set of wavelengths than visible light, and each color of the visible spectrum has its own separate wavelength, which is why we our eyes perceive each color differently. In other words, visible colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and so forth all have different wavelengths. Ultraviolet rays also have their own wavelength, which is different (shorter) than the visible light and infrared energy which are also part of the sun's electromagnetic spectrum.
Infrared energy has longer wavelengths than visible light, and the wavelengths which create visible colors are all longer than ultraviolet. Picture a spectrum of energy, with infrared energy near the bottom (microwaves and radio waves are below it, with even longer wavelengths), the various colors of visible light near the center, and ultraviolet energy toward the top (X-rays and gamma rays are above ultraviolet, with even shorter wavelengths).
Once again, infrared energy is invisible to the naked eye, although we do perceive it as heat. As we explained in a separate article, microns are the unit of measurement used for wavelengths. The infrared spectrum ranges between 4 and 1,000 microns in length. The far infrared spectrum falls between 4 and 14 microns, and these specific wavelengths are the safest for our health and also the most beneficial, possessing healing properties. They are also responsible for photosynthesis, a process which makes life possible.
The human body radiates its own infrared energy, which typically ranges in wavelength between 3 and 50 microns, although most is about 9.4 microns. The infrared radiated by a person's body is what makes that person "visible" to infrared cameras or infrared goggles at night. And infrared energy is radiated from the palms (being part of the body). Palm healing and other forms of hands-on healing techniques are based on the healing properties of this specific infrared energy.
Infrared energy is known to reduce lactic acid levels in the body. This acid accumulates in the muscles and is responsible for the aches and pains felt when someone overworks their muscles. Infrared also stimulates the body's production of endorphins, which are sometimes referred to as "happy hormones."
Many athletes embrace infrared sauna therapy because it reduces lactic acid and allows them to recuperate more quickly from aches and pains. Infrared saunas can also speed the healing process. We'll explain the health benefits of increased endorphin production in a separate article.
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