How to Choose Between Red Light Therapy
Vs. Infrared Sauna
In the world of non-invasive treatments, red light therapy has established itself as a clear front-runner for many conditions. For the non-expert, it's easy to mistake infrared saunas as the same thing, with exactly the same benefits, only on a larger scale.
While red light therapy and infrared saunas do share many health benefits, and can be used to treat some of the same health problems, there are some key differences in how these treatments affect the human body.
What Is the Difference Between Red Light and Infrared Light?
Both infrared saunas and red light therapy use light of a certain spectrum to provide their benefits. However, they use different wavelengths of light.
Red light therapy mostly uses red light of the visible spectrum and near infrared light. Visible light does not generate heat at all, whereas near infrared light waves provide gentle warmth and penetrate a little deeper into the tissue.
Infrared saunas use light of the near and far infrared spectrum and also generate infrared heat. Infrared waves are much hotter than the light that a red light therapy device uses.
The optimal range of light for light therapy is between 600nm and 850nm, while infrared saunas use higher wavelengths.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas don't rely on fire or steam for heat. Instead, they use near infrared light and far infrared light.
Most infrared saunas use light of the far infrared wavelengths, over 3000nm. There's also the near infrared sauna, which uses near infrared wavelengths of up to 1400nm.In general, infrared radiation is the kind that is able to generate the heat necessary for sweating.
In terms of benefits, an infrared sauna session is the same as a regular sauna session.The heat from the near infrared and far red electromagnetic spectrum activates the so-called heat shock proteins. These are a special kind of protein that is affected by heat stress. The effects of their activation are similar to exercising.
What Is The Difference Between Infrared Light and Traditional Saunas?
The temperatures in an infrared sauna are lower than those in a sauna that uses fire or steam, but the inside is still hot enough to provide the expected natural health benefits.
While the temperatures in a traditional sauna usually span between 65°C to 90°C (150°F and 195°F), the heat in an infrared sauna usually stays in the much more manageable range of 49°C to 60°C (120˚F to 140˚F).
The Mechanisms of Red Light Therapy
Let's take a look at how red light therapy works. Red light therapy harnesses the powers of specific wavelengths of natural light.
The red light used in red and near-infrared therapy mimics the light from the sun which occurs mostly at dawn and sunset. This light ranges from the visible spectrum to the light invisible to the human eye.
Red light therapy works by targeting the mitochondria in the cells. This part of the cell is responsible for energy and oxygen production within each cell. Red light provides a boost to the energy making protein in the mitochondrial membrane, and regulates the number of damaging free radicals that occur as a byproduct of the metabolic processes in the mitochondria.
As a consequence, this healthy light has many benefits. It promotes tissue repair and wound healing, boosts energy levels and supports skin health. It eases chronic pain and reduces inflammation. Because it boosts blood flow, it helps with immunity and brings more oxygen to tissue.
Because it also directly influences the production of melatonin - the sleep hormone - red light therapy also helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and overall hormone levels in the body.
The Differences Between Red Light Therapy and Infrared Saunas
Even though they both rely on red light for their therapeutic benefit, both the effects and the process of using these two types of treatment are different.
The Difference in Output
The main difference between red light therapy and infrared sauna is the output. They use different kinds of electromagnetic radiation.
Red light therapy devices are basically LED light therapy, and they generate no heat.
The output of infrared saunas is in the range which is characterised by heat, and that is how it emulates a conventional sauna.
Ease of Use and Convenience
In terms of convenience, modern red light devices for home use are the gold standard nowadays.
They offer all the benefits of red light, without the need to leave the comfort of your home. Thanks to this convenience, it's easy to use them daily. A daily session of ten to fifteen minutes takes no effort at all but has great therapeutic value.
Infrared saunas are not something that you can recreate at home. They require that you go out. This might include a commute and making an appointment, and is generally more time-consuming and less cost-effective.
The Targeted Health Conditions and Health Benefits
The effects of infrared saunas are comparable to those of mild to moderate exercise.They cause sweating, which helps to cleanse the body and get rid of toxins.
They also elevate the pulse, boosting blood circulation and dilating the blood vessels. This helps bring more blood to tissue, which, in turn provides better oxygenation and helps bring immune cells to tissues that may be inflamed. This can result in pain relief and quicker post workout recovery.
In the long run, this vascular effect can also lower blood pressure. Not to mention that a few minutes in the sauna can be extremely relaxing.
Red light therapy is equally excellent for acute conditions and injuries, chronic health problems, and for an overall energy boost.
Because it supports the mitochondria, just a short daily red light treatment can significantly boost your energy levels, helping you to get rid of that pesky fatigue.
Red light also has several mechanisms through which it enhances the mood and combats mental health issues, such as anxiety or seasonal depression. When it comes to mental health benefits, it also helps that red light therapy support healthy sleep.
By stimulating blood flow and oxygenation and reducing the quantity of reactive oxygen species, red light therapy relieves pain, promotes healing, boosts collagen production and ensures the optimal functioning of several organ systems as well as the entire body.
The Risks of Infrared Sauna Vs. Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy is completely safe. Over the course of decades, scientists and medical professionals have found no adverse effects for this form of treatment.
Red light doesn't produce heat and it does not contain any ultraviolet light, which is why it causes no damage to skin tissue and poses no risk for skin cancer.
Infrared sauna works by generating heat, which is why the concerns associated with its use are the same as with traditional saunas, and are mostly connected to heat stress.
Caution is advised due to the possibility of heat stroke, burns and dehydration. When using an infrared sauna, the air inside can get hot, which is why it's important to hydrate properly and limit the time of your exposure.
If you suffer from any serious health conditions, such as congestive heart failure or vascular disease, make sure you consult your doctor before using an infrared sauna. No such limitations apply for red light therapy treatments.
Both infrared saunas and red light therapy use the beneficial powers and biological effects of light, but they each have their specific uses. While both can bring significant improvements to your health and quality of life, red light therapy comes with fewer risks, more all-encompassing benefits and a greater ease of use.