Steam Rooms, Saunas, Red Light & PEMF — What You Need To Know
Disclaimer: These therapies have a lot of benefits, many of which are being researched as we speak. This article is intended as an introductory, non-exhaustive exposure to some of the fundamental differences and benefits, and why you may choose one over the other depending on the outcome you are seeking.
Should I opt for the steam room or the sauna?
My vote is always the sauna. The most notable difference between these two popular heat therapies is that one is wet and humid, and the other is dry and arid. A steam room is generally kept at 100% humidity and at temperatures between 110°-120°F (43°-48°C), while a sauna is kept at temperatures of 160°-200°F (70°-100°C) with very low humidity.
Both have their benefits, including sweating and detoxification, relaxation, and an immune boost. Steam rooms will surely clear your sinuses in a jiffy! However, in my personal opinion and experience, steam rooms tend to be less comfortable, less social, and perhaps, more risky when it comes to hygiene.
While “relaxing” in a steam room, I often find myself wondering or looking for clues of whether I am sitting amidst a bacterial breeding ground. Of course, if you’re at a 5-star hotel or spa, you know the steam room is going to be clean, but that doesn’t shroud the fact that the temperature range and humid environment falls right in the sweet spot for bacterial proliferation.
In contrast, a sauna is too hot for most bacteria, and it’s so dry that it’s easy to spot a pile of somebody’s sweat. Ergo, I tend to swing sauna.
What’s the difference between an Infrared and a regular sauna?
The difference between these two types of saunas are temperature and technology. The technology behind an “old school” traditional sauna is fairly simple — it’s a giant oven. Using a stove, which may be wood-burning or electrical, the very confined space you’re sitting in is heated to temperatures up to 200°F (100°C) or higher. Naturally this “cooks” you from the outside-in and you sweat quickly and progressively more intensely as your core temperature rises.
An infrared sauna on the other hand is essentially a microwave. Using lower peak temperatures (closer to 165°F), but very specific wavelengths of heat being emitted from electrical panels, the heat penetrates your body more deeply than a traditional sauna would. This cooks you and promotes sweating from the inside-out. You may find that in an infrared sauna, you do not sweat as quickly, but once you do, you start to sweat a lot.
Now if you’re a biohacker, sitting inside a “giant microwave” may not sound appealing to you, and you are right in questioning the whole idea (a little like getting into and out of an electrical freezer soaking wet). So when it comes to purchasing or occupying an infrared sauna it is imperative that you research the brand and the level of harmful EMF (electro-magnetic radiation) you may or may not be being exposed to while inside. Hanging out in the wrong infrared sauna can do more harm than good. The highest quality infrared saunas on the market right now, with the highest quality spectrums of infrared and the lowest possible EMF are from the brand Sunlighten.
Low-EMF infrared saunas offer a very practical solution for apartment dwellers, busy-biohackers, and families that may not have the space to drop a massive old-school barrel sauna in their home, or those who may not enjoy the risks and responsibilities of owning a traditional sauna.
Does an Infrared Sauna give me the same benefits as Red Light Therapy?
No. The difference between these two types of infrared therapy are, once again, temperature and technology. The technology behind an infrared sauna is heat driven, and uses a broad spectrum of light and heat to penetrate the body’s tissues to promote detoxification, relaxation, and an immune boost. This is a “machine gun” approach to infrared therapy that uses a lot of different wavelengths to offer a low-grade hormetic stress to the entire body. This creates an intense relaxation and cleansing response that spills over into improved general health via reduced inflammation and stress, as well as improved fitness.
The technology behind an infrared therapy device such as a Joovv, is that it uses very specific wavelengths of light (660nm & 830-850 nm) to penetrate deeper into the body’s tissues and promote cellular rejuvenation, improved collagen synthesis and wound healing, without heat. This is more of the “sharp-shooter” approach that offers a more targeted solution and higher doses of the specific wavelengths that offer the most benefit — everything from giving the thyroid and sex organs a boost, to reducing wrinkles.
As with any therapy, consistency is key. This means that accessibility and affordability are really the big things to consider. A red light is about 1/5th the cost of a sauna, and therefore bring the notion of daily treatment into reach for many.
Red Light Therapy or PEMF?
Almost everybody needs both.
Think of the these two therapies being the Sun and the Earth, one being a light and one being a magnetic field. One isn’t better than the other and they are absurdly complimentary when used in tandem, given we’ve been doing both naturally for millennia.
As discussed, a device such as a Joovv will send low-level “laser beams” deep into your body which revitalize our cells via a phenomenon called photobiomodulation. This creates the biologically equivalent impact of the sun shining, not just our face, but our entire naked bodies for the majority of each day in a matter of minutes.
Today, it’s a challenge for most to get even 20-30 minutes outdoors but the fact is, that we evolved to use this light exposure to not only produce vital nutrients such as vitamin D, but optimize our rhythms, our hormones and organs, and rejuvenate our cells. With photobiomodulation, we can bring only the precise beams of sun light that are therapeutic into your home bathroom, without the sunglasses or the sunblock. And without your boss asking why you were naked on the roof during your lunch break.
PEMF on the other hand is a pulsing electromagnetic field. A big plus with PEMF is that you have realtime control of both the frequency and the intensity of your therapy with the touch of a button. This gives you the most targeted and flexible therapy possible. PEMF, unlike a sauna where everybody seems to get benefits around the same temperatures, may have ten people who need ten different protocols and calibrations on a PEMF device to achieve their desired effect.
That being said, the “gold standard” and default electromagnetic pulse that a PEMF device will generally emit is 7.8 hertz, or the Schumann Resonances. 7.8 hertz is the frequency the Earth itself vibrates at. If you’re thinking this sounds a bit tinfoil hat or woo-woo, then you’re right. PEMF is truly where science, yoga, meditation, and Dr. Joe Dispenza collide.
PEMF is remarkably effective on everything from brain disorders and traumatic brain injury, to anxiety, depression and ADHD. This is because most disorders are rooted in similar disruptions in the chemistry and frequencies of our brainwaves. PEMF helps nudge our own electromagnetic fields back into balance by stimulating more of specific brainwaves and less of others.
As far as the intensity of therapy goes, a rehab facility would need put a lot more force behind a frequency if they wanted to say, heal a broken bone, than you might if you were fine-tuning your brainwaves from your living room. Intensity is the most machine dependent element, as there are Hyundais and Ferraris out there. PEMF is undoubtedly the next frontier of biohacking and offers a whole new world of treatment options for serious injuries and mental disorders. Powerful PEMF devices such as the Tesla can be bought for home use at $5,000-$20,000 and devices such as the Biomat or the FlexPulse, which I use, can be bought at far more modest prices than that. Alternatively, you can scout out a Pulse Centers near you and receive powerful treatment by the session.
And once again, if you live in an exotic location and have the ability to lay naked on the earth for up to 12-hours per day you may be able to skip the PEMF device.