After a long, stressful day, you will want nothing more than to step into a hot sauna and unwind yourself. You picture yourself lying on the warm benches and feeling your body relax as all your worries melt away. However, when this picture fails to come to reality, you question yourself: why is it that instead of leaving the room with the feeling of pure bliss, you leave feeling worse than before?
This is a common experience among fresh users of infrared sauna who after their session might experience symptoms like headaches, suffocation, brain fog, and anxiety. Before we dive into the details of why your body reacts in such an unpleasant way and why you feel worse after an infrared session, we are going to first talk about what actually is an infrared sauna.
What is an Infrared Sauna?
As the name suggests, infrared sauna makes use of infrared rays rather than the steam more commonly used in traditional saunas. These rays penetrate through your body, creating warmth and increasing your body temperature. Infrared sauna functions differently than the traditional sauna which uses heat to increase the temperature of the room. It must be kept in mind that these rays are not harmful.
Why do I feel worse after Infrared Sauna?
Now let us come to our main topic of discussion: why do you fail to experience the delights that millions of others claim to do?
The most obvious and primary reason is that you are a fresh user and your body is not familiar with the infrared rays, resulting in its failure to react in a pleasant way. However, there are also other reasons that lead to the not-so ‘relaxing’ side effects of infrared saunas. We will now uncover these reasons in detail.
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons why you feel unwell or awful after a sauna session. This occurs when fluid intake is less than water loss. Thus, if you enter an infrared sauna without having drunk ample water or immediately after a workout session, your body loses an unhealthy amount of water in the form of sweat.
It is estimated that an average person excretes around 4 cups of sweat. This is an insane amount! Water is the single most important nutrient as it is being used in nearly all body processes. Even your body mass is a whopping 60% water! Therefore, make sure you are hydrated enough before your session, or else your body will face water and fluid shortage and you might experience dizziness, fatigue, headaches, insatiable thirst, or even abnormal colored urine.
2. The body depicts the high temperature as a fever
As mentioned above, the infrared rays of the sauna make your body temperature rise, causing your body to think that you are suffering from a fever. Consequently, this brings your white blood cells i.e. your body’s defense mechanism into action. The cells start producing antibodies to fight off the viruses causing the ‘fever’. These chains of events are actually to be blamed for your sore muscles, increase in heartbeat, and a drop in your blood pressure. This, as result, causes dizziness and lethargy.
However, you must remember that you experience such symptoms during your first few sessions. This is when your body is getting accustomed to the infrared rays of the sauna. The moment your body starts to react normally, you will experience the numerous benefits of the sauna.
3. The sauna temperature is too high
Another reason why you might have a terrible sauna experience is that the temperature was set too high. You might think, that the hotter the temperature of the sauna, the more benefits you will reap. However, this is not the case. An optimum temperature of around 150 -170 Fahrenheit must be maintained. Going higher can prove to be more detrimental than beneficial.
The very high temperature affects your blood circulation, increasing your heart rate and also causing the body to act like you are suffering from a fever/flu, giving you flu-like symptoms (clammy hands, lightheadedness, weakness, etc.). The white blood cells are activated due to the heat, believing they are fighting off an infection.
4. You stayed in the sauna for too long
An important tip is that do not extend your welcome in the sauna. Staying in the sauna for long will not result in a more efficient detoxification process but will instead cause harm. The recommended time for a sauna session is 15-20 minutes. Beyond that, your body will start reacting in a way that can be dangerous for your health.
The longer you stay, the hotter your body will feel, and thus, more white blood cells will be produced to fight off the supposed ‘fever’. Furthermore, more and more body fluid will be excreted out in form of sweat which can result in severe body water loss. In short, your body will go under stress rather than feeling relaxed. Hence, remember that excess is never good.
The Side Effects of the Detox Infrared Sauna
One of the main goals of the infrared sauna is detoxification. This process removes toxins and impurities from your bloodstream in the form of sweat, enabling the blood to absorb nutrients much faster. These toxins include Mercury, Lead, and Cadmium – all of which are detrimental if remained in the blood. However, the detox of the infrared sauna has many side effects which can cause you to feel awful.
This process makes your body react as if you have taken an antibiotic which has the same job – removing toxins from the body. Hence, you might experience fever, headaches, and chills. In addition, releasing toxins stored in the muscles lead to sore muscles.
The infrared sauna and its detoxification role also adversely affect the digestive system, resulting in stomachache and nausea. Feeling this way for sauna users is completely normal. However, if you have a leaky gut, the lining of the digestive system gets damaged due to the infrared rays and toxins getting into the blood.
Tips to make your Infrared Sauna Experience Better
- Drink plenty of water: Make sure that you are hydrated before entering the sauna to minimize the loss of water from the body. In addition to this, you must drink at least 4 glasses of water to cover up for the minerals lost in the form of sweat during the session.
- Avoid Alcohol: Stepping into a sauna with alcohol in your bloodstream has a 1.8% chance of resulting in sudden death. In addition to this, it increases the risk of dehydration, and rise in blood pressure as there is increased blood circulation to remove all toxins from the bloodstream.
- Do not preheat the sauna: When using an infrared sauna, never preheat it. Furthermore, ensure that the sauna is not too hot. It must be between 150 -175 Fahrenheit. The hotter it is, the worse you will feel.
- If you are a new user, raise the temperature gradually: As mentioned above, for new users, the body takes time to get accustomed to the heat. Hence, do not step into a burning hot sauna in your first session. Increase the temperature slowly, allowing your body to get used to the infrared rays and the heat.
- Take into account your health: Adjust the temperature and session time of the sauna according to your doctor’s suggestion if you have health problems. If you suffer from heart, liver, and kidney problems, an infrared sauna might not be suitable for you. Also, take all your supplements and vitamins before stepping in. If you are pregnant, avoid using an infrared sauna.
- Do not stay in for long: Saunas will only be a delightful experience if the session time is between 15-20 minutes. The more time you spend after crossing the 20-minute limit, the worse you will feel.
- Use sauna with detox binders: Binders prevent the toxins from being reabsorbed into the blood, preventing stomach aches and digestive problems. This is especially important if you suffer from Lyme disease.
While some have a delightful sauna experience, your experience can turn out to be the complete opposite of your expectations. The root cause behind this is that you are a new user and your body requires a good amount of sessions before getting familiar with high-frequency infrared rays and the extreme heat. As a result, you can suffer from symptoms like dehydration, increased heart rate, lethargy, etc.
However, you must know that these symptoms are normal for new users and are bound to disappear. These are all the effects of increased circulation and increased heart rate which is supposed to happen in a sauna in order to heal your body. Nevertheless, make sure to properly prepare yourself before entering the session by staying hydrated and adjusting the time and temperature of the sauna. In conclusion, remember that if you are feeling worse than before the first few sessions then you will surely gain amazing benefits later.
Hi People! My name is Monica Khemsurov, and I am the founder of SaunaSavant. I am Finnish, a professional swimmer, and a lifelong sauna & spa enthusiast. In this blog, I will share my insights, suggestions, and recommendations on everything related to saunas and indoor living. Please let me know (through the contact box) if you have any feedback. Cheers!