If you’re considering a home sauna, the good news is that you have an amazing variety of options. The bad news is… you have an amazing variety of options. From a personal zip-up “sauna” to a remodeled or added room, dry or steaming, you can spend a few hundred or several thousand dollars. There are even different ways to generate the heat necessary for a good sweat – whatever the size or goal of your choice.
Whatever you choose, there are positive benefits that are universal to any decent quality home sauna. The concentrated heat relaxes sore muscles and improves blood flow, which in turn promotes healing in your muscles and throughout your body. Time spent in the sauna typically lowers blood pressure while improving circulation, and may increase your white cell count, which strengthens your immune system.
Sweating naturally helps flush out toxins from your system, everything from chemicals or other impurities to excess dead skin cells. It even raises your metabolism, making it easier to lose weight. Where else can you literally burn calories by sitting around relaxing?
In short, there are good reasons that humans have been finding ways to sauna for thousands of years. While in the past, such pleasures may have been reserved for the upper classes, a positive sauna experience is accessible to almost anyone in the 21st century.
All that talk about self-care you’ve been hearing and reading over the past year or two? This is it.
Bringing The Heat
Home saunas can be heated electrically, by burning wood, electricity, or by using infrared light. Not surprisingly, there are pros and cons of each approach. Understanding the basics will make it easier for you to determine which home sauna is right for you.
The most obvious advantage to an electric sauna is convenience. You can use it anywhere you have power and they’re the easiest to understand and begin using.
Electric saunas allow you to set a very specific temperature or program your routine ahead of time so it’s ready when you walk in. They’ll reach your desired temperature more quickly than other methods and maintain that level with great accuracy. Because they’re so easy to use, many customers report they sauna more regularly and enjoy it more fully. If one of the benefits of a home sauna is stress reduction, the process itself shouldn’t be stressful!
Electric saunas usually come with practical safety features as well. They won’t rise to dangerous temperatures unexpectedly and most won’t run for more than an hour or so without resetting or asking you to confirm you’d like to continue.
On the other hand, electric saunas use… electricity. If you’re wanting your sauna in an area without reliable electric service or if you’re concerned about your utility bills, this might be a factor.
The convenience of an electric sauna doesn’t mean you can afford to neglect the potential dangers or downsides to any home sauna. While the heat generated by your sauna is generally quite good for you, it’s possible to overdo it. If you become lightheaded or dizzy, call it a day and make sure you drink plenty of water after. Pregnant women or anyone with low blood pressure should avoid any sort of sauna. Please seek a doctor’s advice before sauna use if you have any medical conditions.
Finally, despite the whole “relaxation” theme, alcohol and saunas don’t mix. It’s too easy to become dehydrated and you’ll probably end up causing yourself headaches instead of eliminating them. Save the drinks for later.
Traditional Wood-Burning Saunas
If you’re looking for the most authentic sauna experience possible – or at least the most traditional – consider a wood-burning system. Wood-burning saunas are what you’ll find in the traditional sauna cultures of the nordic countries. Generally followed by a jump in a cold lake or other body of water.
One of the biggest perks of the wood-burning sauna is that the wood heats up rocks which can be used to create natural humidity and steam – unlike an electric sauna. These are also the least expensive to purchase and install, and customers love the wonderful aromas and intangible sense of “real” heat and steam they experience.
A wood-burning sauna doesn’t require electricity, but it does require a reliable source of appropriate wood. While any reliable firewood will do, purists debate the best wood choices the way others debate craft beers or comfortable shoes. You can experiment until you find your ideal burning intensity and aroma then jump into the conversation yourself!
It’s extremely important with a wood-burning sauna to have proper ventilation. It’s the number one problem people experience with wood-burning – an inadequate chimney or another venting system. Another potential issue is difficulty controlling the precise temperature of your sauna. It takes longer to get your sauna up to the right level of heat and can be difficult to avoid extreme temperatures once going.
Some users enjoy adding wood at strategic moments or adjusting the airflow to control the heat, but others find this counterproductive to the whole purpose of a sauna to begin with – relaxation. The intensity can increase the odds of problems possible with any sauna, particularly in terms of overheating or dehydration.
Isn’t modern technology a wonderful thing? While saunas of various sorts have been around for millennia, the use of infrared technology only goes back about a half-century. Infrared saunas offer a number of benefits traditional saunas cannot.
An infrared sauna requires far less power than a traditional electric sauna. That’s largely because traditional saunas heat the air around you, while an infrared sauna warms your body directly. Very low doses of electromagnetic radiation penetrate your tissue and stimulate warmth, reaching more deeply into your muscles and the rest of your body while nevertheless operating 30 – 40˚ lower than their traditional counterparts. Plus, many models are quite portable, so you can use them wherever it’s convenient for you at the moment.
This means the same advantages you’d get with any good sauna are more immediate, more flexible, and potentially more beneficial. Then again, the downsides can be more sudden as well. Just because the room isn’t baking doesn’t mean you can’t dehydrate or aggravate pre-existing medical conditions. Exercise the same good judgment you would when using any other sort of sauna!
There are studies suggesting that infrared radiation might lower sperm count or mobility, but it’s not yet clear whether the levels used in your sauna are sufficient to have the same impact.
Maximum enjoyment of your home sauna means taking a little time to explore your options before making your final decision. There are no doubt a variety of options that would work for you, but the more you know going in, the happier you’re likely to be long-term.
Besides, once you’ve finished all that research, you’ll be able to relax – in your very own home sauna. Don’t forget your towel.