The Difference Between Red Light Therapy and Sauna Therapy

At your local fitness or wellness center, there are probably a variety of therapeutic services for you to try that offer relaxation and pain relief, like red light therapy and sauna therapy. If they’re offering similar benefits, then what’s the difference, and which is right for you?

Keep reading to learn more about red light and sauna therapy and how they help relax and relieve pain.


What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy uses red and near-infrared wavelengths of light to target the mitochondria of our cells and increase the production of ATP, which is responsible for energy transport. Red light therapy activates the body’s natural processes to speed healing and resolve inflammation through a temporary increase in circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid.

There are a variety of red light therapy devices, including panels, laser therapy systems, and red light therapy beds. They’re used to treat pain and reduce inflammation caused by arthritis, tendonitis, or a soft tissue injury, as well as speed wound healing, improve the texture of skin through boosted collagen production, and aid in correcting the circadian rhythm to improve sleep and mood.


What is Sauna Therapy?

Sauna therapy is a practice that has been in use by many cultures for thousands of years. Sauna therapy uses a room heated to 100°-150°F that causes the body’s core temperature to rise and increase the heart rate and circulation. Saunas are typically dry or have a low humidity to allow the body’s natural cooling system, sweat, to kick in, and evaporate moisture off the skin.

There are a variety of saunas, but Finnish dry saunas show the most consistent benefits. Saunas are used to temporarily increase circulation as well as relieve minor aches and pains and relieve symptoms of conditions like psoriasis and asthma.

Some studies have shown a link between sauna use and a lower risk of sudden cardiac death, but more research is needed to understand the connection.


The Difference Between Light and Heat Energy

Red light therapy and sauna therapy both temporarily increase circulation in our bodies, but they accomplish this in two different ways:

  • Red light therapy uses light energy to target the mitochondria of our cells and increase ATP production, which increases cellular energy and circulation.
  • On the other hand, dry sauna therapy uses heat energy to raise the body’s core temperature, increasing the heart rate and causing one to sweat, similar to aerobic exercise.


Risks of Red Light Therapy

In the case of red light therapy, light energy poses very little risk. The biggest risk with red light therapy is damage to the eyes, especially when using a highly concentrated source of red light such as a laser. Always wear the provided eyewear when using a red light therapy bed or other device to protect your eyes.

Red light therapy shouldn’t make you feel hot. You may feel comfortably warm inside a red light therapy bed, but the TheraLight Light Pods are designed with a cooling system that prevents you from feeling hot.

Because of the temporary widening of the blood vessels, called vasodilation, caused by red light therapy, some individuals may feel lightheaded after a treatment session. If you’ve never tried red light therapy before, please be mindful that this may happen and get up slowly from the red light bed.

If you have a sensitivity to certain kinds of light, take photosensitizing medications, or have any other concerns, consult your doctor or wellness professional before starting red light therapy.


Risks of Sauna Therapy

Sauna therapy is generally low risk for healthy individuals. Part of sauna therapy is sweating, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before and after a session. Individuals with kidney disease run a higher risk of dehydration and should consult their doctor before starting sauna therapy. Additionally, all individuals should avoid alcohol usage before and after a sauna session as this increases the risk of dehydration and hypotension (low blood pressure).

Sauna therapy also lowers blood pressure temporarily, which is beneficial for relaxing and reducing stress levels. However, individuals with low blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should consult their doctor before starting sauna therapy.


Which Should I Try?

Red light and sauna therapy are both low-risk options for healthy individuals to help relax, reduce stress, and promote overall wellness. Determining which therapy is the best option for you will depend on your health history and tolerance to heat or light. Some other factors to take into consideration are the time spent for each session and other concerns you have about your wellness. Sauna therapy can be beneficial for conditions like psoriasis and asthma, while red light therapy can improve the tone and texture of skin, including wound and scar healing, and it can be beneficial for sleep and mood.

Both therapy sessions shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes, and first time users for both shouldn’t exceed 10 minutes. However, sauna therapy will make you sweat, and you will need to let your body cool down before showering, so the time spent in your wellness or fitness center will be longer than your session time. Red light therapy will take less time in total, around 30 minutes from arriving and leaving the facility.


If you’re interested in trying red light therapy, click the link below to find a TheraLight Light Bed provider near you.

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