There are few things in this world more satisfying than the act of luxuriating in an infrared sauna and letting the heat work its endorphin-boosting magic. Let the proof lie in the zen-like mind state and bodily benefits—like relief from sore muscles and joints—immediately after a good session. A common issue, however, is that carving out time to visit your local spa could be a pretty tall order (even if it’s just once a week).
That’s why I was particularly excited about at-home sauna blankets. While they may look like a sleeping bag, these infrared-heated device delivers all the benefits of a sauna from the comfort of your bed or couch, ideally as you marathon reality TV. To give us the complete rundown on the benefits of regularly using a sauna blanket, we spoke to David Kirsch, fitness trainer to stars like Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington, and Heidi Klum (among many others), as well as board-certified physician Dr. Sunitha Posina.
Keep reading to learn more about sauna blankets, how they work, and how they compare to an IRL sauna session.
What Is An Infrared Sauna Blanket?
“An infrared sauna blanket is a portable device that can be used anywhere or anytime someone wants to experience the benefits of an infrared sauna in their own home or office,” explains Kirsch. Unlike the extreme heat from a steam sauna, which typically spans from 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, infrared heat does not need to be as high, as it uses electromagnetic radiation to directly warm your body. Infrared heat operates between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to experience a more intense sweat session at a lower temperature, creating an overall more tolerable experience vs. that of a steam sauna.
Benefits of Using Infrared Sauna Blankets
Unsurprisingly, an infrared sauna blanket delivers a lot of the same benefits as an IRL sauna session, with the added bonus of being able to indulge in all of the below from the comfort of your own home.
- Releases Toxins: Infrared saunas cause the body to produce a deep sweat, which pushes out toxins trapped deep in the skin. “The infrared rays heat up the body using dry heat, causing you to mimic a sweat session,” says Dr. Posina.
- Improves Circulation: As your heart rate increases, your blood vessels widen, and your circulation increases in a way similar to the way low to moderate exercise makes your circulation increase.
- Releases Endorphins: The sauna blanket’s heat causes your body to release endorphins, and as the great Elle Woods once said, “Endorphins make you happy.” Mood-boost aside, their “tranquilizing effect” can help to alleviate any pain or muscle soreness.
- Speeds Up Muscle Recovery: Regular use of a sauna blanket as part of your post-workout routine can help with your recovery, reducing inflammation and muscle soreness. According to Dr. Posina, when your muscles and joints are warmed up, they become softer. “It’s not unlike sitting in a hot bath to release tension, or suddenly being able to hit more flexible poses in a hot yoga class that are more difficult in a regular class,” she says.
- Helps to De-Stress and Improve Sleep: The blanket’s heat helps your body regulate the amount of cortisol, or the hormone released when you’re stressed out, in your blood. As the cortisol is reduced, serotonin is released, improving your overall stress levels. Additionally, as your aforementioned endorphin levels slowly decline, which leads to a more relaxed, deeper sleep.
- Improves the Appearance of Skin: According to Kirsch, he deep sweat caused by the sauna blanket helps your skin cleanse itself of bacteria and dead skin cells, while also stimulating collagen production.
How to Prepare For an Infrared Sauna Blanket Session
Setting up your sauna blanket is pretty straightforward—simply remove it from its bag, unfold it onto a heat-proof surface like your bed or couch, attach the controller pad, and plug in the device.
Unlike a traditional sauna experience, however, stripping down before stepping into your sauna blanket isn’t recommended. “You’ll want to put on moisture-wicking clothes like long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of socks,” says Kirsch. “Have a bottle of water nearby to stay hydrated, step into the blanket, and turn it on.”
Wearing clothes in the sauna blanket allows for an easier cleanup, as the fabric will absorb some of the sweat, and will keep your skin protected. According to Kirsch, the blanket can be used every day, but you’ll definitely experience benefits if you use it 2 to 3 times a week.
What to Expect From Using an Infrared Sauna Blanket
Once you plug in the device and set your desired time and temperature (Kirsch advises aiming for a lower temperature and shorter time if you’re a beginner), you’ll gradually start to feel the blanket warm up. After about five minutes, you’ll reach the set temperature, at which point you can lie back and relax for the set duration of time.
As I tested a sauna blanket of my own—the MiHigh Infrared Sauna Blanket—I personally didn’t notice myself sweating too severely, and because the blanket warms slowly and steadily, the heat didn’t feel uncomfortable or too extreme. Keeping Kirsch’s advice in mind, I aimed for a lower temperature for my first few uses, setting the device to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes a session. I was able to increase the time and temperature after a few days of consecutive use, eventually lasting the full recommended hour.
Because the blanket has velcroed sides, I didn’t have to worry about getting trapped inside of it, and once I had a week and a half of daily sessions under my belt, my M.O. was to put on an hour-long TV show and just chill inside of the device until my time was up. Of course, the blanket was still warm when I was finished with it, so I made sure it had cooled off completely before cleaning and storing it to avoid potentially damaging the technology.
Potential Side Effects
Kirsch advises beginners to start with a lower temperature around 120 degrees and a shorter time frame. “I would start first-time users at 10 to 15 minutes at a low temperature, then gradually build up from there,” he says.
If heat triggers issues like migraines, vertigo, or dizziness for you, Dr. Posina recommends sitting this one out. Additionally, if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, or are taking blood pressure medication or diuretics, consult with their doctor before springing for a sauna blanket. “If you’re completely healthy and think it could help, use it in moderation,” she says.
The MiHigh Infrared Sauna Blanket I tested costs about $500. On average, the devices run between $200 and $500.
“The best thing you can do after using the blanket is hydrate,” says Kirsch. “Take a cold shower as well to close your pores and wash away the toxins you’ve just sweated out, and if possible, rest or go to sleep.”
As far as how to take care of the blanket, clean-up is pretty easy. Simply open the velcro closures along the sides, open up the blanket, then spray it down with a natural disinfectant like the Method Antibac All-Purpose Cleaner. You can choose to wipe it away with a paper towel or cloth, or just allow the disinfectant to dry. From there, you can fold up the blanket and store it until your next use.
Real talk: I’ve been stressed out lately, and I haven’t actually given myself the space to acknowledge that. As I’ve been scaling back to focus on my own mental health, having an hour to myself every day using the sauna blanket has done wonders. It has helped me take meaningful time for myself, while also helping to improve my mood.
In the time I’ve been using the MiHIGH blanket, I found that I’ve been sleeping better (without melatonin, too!) and that overwhelming feeling of dread I’d get on a Sunday night has been replaced with a calmer mindset. On the days I don’t have time to exercise, it’s also nice knowing that an hour-long sweat session in the MiHIGH might be helping pick up the slack. (Though, I haven’t used the device long enough to see any substantial weight loss.)
My skin seems to look better, as well, though that could be the endorphins and serotonin doing their thing. I’ll definitely continue using the sauna blanket regularly throughout the week, and after seeing how much I’ve loved the treatment, my husband has also started getting his own sessions in.