Do Sauna Blankets Really Work? Here’s What a Doctor Says
Enjoy endless therapeutic sweat seshes—now available from the comfort of your own home, and backed with a physician's tips for getting the most out of your sauna blanket experience.
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If you know, you know: one of the best parts of visiting a spa or gym is spending time in the sauna. That dry heat feels so glorious soaking into your skin, especially when you learn some of the scientifically demonstrated health benefits of a sauna—such as an improved mood, lower risk of dementia, and even the potential for extending your longevity, just to name a few.
But the sauna blanket trend on social media suggests that lately, a lot of people have been finding warmth and relaxation right in the comfort of their own homes. You absolutely don’t have to add on a special room and import a fancy Finnish sauna to bring the experience straight to you—all you have to do is crawl inside an infrared sauna blanket, and you’ll be instantly transported to your heated happy place.
What is a sauna blanket?
Sauna blankets are essentially portable saunas that you wrap around yourself, similar to a sleeping-bag design.
The HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket, for instance, has nearly 2,000 5-star reviews, making it by far the most popular choice on the market. The brand claims its blanket provides multiple benefits, including quicker muscle recovery after a tough workout, glowing skin, stress relief, better sleep, increased energy, improved circulation, and the release of a much-loved dose of happy chemicals.
HigherDOSE Sauna Blanket pros:
What we like about the sauna blanket
- Blanket ranges from 68-158 degrees Fahrenheit
- Charcoal layer helps bind pollutants during detox
- Clay layer emits negative ions to balance heat
- Upgraded polyurethane leather-like material is environmentally friendly
- Healing crystal therapy, thanks to the amethyst and tourmaline layer
- Industrial zipper makes it easier to exit the blanket
HigherDOSE Sauna Blanket cons:
What to consider about the sauna blanket
- No carrying case included
- A maximum interior circumference of 65″, which may prohibit some taller users
Do sauna blankets really work?
When it comes to cleansing your system and restoring physiological balance, do sauna blankets have an effect? Casey Kelley, MD, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health and faculty member at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tells The Healthy: “If you buy a high-quality sauna blanket, they do work well.”
Dr. Kelley—who is also an infectious disease expert and family physician—adds that a sauna blanket can actually be better than a sauna for some people. “Typically, the blankets range in temperature from 80 to 160℉, making them excellent options for those who can’t handle the heat of a normal sauna room,” Dr. Kelley says. “In turn, [they] place less stress on your body. Plus, because the temperatures are generally more tolerable than a sauna room, you can spend more time reaping the benefits.”
Those benefits include:
- Detoxing your body. While sweating profusely may not sound super appealing, it does have a cleansing effect. “Sweating is a great way to help mobilize toxins and cleanse your body,” says Dr. Kelley. “Toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury can all be excreted through sweat, and one study links repeated sauna use with the normalization of mercury levels.” (Fascinating!)
- Soothing sore muscles. Sauna blankets provide relief for sore muscles. “When you apply heat to an injury you widen the blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow,” Dr. Kelley explains. “This helps whisk away any remaining lactic acid, or other toxins in your muscles.”
- Improving heart health. Infrared saunas have also been shown to benefit cardiovascular health. “Evidence suggests that when used frequently, these treatments can aid heart function by helping to normalize blood pressure,” says Dr. Kelley. (Also read Cardiologists Just Cleared Up 7 Common—but Inaccurate—Beliefs about Heart Disease.)
How to use a sauna blanket
There are just a few steps standing between you and your first session with a HigherDOSE infrared sauna blanket:
- First, drink plenty of water during the day leading up to your sweat sesh.
- Before entering the sauna blanket, change into comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that covers all your skin—that means you’ll even wear socks.
- Place the blanket on a flat, heat-resistant surface, like a yoga mat or mattress.
- Add a barrier between your body and the blanket, like a towel.
- Preheat the blanket for 10 minutes. Select your desired temperature by turning the dial.
- Slip inside and zip yourself in. Enjoy your session while you listen to your favorite Zen playlist or meditate.
- Rinse off in a cold shower to both cleanse your body and cool down your system.
- Drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
Of course, these are just the basics. Some users also enjoy prepping with a full-body dry brushing routine and doing 20 minutes of exercise beforehand.
While saunas are by-and-large a relaxing and comfortable experience, it’s not uncommon to feel uncomfortable post-use. Dr. Kelly describes it as a “hangover-like” sensation. “Generally, this is due to dehydration or toxin mobilization,” she says. “If you find yourself in this state, first, make sure you are thoroughly hydrated. Second, I like to recommend my patients take a binder, such as activated charcoal, after the sauna to help ‘mop up’ and bind toxins. However, if you don’t find relief from either of these options, it may be best to avoid sauna blanket use altogether.”
How long should you stay in a sauna blanket?
“For beginners, I recommend starting with 15 minutes, a couple of times per week,” says Dr. Kelley. “Once your body adjusts, you can increase the frequency and length of sessions. However, make sure you’re listening to your body.”
Generally, sauna blankets are completely safe to use. However, Dr. Kelley says it’s important to make sure that you drink plenty of water prior to, during, and after your session. If you don’t hydrate well, or use the sauna blanket for too long, it can lead to dehydration and overheating.
Additionally, do not use sauna blankets if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. “These substances can limit your blood vessels’ ability to expand, and they may be unable to handle the increased blood flow that comes with using a sauna blanket,” says Dr. Kelley.
How to clean a sauna blanket
If you’re uber-curious to sample this experience and just wondering how to keep it hygienic—first, the layers of towels and clothing are likely to catch most perspiration. Beyond that, the company recommends keeping a towel nearby for whenever you exit your sauna blanket, and “using a nontoxic disinfectant wipe or spray to sanitize the blanket.” (Here are some of the top-rated cleaning products shoppers have been loving.)
Also, you might not be the kind of sauna blanket user who goes for the full-on sweat effect. That space of time just to warm up and zone out can be remarkably therapeutic, too.
Where to buy the HigherDOSE Sauna Blanket
The HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket is available on the HigherDose website, and retails for $599. Interest-free payment plans are available.
Subscribe to The Healthy newsletter to stay up on what’s trending in wellness. Also check out:
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- 7 Genius Nutrition Hacks a Dietitian Just Inspired Us to Try
- Dr. Casey Kelley, MD, infectious disease expert, family physician, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health