Today our fast-paced lives can be both exciting and rewarding. However it has come at a cost where chronic stress is negatively impacting our mental and physical well being.
Chronic stress has been linked to increased levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, premature aging and even premature death.
Our autonomic nervous systems are in overdrive as our bodies are caught in what is called a cortisol cascade where the body is stuck in a perpetual flight-fright-freeze mode which eventually depresses our immune function, making us more susceptible to colds, flus and more harmful viruses and diseases.
It is only when we recalibrate our autonomic nervous systems with deep rest and healing that our health has a chance to reset. This is where infrared therapy comes in.
How does infrared therapy work?
Infrared penetrates to the inner layers of the skin about 2-7cm deep. It reaches the muscles, nerves and even the bones. Many studies have shown that a frequency of infrared light, with wavelengths from 700 – 1000 nanometers is best used for healing inflammatory conditions generally associated with tension and pain.
Infrared therapy enables us to harness the benefits of the sun without the damaging UV rays. Infrared light is absorbed by the photoreceptors which triggers several natural processes in the body at a cellular level.
How does infrared therapy reduce stress?
1. Induces relaxation
The first thing that happens in an infrared sauna is vasodilation. This is when the blood vessels open up as the warming infrared wavelengths penetrate the soft tissue. Muscles start to relax and the body calms down. Breathing becomes slower and blood pressure may even drop slightly.
This is the parasympathetic nervous system kicking in enabling our body’s natural healing system to take over, reducing the amount of cortisol in the body.
2. Promotes natural healing
The key to the efficacy of infrared light therapy may be nitric oxide, a gas that is vital to the health of the body’s arteries. This potent cell signalling molecule has a variety of functions that help to alleviate stress including:
- Relaxing the arteries
- Battling free radicals to reduce oxidative stress
- Preventing platelets clumping
- Regulating blood pressure
- Enhancing blood circulation to deliver vital nutrients and oxygen
3. Sleep optimisation
We all know that stress can also negatively impact the quality of your sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you’ll also find it harder to function well during the day, which tends to add to your stress levels. It’s a vicious cycle.
If you’re chronically stressed and have trouble sleeping, you might have tried or heard about melatonin. It’s a naturally occurring hormone your body needs to regulate sleep. Infrared therapy has been clinically shown to increase your natural melatonin output which helps you not only get to sleep but also stay asleep for longer.
Scientifically proven, without harmful side effects
Infrared light therapy has been studied and tested across hundreds of peer reviewed articles with overwhelmingly positive results for stress relief and a whole host of other benefits, including skin health, physical performance and muscle recovery , sleep, pain relief and inflammation. And this is without drugs, chemicals, UV rays, invasive procedures which typically have harmful side effects.
Researchers have concluded this in study after study including this 2013 review by Harvard Medical School specifically stating its “noninvasive nature and almost complete absence of side effects” (Avci P, Gupta A, et al. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. Mar 2013)
Infrared therapy is also showing potential for improving depression, Seasonally Adjusted Depression (SAD) and mental health treatments after this groundbreaking study into near infrared light therapy for people with major depression symptoms (2018).