Understanding the complexities of how radiation works can be tricky. Infrared saunas seem to work similarly to a microwave, but do they actually use microwaves?
Infrared saunas use a form of electromagnetic radiation called infrared waves, which are different from microwaves. Infrared light causes the bonds between molecules to vibrate and release energy, which is felt as heat. This type of sauna uses infrared heating panels to heat your body’s core first, making it much more efficient.
Continue reading to learn the key differences regarding how microwaves and infrared light create heat. Additionally, we’ll talk about how an infrared sauna is heated and some potential benefits for your body!
How microwaves create heat
They’re quick and efficient, but how do the microwaves of your microwave really work?
Microwaves essentially use the transfer of energy (or a form of electromagnetic radiation) to create heat. In the simplest of terms, when the microwaves hit an object, the molecules of that object begin to rotate rapidly. Thus, energy is absorbed, and heat is created.
All electromagnetic radiation works by transferring energy from one point to another, but not all kinds are created equal. The specific wavelength or frequency of this energy determines what kind of radiation it is.
Microwaves, specifically, are useful because they vibrate at a high enough frequency to be effective at heating up food at around 10-100 billion times per second!
In fact, microwaves have several uses besides cooking, including communication and radar.
How infrared light creates heat
What about infrared light?
Infrared radiation, or infrared light, is another form of electromagnetic radiation. This type of radiation causes the bonds between molecules to vibrate and release energy, which is felt as heat. IR is able to penetrate the air, and when it comes into contact with a surface, heat is released regardless of the ambient temperature.
Infrared light has wavelengths longer than visible red light and ranges from about 780 nanometers to 1 millimeter. Humans can’t see infrared waves, but we can feel them.
Some of the common applications that use infrared radiation today are heat-sensitive thermal imaging cameras and infrared saunas.
How is an infrared sauna heated?
Infrared heat therapy is a form of energy production that uses narrow, focused beams of far-infrared or near-infrared light to generate deep heating.
An infrared sauna is heated using infrared panels (that use electromagnetic radiation in the form of IR light) to raise your core temperature from the inside out. This type of radiation is able to penetrate the tissues in your body deeply and efficiently.
What’s so fascinating about infrared saunas is that they’re able to operate at much lower temperatures (around 125˚F) than other saunas. The beauty in this is that the atmosphere is more tolerable, enabling you to stay inside the sauna comfortably for longer.
Furthermore, infrared radiation falls in the middle spectrum between microwaves and ultraviolet radiation, making it perfect for daily use without having to worry about the side effects of the latter two.
Is infrared light the same as microwaves?
Infrared light is not the same as microwaves.
Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation that operate at a much lower frequency than infrared light. They have a certain frequency range, whereas infrared radiation contains a wider spectrum. Infrared rays are also less consistent, in contrast to microwave radiation, which is much more limited.
Truth be told, microwaves have been classified as potentially carcinogenic by the World Health Organization’s IARC Group since they may produce changes in DNA that could lead to cancer. In contrast, infrared has not been classified in this group because it does not release enough energy to cause mutagenic or genotoxic damage in cells, which could eventually progress to cancer.
There are definitely some major differences between microwaves and infrared radiation, so it’s important to be aware of the risks and benefits associated with each before exposing yourself.
Infrared vs. microwave wavelength
Their wavelengths also differ.
Infrared waves have a slightly shorter wavelength than microwaves and operate at a higher frequency. These different wavelengths have different effects when it comes to heating objects and impacting biological tissue.
Infrared light is in the middle of the spectrum, which means that it’s mainly able to penetrate straight through materials. Microwaves, on the other hand, are closer to the long end of the spectrum and can penetrate materials but also bounce off them as light does.
This is useful for cooking, but not so much for heating the body since they’re only able to stimulate the surface of our skin.
What about near vs. far-infrared light?
Infrared light can be classified as far or near, but what’s the difference?
Near-infrared light is similar in wavelength to visible light, while far-infrared light more closely resembles microwaves, given its location on the electromagnetic spectrum. Near-infrared sauna panels combine light and heat therapy and are most effective at tissue penetration.
Far-infrared saunas mostly just emit light and are less effective at passing through our epidermis.
In terms of effectiveness, near-infrared light tends to help with wound healing and pain relief. Still, far-infrared heating is quite impactful at detoxifying our body, boosting immunity, and strengthening the cardiovascular system.
Additionally, it’s important to note that far-infrared saunas sometimes emit harmful levels of EMFs, which can be dangerous to our cells.
Is infrared more harmful than microwaves?
Generally speaking, radiation with a higher frequency is more damaging.
Infrared radiation can be more harmful due to its shorter wavelength. The lightwaves that infrared saunas use are a bit stronger than microwaves and, in excess, have more potential to cause damage to your cells.
However, some argue that because our bodies are more adapted to infrared light (i.e., from daily sun exposure), microwaves can cause more harm with less exposure. This is why microwaves are classified as possible carcinogens, as we mentioned above.
Overall, it’s best to use both in moderation.
Potential benefits of infrared heat and light therapy
Now that we know how infrared rays work, what are the benefits of this type of heat therapy?
The benefits of infrared heat in particular include:
- Increased circulation – When you increase blood flow, your body is better able to remove toxins and other waste products from your cells.
- Reduced inflammation – The increased circulation can help reduce inflammation, improve join function, and boost your overall energy levels.
- Pain relief – Infrared heat therapy is also effective at relieving pain. Whether you suffer from chronic pain or occasional aches, infrared saunas can help soothe muscular discomfort and reduce post-workout, next-day soreness.
- Detoxification – When you’re in an infrared sauna, your core temperature will increase, which causes your body to sweat out impurities like lactic acid.
- Improved sleep – Visiting an infrared sauna does wonders for your restfulness. Infrared light helps to regulate circadian rhythm and improve overall sleep quality.
To wrap things up, infrared saunas don’t use microwaves but rather infrared light panels to heat your body from the inside out.
Key defining qualities are that microwaves have a longer wavelength and are less effective at passing through our skin. Infrared light has a shorter wavelength, is more effective at passing through our skin, and can be more harmful in excess.
Consult your doctor before using an infrared sauna if you have underlying medical conditions!