How To Choose A Full Spectrum Sauna

Full spectrum sauna.  Quite the buzz word these days.  It would seem most companies are trying to get in on this craze.  We thought it might be helpful to delve into what a full spectrum sauna actually is, and to explain some of the pros and cons of various models and types.

Full Spectrum Light

First, let’s define what we mean by full spectrum infrared light.

Infrared light is divided into 3 types based on their wavelengths.

The different types of infrareds are defined by their wavelengths which is measured in nanometres (nm). 

The other wavelength of light that is usually included in a full spectrum sauna is visible red light. It ranges from about 635nm to 700nm.

So, we are talking about four different types of light when it comes to a full spectrum sauna.

There are few key differences of importance when it comes to infrared light that should be pointed out.


For light to be absorbed there must be a photoacceptor.  With red light this is obviously the eye. 

Infrared light is different.  It’s invisible to the eye. 

Near infrared (and some red) is absorbed by an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria.  This process is called photobiomodulation.  Briefly it has the benefit of increasing ATP, decreasing inflammation, modulating pain as well as gene expression.

Mid and Far infrared are absorbed by water.  This is not considered photobiomodulation.  Both mid and far have their own set of benefits.

Full Spectrum Sauna Definition

This is not as clear as you might think at first.  It can be defined in two different ways.

To understand this, you need to remember that the infrared light has a RANGE.  There isn’t a single wavelength, it’s a full range of light wavelengths.  For example, near infrared light has a range of 700nm up to 1400nm.

The first definition would be that you get ALL the wavelengths.  Every single one.  The way the sun and nature intended.  You can see that in the following diagram illustrating how TheraBulb incandescent lamps have the full range of wavelengths.  There are peaks and lows but all the wavelengths are present.

The second way is that you have at least a single wavelength in all the different types of infrared light.  This could mean that you may only have one red light wavelength which is commonly 680nm and one near infrared wavelength which is commonly 850nm.  This is what far infrared saunas will do. They put a LED panel in their units that typically have a red light at the single frequency of 680nm and a near infrared light at 850nm. 

Both can probably be legitimately called full spectrum saunas. It just depends how you twist the definition.

Both will have benefits for sure. But they are very different.

Here is where my opinion will come in.  Clearly this is up for debate, but this is what I feel to be most accurate.

Make Your Choice

When it comes to choosing a full spectrum sauna which benefits are of more importance to you?  The photobiomodulation (red light and near infrared light) or the heating benefits (mid and far infrared)

The heating benefit debate is easy to solve.  Hands down the far infrared sauna will be better here.  This is not to say the near infrared saunas won’t work.  It just means that there is more of the heating wavelengths in the far infrared saunas and it’s EASIER to get a sweat up in the far infrared saunas.

If you are looking for the photobiomodulation benefits it’s clear a near infrared sauna like this portable near infrared sauna is the better choice.  More range of wavelengths, less EMF’s, more coverage, much smaller, and much cheaper to purchase.

The interesting “grey” area is if you want BOTH.   And why wouldn’t you want both if you could?

This is where it will come down to personal choice, based on several variables.  Two of the biggest will be cost and space.  Got the cash and space……then consider the far infrared full spectrum sauna.

The third variable is how to get the best photobiomodulation.  To me this is the most important variable as all saunas will provide enough heat to get the sauna benefits.

Where the near infrared sauna “shines” is that produces more of the full spectrum benefits in that it far closer mimics what nature has intended.  Morning saunas mimic sunrise. Evening saunas mimic sunset. This helps to set your circadian clock. The evening sauna will also mimic firelight which is how it could be argued humans have evolved. 

So, when it comes to a full spectrum sauna you can see how it can be difficult to determine what to purchase.  There are pros and cons to both a near infrared sauna like the portable near infrared sauna that uses TheraBulbs and to a far infrared sauna that adds in a red and near infrared LED panel.

Your choice. They all work.  You just need to factor in what you want, what space you have and how much you want to spend.