- 09 Dec, 2021
- Clearlight Infrared Saunas
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The Benefits of Infrared Saunas on Depression
Taking care of your mental health is a necessary factor in your overall well-being. If you or a loved one are facing depression, infrared sauna use might be a beneficial addition to your health routine in conjunction with advice and treatment from your doctor. Many studies have recently been conducted to test the effectiveness of whole-body hyperthermia, or the use of extreme heat, to assist in the treatment of depression. Read on to learn more about these recent studies and how they are paving the road toward more knowledge on the benefits of hyperthermia and infrared saunas on depression.
Studies on Saunas for Depression & Mental Health
Feasibility and Acceptability of a Whole-Body Hyperthermia (WBH) Protocol
A recent 2021 study has shown promising results with whole-body hyperthermia (WBH) as a non-pharmacologic treatment for major depressive disorder while using Clearlight Saunas Far Infrared heating technology in The Curve Far Infrared Sauna Dome. Where prior trials in similar studies have used medical infrared hyperthermia devices, this study studied to see if a commercial device without FDA-imposed limitations could produce the degree of core body temperature (101.3 °F) associated with reduced depressive symptoms in prior WBH studies.
The study assessed the amount of time needed to achieve this core body temperature and the changes (pre-post WBH) in self-reported mood and affect. Twenty-five healthy adults completed a single WBH session lasting up to 110 min in the Curve Sauna Dome. Core body temperatures were recorded during WBH as well as mood and affect at points before and after whole-body hyperthermia. Whole-body hyperthermia treatment ended after a participant maintained 101.3 °F for two consecutive minutes. The study shows the effectiveness of Clearlight Saunas Far Infrared Heating technology at raising core body temperature.
Results found that all participants achieved the target core body temperature (101.3 °F) within 82.12 minutes on average. In analyses of changes in mood and affect, the study found that participants noted reductions in self-reported depression symptoms from 1 week pre- to 1-week post-WBH, and reductions in self-reported negative affect before and after their whole-body hyperthermia session. This research shows that WBH protocol holds promise in further research on the benefits of commercially available infrared sauna devices and hyperthermia in major depressive disorder treatment.
Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder
A 2016 study conducted by psychiatry professor Charles Raison and his team aimed to explore the need to identify novel treatments for major depressive disorder. Prior to this study, a smaller study took place in which of 16 individuals with major depression, a single hyperthermia treatment reduced their depression scores almost by 50% five days later. The 2016 study was conducted to test whether whole-body hyperthermia has specific antidepressant effects when compared with a placebo condition and to evaluate the persistence of the antidepressant effects of a single treatment.
A 6-week, randomized, double-blind study took place comparing hyperthermia with a placebo condition. Participants were medically healthy, met criteria for major depressive disorder, were free of psychotropic medication use, and had a baseline 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score of 16 or greater. During the study, researchers compared a single session of active WBH to a placebo condition. The placebo condition matched all aspects of the whole-body hyperthermia condition except intense heat.
When compared with the placebo group, the active WBH group showed significantly reduced Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores across the 6-week post-intervention study period. A single session of hyperthermia produced a rapid and powerful antidepressant effect that was not observed in the placebo group. Additionally, the benefits of a single hyperthermia treatment persisted for six weeks, leading to the conclusion that whole-body hyperthermia holds promise as a safe, rapid-acting, and prolonged antidepressant effect.
A Hot Topic for Health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey
Researchers set out to determine the motivations and experiences of typical sauna users. An online 71-item questionnaire compiling information on the individual characteristics, sauna-related habits, and perceived health and wellness experiences of regular sauna bathers was conducted. The 2019 study incorporated a quality of life scoring tool to measure physical and mental indicators of well-being.
The study was made up of 482 respondents who sauna-bathed approximately 1–2 times per week. The key reasons indicated by respondents for sauna-bathing included relaxation/stress reduction, pain relief, and socializing. Nearly a third of respondents reported medical conditions. Of this group, those with back/musculoskeletal pain and mental issues cited the greatest improvements in their conditions with sauna use. Of all respondents, 83.5% reported improved sleep after sauna use. This study documents that sauna users are motivated to use saunas predominantly for relaxation, reporting health benefits especially around mental well-being and sleep
Analysis of well-being scores after grouping respondents into groups by sauna-bathing frequency revealed that sauna users who utilize a sauna 5–15 times monthly recorded comparatively higher mental well-being scores as compared to respondents who were sauna-bathing less frequently.
Benefits of Infrared Saunas on Mental Health
Mental health can be based on a number of factors, from chemical imbalances to chronic pain. Frequent sauna use can assist in reducing the symptoms of depression and other mental health issues. A short daily session in an infrared sauna can increase your exposure to heat therapy and help with:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Achieving better and deeper sleep
- Increasing heat shock protein production
- Improving mood
- Relieving pain
While medical treatment should be discussed with your doctor for clinically-diagnosed conditions, adding infrared sauna use to your regular routine can offer many health benefits that assist in symptom reduction and enhance medical therapies. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder or need to discuss your mental health, be sure to discuss with your doctor regarding next steps and proper treatments.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. The services are free and confidential.
Mason, Ashley E et al. “Feasibility and acceptability of a Whole-Body hyperthermia (WBH) protocol.” International Journal of Hyperthermia vol. 38,1 (2021): 1529-1535. DOI: 10.1080/02656736.2021.1991010
Janssen, Clemens W et al. “Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA psychiatry vol. 73,8 (2016): 789-795. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1031
Hussain, Joy N et al. “A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine vol. 44 (2019): 223-234. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.012