We’ve had weighted blankets and earthing sheets for relaxation and to give us better sleep. Now the hottest bit of bed-related wellness paraphernalia to arrive is the infrared sauna blanket. This sweaty ‘sleeping bag’ claims to bring all the benefits of an infrared sauna session without the schlep to a gym or sauna studio. You can do it in the comfort of your home, away from other sweaty bodies and without the drama of communal sauna etiquette.
At a time when many of us are still cautious about going into communal spaces, it could be the perfect way to get your health fix. Mihigh, who launched an infrared sauna blanket in the UK in 2020, say they were overwhelmed by demand and sold 'thousands' during lockdown As the name suggests, it's meant to release happy hormones (my high, geddit?). I've had mine for a year now and it has really come into its own to warm up my muscles before yoga and to soothe the whole body aches I experienced after my Covid vaccines . My husband uses it when his lower back pain is bad or when he has come in from a cold water swimming session.
Infrared saunas have garnered many celebrity fans from Meghan Markle to Lady Gaga, who says it helps with chronic pain of fibromyalgia as well as Jennifer Aniston, Miranda Kerr and Paris Hilton. Elle Macpherson wrote for Get The Gloss about her love of her portable Therasage sauna , shaped like a pop-up tent, in which she marinates in healing waves, with her head poking out.
Makeup artist and wellness coach Bobbi Brown recently enthused that her Sunlighten Infra-Red Sauna pod, helps her with relaxation and inflammation. "It's great for building collagen…. It even burns calories," she enthuses. There are oft-cited claims that a single session can burn up to 600 calories, based on 1981 research published in the (pre-internet) Journal of the American Medical Association. More recent research conducted by Binghamton University found that on average, participants who spent a 45-minute session in an infrared sauna three times a week lost four per cent body fat in 16 weeks.
Bobbi says she loves her IR sauna so much that she has "one in my home in New Jersey and I have one in my beach home in the Hamptons".
For those of us without a spare house in The Hamptons or even a spare cupboard, the infrared sauna blanket is a solution for the space-starved. There are a number of infrared blankets out there, and you can spend anything from £100 to £600. The V3 from Higherdose (a trendy East Village sauna studio) is now on sale at Cult Beauty for £469 (compared to the Mihigh at £399) and for fans of crystals and rituals, it's embedded with layers of amethyst, tourmaline and charcoal and comes also in a pretty purple colour.
Infrared heat penetrates deeper than conventional sauna heat, reaching right into the muscles and the fat. It’s claimed that this depth is what helps it draw up toxins stored in fat more effectively. I’ve heard it said that IR sweat is more 'waxy' than conventional sweat, but I’ve yet to notice any Tussaud’s vibes myself. Whichever way you get your heat, it’s most certainly a fast track to mindfulness. You can’t help but relax and focus; it puts you into the concentration space much more easily by making you more aware of your body.
What are the benefits of infrared sauna blankets?
My Mihigh bag came with a long list of ‘ potential benefits ’: promoting blood flow and sleep, boosting collagen, burning calories, releasing toxins, rejuvenating the skin, stimulating happy chemicals and reducing inflammation. But can it? I checked in with our GP columnist Dr Johanna Ward, who I knew had a Sunlighten infrared sauna at home. She'd mentioned to me that it has been a game-changer in her recovery from a serious heart condition last year.
“I am a big fan of infrared technology" she confirms. “I use it to support detoxification cardiovascular health and immune health in my patients.” What does she think of an infrared sauna blanket? I send her the spec for the Mihigh. “It sounds great, I can’t wait to try it, it gives us a new and exciting way to conveniently deliver the benefits of infrared technology.”
What about its 600 calorie-burn in 30 minutes claim? As this is based on the 1981 study for weight loss in saunas, it's impossible to say whether a 'boil in the bag' session would do the same. Mihigh tells me that the strength and 'far infrared' technology of the bag is exactly the same as an IR sauna. Dr Jo believes the calorie burn figure is probably more like 300 and explains that weight loss happens because your body temperature is raised. Still, pretty impressive for a lie-down.
Weight loss aside, there are wellness benefits of infrared saunas too. “They are also an effective form of stress relief and have been proven to reduce circulating cortisol, the stress hormone,” says Dr Jo. "After a long day, I look forward to nothing more than getting into my infrared sauna, closing my eyes, and doing some meditation. It helps to know that I am also sweating out the day's toxins.”