I know a thing or two about saunas.
If I could only keep one habit I’ve adopted from the sources I’ve studied, the sauna would be it - in this blog post, I explain why.
As you probably know, we've extensively talked about the topic of infrared saunas on this website. Examples of articles are:
So I, Aedon, was kind of surprised to come across the HigherDOSE infrared sauna blanket pictured above.
Simple: the $500 product offers the in-home infrared sauna experience for people who cannot afford a full infrared sauna in their homes or don't have space for it.
So in this blog post I've decided to review the HigherDOSE infrared sauna blanket
But let's first do a recap on why infrared saunas can be hugely beneficial to your health:
Most people think about saunas as a way to aid detox by sweating.
This leads some skeptics to question the value of sauna use as they point out that the liver and kidneys are there to detoxify. But there is most certainly evidence that saunas can aid in detoxification.
One study, for instance, found that: (1)
“for many toxic elements, including cadmium, lead, and aluminum, excretion in sweat far exceeds that in urine.”
They conclude that some people:
“who by the nature of their occupations are exposed to toxic elements, may be advised to regularly undertake induced sweating.”
But what about regular people, who are not exposed to abnormally high levels of toxic elements? Do these people benefit from sweating? Let's find out:
"Bisphenol A" or "BPA" is a component of plastics that may:
“impair neuronal activity, HPG axis function, reproduction, and fertility” (2).
The harmful effects of plastic can’t be avoided by purchasing “BPA-free” plastics, either. Most “BPA-free” plastics merely replace it with related compounds that also
“exhibit endocrine-disrupting effects, cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, dioxin-like effects, and neurotoxicity” (3).
And guess what? BPA leaves the body in significant amounts through sweat (4). But there's more:
Then there's aluminum...
Sauna exposure has been proven to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s (8).
Could the mechanism of this result be that more aluminum is removed from the body before it can contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s? It’s entirely possible.
So, yes, detoxification through sweat is a very likely benefit of regular sauna use. But the benefits of the sauna go SO much deeper even than this:
Sauna use lowers the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s as previously mentioned.
But it’s even been shown to reduce the likelihood of death from all causes—in a dose-dependent manner. That means every extra bit of time you spend in the sauna reduces your likelihood of dying further—with almost no apparent ceiling where these benefits slow down.
You get similar benefits from the sauna as from cardio, since the sauna increases endurance and red blood cell count. But you gain muscle from it too—just by sitting there. That’s because sauna use leads to a significant increase in growth hormone. Growth hormone triggers synthesis of IGF-1, which inhibits muscle breakdown and increases protein synthesis.
So all those benefits that sounded too good to be true have scientific backing after all!
Hence, let's move to my experience with infrared saunas:
With infrared sauna use, I find I’m quite simply more sensitive to pleasure in general.
I’m actually able to enjoy running, something I always hated before. I really do notice the runner’s high kick in much faster and harder than it would before.
What’s going on here?
Well, endorphins actually play a direct role in regulation of body temperature. Specifically, endorphins warm you up, while a less known compound called dynorphin counteracts the effects of endorphins and cools you down.
Heat stress triggers the release of dynorphin, which helps to cool you off but also causes dysphoria—something like the opposite of a runner’s high. But this discomfort causes the body to compensate by turning up endorphin receptors and making them more sensitive.
This particular effect is something I’m absolutely convinced I can feel.
So how do you ensure you get all these benefits? Get your sauna smokin' hot:
Most of the studies showing benefits to sauna use have looked at traditional saunas in places like Finland, which are typically heated between 160-190 Fahrenheit (~70-90 C).
Infrared saunas generate heat usually by utilizing the far-infrared spectrum, which is how sunlight delivers heat to your body.
There haven’t been many studies directly comparing traditional saunas with infrared “saunas.” There are studies proving that infrared saunas deliver similar benefits.
But I’m personally skeptical that infrared delivers the same magnitude of benefits in the same time frame, given they use much lower temperatures. If I can stick in an infrared sauna for much longer, this suggests to me it isn’t providing the same level of stress for my body to adapt to.
My philosophy on sauna use is that the hotter the temperatures you can stand, and the longer you can stand it, the better. Later on, you'll learn whether the HigherDOSE blanket I reviewed passed this litmus test.
Then there's also the factor of costs. Saunas are expensive for most people which limits them from using them as frequently as they should:
The easiest way for most people in the United States to access a sauna is by signing up with a gym that has one. However, not everyone lives close enough to one to make this practical.
Gym memberships also average around ~$500 for a year, at which point you’ve got nothing left to show for the money you’ve invested except (hopefully) your gains. For the cost of a year or two of gym membership, you can get a great starter home gym setup that can last decades, and might make it easier to stick to a routine.
The next option is to install a full sauna in your home.
The expected cost for a basic model is about $3,000. You can whittle this down to $2,000 with a lot of DIY materials and work. To get maximum temperatures, you’ll need to have 220V power wired in. Then if you move or travel, you can’t carry it with you. And you might deal with extensive costs for maintenance and repairs down the road.
This is where infrared sauna blankets come in:
So, overall, the ideal in-home infrared are:
Does the HigherDOSE sauna blanket stack up to these criteria? Let's find out:
Does the HigherDOSE far infrared sauna blanket perform well enough to make these perks worth it?
I just need one word:
At my local sauna (which has been shut down since COVID), I normally do two 20-30 minute sessions back-to-back with a cold shower in between. The thermostat readings claim my sauna is at 190F. I push as long as I can take it, and only tap out when I really can’t last another minute. It’s rare I can go over 30 minutes at a time at this temperature.
When I go to larger saunas that aren’t heated as efficiently, however, or set as hot, I can last up to an hour. I expected the HigherDose sauna blanket experience to be similar to this—quite hot, but not enough to make me tap out before boredom pulls me out.
Rest assured, the HigherDose sauna blanket does make me tap out in a similar time frame. How?
The HigherDOSE blanket works just as well as a traditional high-heat sauna!
I’ve yet to last more than half an hour at the highest setting... with everything secured right.
My heart keeps pounding for a while after a session of that length. And it takes me a few minutes to recover before I can move around without feeling dizzy (after which I get a huge endorphin rush).
Those results are likely due to some of the sauna’s benefits derive from the cardiovascular stress as a response to heat, so this is a good sign. I’m sure I could cut the time or intensity and still get benefits.
If you're a more typical user who doesn't require extreme heat then I can imagine putting the HigherDOSE at a lower setting for a shorter session giving wonderful results. Shorter and cooler sessions are also an excellent way for someone to work their way up to handling more extreme temperatures.
I was very surprised to notice my face and head started sweating despite being left out of the blanket in a cool room with a fan.
I do need to finagle around to make it so I can reach a hot enough temperature, though. As a 6’3” user, my shoulders and upper chest sit outside of the blanket if I slide in with my legs straight. The bottom closes with three layers of velcro. I need to be careful about closing these tightly so there aren’t any drafts.
After some time I’ve figured out how to work my whole body down inside the blanket (including my head):
Once securing the velcro all the way around very tight, and throwing a blanket over the corners at the bottom where it’s hard to prevent small drafts, I stand up at the top and work my way in. I turn sideways, push my back against the left side of the blanket, and pull my knees up until I’m in. Then I cover the opening with a towel or pillow while leaving a small hole for air. Then I’m good to go. It’s 100% worth the effort.
The booklet that comes with the blanket instructs users not to get in without being fully covered in clothes, including long sleeves and socks.
I’m not finding bare skin contact with the blanket, even at the highest temperature, to be an issue. But you do have to be careful: if I rest my feet in one spot, and the top and bottom of the blanket in a nearby spot fall down to rest on each other, those parts of the blanket get extra hot and will be slightly painful to touch if I slide my foot there.
Without digging after the product specs before using it, the term “blanket” threw me off. The material is apparently “waterproof polyurethane fireproof cotton” (as per this page).
You never make contact with cotton on the inside or outside of the blanket, but when I rub the two sides together I can feel that a soft layer is on the inside of the blanket. The surface feels similar to the pleather covering the surface of most car seats. This is one reason you might want to wear clothes or put a towel down to lay on inside of it anyway: if used in a cold room, it may feel cold to the touch before it heats up.
One other aspect of a sauna blanket is that you have to pay more attention to cleaning out the sweat. This is mostly taken care of in a gym or home sauna, but with a blanket you’ll be left with puddles that you need to use towels to soak up each time. You’ll also want to use some kind of cleaner after each use.
So the frequent cleaning of the blanket is one small downside to this type of product. And yet, the cleaning process probably takes way less time than traveling to the gym, exchanging clothes there, going for a sauna session, and driving back home!
So all in all, the need to clean sauna blankets is only a minor downside.
Also, check this picture below of me under a HigerDOSE blanket sweating:
Lastly, let's compare regular saunas, both based upon hot air and infrared rays, to the HigherDOSE sauna blanket:
All three options, 1) buying a sauna blanket such as HigherDOSE; 2) going to the gym for a sauna; 3) buying a high-quality home sauna, all come with their benefits and downsides.
Let's compare these three options:
The gym allows you to make a social event out of your trips to the sauna.
In addition to packing everyone into a confined space (where you risk damaging your phone if you decide to use it, and will certainly damage the battery life), the endorphin rush from the sauna tends to get the social ball rolling when it otherwise wouldn’t. I’ve personally never had conversations with strangers as engaging as the ones I routinely have in the sauna. This makes it much easier to keep up the routine and last through a session.
A gym sauna will be set at a single temperature at all times. You won’t have to wait for it to warm up, but you also have no control over where the temperature is set. It may be either too hot for you, or not hot enough. Most gyms keep them near the legal limit of ~190F, which for me is a plus.
A home sauna, at $2-3k entry point, has the potential to save you money if it saves you 4-6 years of an average gym membership. You have control over the temperature at all times, but you’ll have to wait on it to heat up when you’re ready to go in for a session. Sometimes this can take a while—in my experience, maybe half an hour.
With a home sauna, you may have to deal with repairs, and it will be a hassle to carry with you if you move, and you can’t take it on trips. You might see a rise in your power bill. It’s possible to exercise, or do stretches or yoga, and drink water while inside. This is extremely convenient.
A premium sauna blanket ($500) comes at 16-25% of the price of a home sauna. This can start saving you money on gym membership in as much as a single year.
And though these blankets won’t quite reach the maximum temperatures that have been proven to be beneficial in sauna research, you can get surprisingly close. You have control over the temperature if you want a more or less hot session.
Sauna blankets - specifically the HigherDOSE - should reach its target temperature in roughly half the time a home sauna normally would (~10-15 min). Sauna blankets are not as comfortable as a full-size sauna though, and you can’t exercise or stretch while inside.
If you squeeze in all the way like I do, it’s not easy to drink water while inside, so you need to hydrate beforehand.
There won’t be a drastic change to your power bill, and you can very easily take it with you on trips or if you move. It takes up virtually no space and can be used on your bed and then tucked away underneath it afterward (after drying and cleaning it).
So the less space that's needed is a huge advantage to the HigherDOSE blanket.
My final thoughts on this product?
Sauna blankets offer an incredible bang for the buck. I’ll return to gym saunas in the future when they open back up, as I miss being able to socialize there and drink tons of water during the session. But when that isn’t an option, sauna blankets hands down beat the cost and hassle of a home sauna for me.
For many people on this planet though, the easily-storable $500 sauna blanket can be a total game-changer.
Just imagine that you're a student on a budget living in a tiny flat: one sauna blanket could give you unlimited sessions during your entire college days if there's no space or money for a home sauna.
Alternatively, let's say you're traveling a lot. In that case, you might want a stable option to use an infrared sauna frequently - HigherDOSE is your solution in that case.
Then there are many people living in tiny apartments and homes on this planet: these people will also benefit immensely from a blanket they can just put under their bed!
So it's very easy to imagine why someone might commit to a blanket like the HigherDOSE!
And one more thing:
I'm certainly excited after this review to consider a few other blankets as well - so stay tuned!
This blog post was written by Aedhán Castiel. Aedhán is a contributing writer for Alexfergus.com and is passionate about researching and testing innovative resources and sharing what he discovers to give you an edge in your pursuit of optimal functioning.
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