Thanks to celebrity fans like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Anniston, infrared saunas have become one of the hottest wellness accessories in recent years.
The Instagrammable wooden saunas, which get cranked up to around 60 degrees celsius, come with a laundry list of benefits, but there’s just one problem: you can only access them at swanky urban spas, or if you have the money and space to install one in your home.
So, it makes sense that someone would create a compact ‘infrared blanket’, which claims to deliver the supposed cure-alls of the four-walled sauna, but at a much more wallet-friendly price.
What is an infrared blanket?
Essentially, it’s a large sleeping bag-style blanket that utilises the same technology as infrared saunas, which – unlike traditional saunas – use infrared lamps to warm your body directly, rather than heating the air around you.
Instead of sweating it out in a wooden box, the blanket versions have velcro fastenings down the front that help to trap in the heat and create the same cocoon-like feeling of being in a sauna, from the shoulders down.
Infrared blankets are built with layers of infrared heating and waterproof PVC, so you can fold it out anywhere, such as a hotel bed or a sofa, and not worry about making a mess while you sweat out the day’s stresses.
What are the benefits?
Infrared sauna manufacturers say the products have a host of medical benefits, including reducing inflammation, clearing skin issues, improving digestion and aiding weight loss (some claim you can burn up to 600 calories in 30 minutes). Fans of the trend on Instagram also suggest they can also reduce stress and anxiety too.
As with most things on the internet though, it’s important to do your own research, as currently, there’s little peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that infrared sauna blankets can deliver these impressive results.
That said, there is some encouraging research on the benefits of infrared saunas in general. One review by Clinical Cardiology suggests regular use can improve heart function in the short-term, while a couple of smaller studies believe infrared saunas may help with chronic pain and post-workout recovery.
How easy is it to use?
It’s fairly simple to get to grips with. I tried out the MiHIGH Infrared Sauna Blanket (£399, mihigh.co.uk) which you can simply unfold and plug into the wall, straight out of the box. I set it up on my bed, leaving it to pre-heat for around 10 minutes, before climbing inside.
Unlike a typical sauna, you need to get into the infrared blanket fully clothed. MiHIGH suggest wearing long-sleeve cotton gym clothes and socks that you don’t mind getting really sweaty, as you will sweat a lot during a 30-minute session.
It’s really important to fully hydrate beforehand too, and it’s useful to have a bottle of water on hand during your sauna session. I also put a towel down at the top of the bed to soak up any sweat from my head and neck.
The blanket can heat up to 80 degrees, but I recommend starting at 60, which MiHIGH say is a good temperature for easing yourself in. Reassuringly, it has a handheld remote with a choice of six heat settings, so you can control the temperature while inside.
So, how does if feel? Well, surprisingly a lot like a sauna. The blanket delivers that same ‘wall of heat’ feeling, but I’m surprised to find that I actually prefer the at-home version; it’s slightly less claustrophobic, as my face is free to enjoy the cool air.
The heat is really soothing on the body, whether you suffer from back pain or not, and it’s a great tool for melting away the aches and strains of working from home.
Another benefit is that because I’m in the comfort of my own bedroom, I can pop on an audiobook or an episode on Netflix while I relax, which is helpful for me, as I can often get a bit bored and restless in spas.
One thing you also might be wondering is how on earth do you clean it after use? Actually, it’s surprisingly easy; because the blanket can be opened flat, you can quickly wipe down the interior with a cloth and some antibacterial spray after use, much like you would a yoga mat.
Once it’s dry, it can easily be folded up and stored away in a cupboard.
Does it actually work?
Although the heat can get quite uncomfortable at times, and it’s a bit of a faff to have to deal with sweat-soaked clothing afterwards, I feel amazing after my 30-minute sauna session. I’m energised, my shoulder tension has melted away and ready to take on the day.
Infrared sauna blankets might not be for everyone, as let’s face it, it’s a hefty price investment to make. However, if you’re a wellness devotee that’s missing your usual spa trips, it could be a practical gift to spoil yourself with.