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Use Light For Mood Enhancement This Winter: Infrared Sauna & Chromotherapy

The bleakness of winter can be a time for dormancy, germination, and reflection, but also for some individuals, the bleakness can over take their emotions to the point that little joy can be found. For some folks, a lack of exposure to sunlight can lead to clinical depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but for a lot of people, they may just feel a little down during the darker and colder winter days. 

The availability of sunlight on planet earth is largely what makes it possible for life to thrive in so many diverse ways, including human life. A deficit in exposure to sunlight can be detrimental for humans. The capacity to be fully operational can affect our ability to focus on tasks and overall mood. Sleep can also be affected negatively when faced with long periods of darkness. This means that for half the year, individuals living in more northern latitudes are faced with significantly shorter days and may face a myriad of mood and brain related challenges. 

Sunlight radiates the full spectrum of seen and unseen light wavelengths, which makes replicating sunlight in artificial devices very challenging. Many lights that are sold or used in the treatment of SAD are only using one or two wavelengths from what the sun naturally produces, which is why these devices may not always be fully effective in boosting winter mood. 

If you suffer from the winter blues consider using a full spectrum infrared sauna (a sauna that provides both near, mid, and far infrared light), combined with chromotherapy (visible color light), to help mitigate the effects of short days and long nights during the winter months.

Why Choose to use an Infrared Sauna for Mood Enhancement During the Winter Months Versus a Traditional Sauna?

While both traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas may be helpful in elevating mood during the winter months, if you are suffering from lack of sunlight exposure, then you may want to consider using an infrared sauna to get some of the sun’s wavelengths that you are missing out on. 

The infrared light spectrum naturally occurs in sunlight, and can be found at its greatest potency as the sun rises and sets. Infrared light, as it occurs naturally in the sun, is very important in garnishing a healthy circadian rhythm, as well as maintaining mitochondrial health. Infrared light does not tan or burn the skin, nor is it known to be detrimental to the eyes, in fact, there is enough data to suggest that infrared light is actually important for retinal health. (1)

By using an infrared sauna during the winter months you are giving yourself a ‘light bath’. Even though the infrared light wave frequency is invisible to the human eye, it is experienced as heat. So, while it may true that during the winter months it is more difficult to get adequate light exposure from the sun, if you have an infrared sauna available to you, you can reap the benefits of the infrared spectrum of light throughout the winter months, while simultaneously receiving the benefits of heat therapy as seen in the sauna. 

A publication from the National Library of Medicine entitled, Far infrared radiation (FIR): its biological effects and medical applications’, expands upon the health benefits of infrared saunas in this statement:

“All living organisms are subjected to the natural electromagnetic radiation reaching the earth from the sun. Living organisms experience the beneficial as well as adverse effects of it at all levels, starting from sub-cellular organelles and ending with the whole body. Thermal radiation (or infrared) is a band of energy in the complete electromagnetic spectrum and it has been used effectively for millennia to treat/ease certain maladies and discomforts. Heated saunas are only one of the avenues (and perhaps the oldest) to deliver the radiation in a controlled environment and within a convenient treatment time.” (2)

The same journal goes on to elaborate on the benefits that infrared light has on mitochondrial metabolism, and therefore, the possibility of altering cellular regeneration in a very positive way. If we consider taking an infrared sauna as the opportunity to bathe in the sun’s most healthful rays then we can also imagine that during the winter months when there is a lack of sun exposure that there may be the possibility of replicating the sun in an infrared sauna without any of the harmful effects from UV light, such as a sunburn. 

Understanding An Infrared Sauna As a Light Bath:

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FIR sauna. (A, B) Comparison of FIR sauna with conventional heated sauna. (C) Cabin incorporating FIR emitting “cold” unit(s) (2)

There is no doubt that there is nothing quite like the shining sun itself, but it is possible to isolate the most healthful bandwidth of the sun’s rays in an infrared sauna and therefore potentially improve winter mood. 

How Can Color Light Therapy Help Enhance Mood in the Winter Months?

Most saunas on the market today come with color light therapy in the ceiling. The color lights can certainly set a relaxing ambiance, but what you may not know is that the color light as found in many saunas is actually designed for your health. Each color light is contained naturally in the sun’s radiance. This means that if you are not receiving enough sunlight exposure during the winter months, then you are also not receiving enough color light exposure. 

Each color light has its very own unique wavelength which allows the human eye to perceive the photons as specific colors. Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D describes the color light spectrum well when she writes:

“The human eye sees color over wavelengths ranging roughly from 400 nanometers (violet) to 700 nanometers (red). Light from 400–700 nanometers (nm) is called visible light, or the visible spectrum because humans can see it. Light outside of this range may be visible to other organisms but cannot be perceived by the human eye.” (3)

Most individuals who are deficient in sunlight are not only missing the Ultra Violet (UV) light spectrum that occurs at shorter wavelengths than 400 Nanometers, but are also missing out on the benefits of exposure to the color light spectrum as well. Most devices used in the treatment of SAD do not include the color light spectrum. 

Color light is important not only for mood stability, but can also be used in wound healing, protein repair and much more as seen in Chromotherapy. 

Here is a basic breakdown of the wavelengths of color light as measured in nanometers:

  • Violet: 380–450 nm 
  • Blue: 450–495 nm
  • Green: 495–570 nm
  • Yellow: 570–590 nm
  • Orange: 590–620 nm
  • Red: 620–750 nm (3)

If you are looking to boost your mood during the winter months it will be important to also include exposure to color light as well as other light frequencies. 

The pineal gland has photoreceptors that pick up wavelengths from the color light spectrum that directly affect protein and hormone production that are responsible for the maintenance of mood stability. (4) During the winter months, if individuals are not getting enough sunlight, they will need to make sure that in order to regulate mood that they have access to the color light spectrum as often as possible(at least 3-7 days per week).

Many traditional saunas also come with color light therapy, so it is definitely worthwhile to turn your chromotherapy on and bask in the full color light spectrum during your sauna session even if you are not able to absorb the infrared light spectrum.

Even if you Cannot Sunbathe this Winter; then Consider an Infrared Sauna Bath Instead

When we consider sunlight exposure, we can forget the many spectrums of sun rays. By taking an infrared sauna it is possible to eliminate the potentially harmful effects of the sun, such as skin damage that is caused by UV light bandwidth, and just bask in the glow of color light and infrared light. The cabin structures of a full spectrum infrared sauna include wavelengths from 400 nanometers up to 1200 nanometers. Human bodies absorb light waves and by sitting in an enclosed structure that surrounds you in positive light frequency, both visible and invisible you are in effect giving your body and brain the light exposure it needs during the winter month. 

If you are suffering from non-clinical winter blues, consider taking an infrared sauna to help replicate the sun exposure that you are missing. If you are experiencing suicidal ideation or extreme depression in mood, get help immediately. Infrared saunas are not a substitute for medical attention. 

If you are looking to get some of the sun rays in the darkest days of winter without harming your eyes or skin, consider an infrared sauna several times a week!

If you have suicidal ideation you can get help by dialing 988 in Canada or the USA:

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline ( is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress It provides Spanish-speaking counselors, as well as options for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It is only available in the United States. A 24-hour online chat service is also available. 
  • The Canadian 988 is the suicide crisis helpline. It can be reached 24/7 by call or text in both English or French. 

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