Back when we lived in San Francisco, and when I had ME/CFS, I would regularly visit a bathhouse in Japantown – that’s where I discovered sauna bathing and fell desperately in love with it.
On Wednesday mornings, I’d show up, shower, then spend the next several hours rotating between the dry sauna, the cold plunge, and the warm pool. Over and over, drinking tea and water between rotations. When my stomach started rumbling, I’d finish up, shower again, and then walk around the corner for sushi or udon.
I feel like the heat exposure helped me recover. I know it helped me sleep better on the days I did it.
I was hooked.
Fast forward to moving back to Australia: once we were both employed and living on Phillip Island, I started looking into getting a sauna for our home. We were renting at the time, so it didn’t feel right. Then we bought our current home, but we needed to spend money on some improvements, so I continued to wait.
Because heat exposure before bed was so good for my sleep, I was taking hot baths every night in our big, beautiful bathtub. We were mostly using tank water, but I still felt guilty about the water consumption.
But then! Earlier this year, the timing was right, and we ordered a 3-person infrared sauna. (Saunas are like tents: sure, you can fit 3 people in a 3 person sauna, but it’s comfortable for 2 people.)
Why infrared? I was skeptical, but in May 2022, we did a couple of sessions in the exact model we ended up ordering. I felt incredible afterwards, and I was convinced – especially after learning they use a lot less power than traditional saunas.
Infrared sauna enthusiasts will tell you that infrared is superior, that it does X, Y, and Z – the health claims can be pretty outrageous. In reality, most of these claims aren’t supported by science (yet). What science does tell us, though, is that heat exposure is very fucking good for us. And this sauna gets me the heat exposure I need.
I have moments where I feel guilty about buying this thing. It’s exceptionally luxurious to have this in your own home. But I keep reminding myself that daily sauna bathing is quite normal in many cultures – it’s often considered a health necessity. So I’m looking at this purchase as a health investment, not a luxury item. (Okay, fine, maybe it’s both.)
Since getting it, I’ve used it every day before bed. Sometimes I use it twice a day, if I have time. And I’ve never felt better. It’s ~30 minutes of respite from the outside world, I need less sleep medication, and I just feel fucking incredible.
I’m ridiculously blessed, and I feel healthier than I have in years. It’s not all because of the sauna – I’m eating well, moving more, and generally taking better care of myself – but it certainly helps.