t’s chilly and we need something to warm the old cockles.
Perhaps yours is a large whisky on the rocks? A night by the fire watching Disney movies? Mine? It’s a good sweat sesh in a sauna or hot yoga class – but with Covid restrictions in place, booking a spot is more complicated than it once was.
The A-set’s answer? They’ve been building their own, of course. Luxury sauna brand Sunlighten which builds home and portable infrared saunas worth several thousands of pounds for the likes of Paris Hilton, reported a 50 per cent surge in interest in lockdown 1.0. The next best thing for us mere mortals? An infrared sauna blanket, which retails at a *slightly* more attainable price-point, could be the answer and, spurred along by ongoing lockdowns which have interrupted our spa time, they’re suddenly everywhere this winter.
A quick recap, in case you missed the buzz. Infrared saunas have featured in the daily wellness rituals of the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle Macpherson, Lady Gaga and the Kardashians for some time now. Unlike traditional saunas which heat the air around you, they use infrared rays to penetrate the body and raise your core temperature. Because of this, they can work their magic at lower (more bearable) temperatures compared to regular saunas – think 40C to 70C versus a stifling 100C – so you can typically spend longer lolling around in them.
Big claims are made about the benefits of infrared saunas, and not all of them are backed up by science. But hopping in one for around 30 minutes will raise your heart rate in a similar way that a light workout would, it’ll boost blood flow to the skin, may promote better circulation and you’ll burn some calories while you’re at it. A 2016 review of studies on the benefits of infrared saunas found moderate evidence to suggest using them may help to normalise blood pressure, and can be used to treat congestive heart failure and chronic pain.
But more importantly, most find sweating it out in a sauna just seriously relaxing, and say they feel calmer and sleep better afterwards, too.
So after this annus horribilis, I decided to put the MiHIGH Infrared Sauna Blanket (£399) to the test to see if it can bring me some end of year zen.
OK, so it doesn’t look or feel quite like being in your own private sauna room. First of all you’re fully clothed while in the blanket, which is a bit weird when the point is to sweat it all out – the company recommends you wear loose trousers, socks and a long sleeved top as it can get quite hot in there and it helps absorb the sweat. You roll out the blanket on either the floor or the bed, propping your head up with a pile of cushions and leave the blanket to heat up for 10 minutes before hopping in.
There are a choice of settings from 1 to 6, MiHIGH recommends starting at 50-60 degrees, and over a few sessions, building up to 75 degrees, but I acclimatised pretty quickly to the top level, by 20 minutes of this heat you’re really sweating. The blanket, which is made of PU leather does unfortunately feel a bit synthetic but one benefit it does have over a sauna room is the way that it makes you feel lovely and cocooned, with the blanket wrapped tightly but comfortably around you, you quickly feel the heat in your back and shoulders for example, and WFH aches and pains melt away fast – my boyfriend who suffers from back pain has been using the blanket for this very reason and finds some relief.
The company recommends you stay in the blanket for between 30 minutes and an hour, the ideal amount of time to commit to listening to that podcast or watching Netflix just before bed, because the ritual is seriously slumber-inducing, bones warmed – you just slide into sleep after a session.
In terms of value for money, at £399, the MiHIGH Infrared Sauna Blanket is a hefty investment, so you would have to be heavily into saunas to take the plunge – it works out equivalent to between around eight and 10 infrared saunas at a salon, but it’s a less glamorous affair.
I wasn’t sure if this gadget might start gathering dust in a corner of my living room but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve been using it. After a stressful day and long commute I’ve found myself looking forward to getting home just so I can jump in and zen out.