Cognitive and Mental Health Benefits

Cognitive and Mental Health Benefits

by Jenna Greenfield MD

The benefits of far infrared saunas on brain cell health and mental health have been studied with exciting results. Not only has sauna use been shown to improve mood, but it has been shown to be associated with a significantly lower incidence of dementia.   Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder, and is seen in 33% of people over the age of 85 (1).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Alzheimer’s disease is now the third leading cause of mortality in high income countries including the United States (2).  A large long term study found that the frequency of sauna use is inversely related to the incidence of dementia, as much as a 66% lower incidence (3)!

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Spinocerebellar Ataxia.  The hallmark of these diseases is an accumulation of misfolded, or abnormally shaped, proteins, which form aggregates in nerve cells and are toxic to the cells.  There is an underlying genetic component to most of these diseases, but they are brought on earlier and progress faster with increasing oxidative damage, the same cause of aging and decline in cellular health in all types cells (4).  Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases have also been linked to certain pesticides (5).  Not only has far infrared been proven to reduce oxidative damage, but far infrared also has been shown to have benefits specific to neurodegenerative diseases.  In a mouse model of spinocerebellar ataxia, far infrared was shown to decrease protein accumulation and restore normal cell viability in diseased cells (6).

Heat Shock Proteins

A theory to explain this exciting benefit of far infrared is that far infrared is known to activate heat shock proteins (7).  Heat shock proteins are a family of proteins that are activated in our cells in response to mild hyperthermia. They protect cells by repairing damaged and mis-folded proteins, and helping to clear aggregates of damaged proteins from the cells.  There is exciting research on heat shock proteins as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Studies in cells and in animals have shown that increasing heat shock proteins in the brain decreases the abnormal protein aggregates, and increases brain cell health and longevity (8,9). 

Peripheral Nerve Growth

Far infrared therapy has also been shown to promote peripheral nerve growth and health.  Damaged nerves treated with far infrared regrow faster and stronger (10,11).  Rats treated with far infrared after sciatic nerve injury showed improved function and nerve regeneration, with nerve cells growing faster, with greater diameter, and with thicker myelin sheaths (11).

Auntonomic Nervous System Balance

The autonomic nervous system controls our physiologic state.  The sympathetic branch activates our “fight or flight” response. It increases blood pressure, elevates blood sugar, decreases digestion and healing.  The parasympathetic branch activates “rest and digest” state.  It decreases heart rate and blood pressure, diverts blood flow to our internal organs, and promotes digestion and healing.  We are designed to spend the majority of our time in in a parasympathetic state.  However, constant modern life stresses can cause chronic sympathetic activation, leading to many diseases of chronic stress, including heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and depression and anxiety.  Far infrared sauna therapy has been proven to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (12).

Mental Health and Well Being

In addition to neuron health, far infrared benefits include improved mental health and cognitive function.  Sauna use has been shown to benefit depression and anxiety, and even to affect the risk of psychotic disorders and toxin-induced psychosis (13-17).  Far infrared sauna therapy improves blood flow to the brain, and increases mental alertness and performance on mental tasks (18).  It has been shown in studies to improve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome in study subjects (19,20).  Far infrared sauna therapy improves sleep, and promotes normal physiologic sleep/wake sleep cycles (21,22). 


Sauna therapy has profound benefits on the brain and mental health.   It decreases mental decline in the elderly and is associated with a lower risk of dementia, and improves mood and well being.  There is not much that is more important than that on your quality of life.  You will love your far infrared sauna and the way it makes you feel.

High Tech Health Saunas Designed for Optimal Health

As with all benefits of infrared sauna therapy, High Tech Health saunas are uniquely designed to maximize the benefits of infrared sauna therapy.  In regards to brain health, it is very important to note that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) have consistently been proven to have adverse effects on the brain and on mood.  A 1972 report from the Naval Medical Research Institute, citing over 2300 studies, documented 40 neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with occupational exposure to EMFs, most commonly including sleep disturbances, headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory changes, nausea, and numbness/tingling (23).  Since then there have been numerous studies confirming and expanding on these symptoms (24-27).  See our page on the dangers of EMFs for more details and references.

High Tech Health makes the ONLY sauna that has negligible electromagnetic fields.  We have a patent on the technology to virtually eliminate both magnetic and electric fields from our infrared heaters.  Read more about our patented triple antifield infrared heaters here.  Other companies that advertise as low EMF have lowered magnetic fields but almost all have extremely high electric fields.  Make sure you are buying a sauna with both magnetic AND electric field mitigation.  See our third party EMF report here and read about how to identify a trustworthy EMF report here. The last thing you want to do, when investing in an infrared sauna to improve your health and your life, is to purchase something that is going to have an adverse effect on your mental health. 


  1. Prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in very elderly people. T. Polvikoski, R. Sulkava, L. Myllykangas, I.L. Notkola, L. Niinistö, A. Verkkoniemi, K. Kainulainen, K. Kontula, J. Pérez–Tur, J. Hardy, M. Haltia Neurology Jun 2001, 56 (12) 1690-1696
  3. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor S, Kauhanen J, Laukkanen JA. Age Ageing. 2017 Mar 1;46(2):245-249
  4. Oxidative damage is the earliest event in Alzheimer disease. Nunomura A, Perry G, Aliev G, Hirai K, Takeda A, Balraj EK, Jones PK, Ghanbari H, Wataya T, Shimohama S, Chiba S, Atwood CS, Petersen RB, Smith MA. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2001 Aug;60(8):759-67
  5. Pesticides exposure as etiological factors of Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases--a mechanistic approach. Baltazar MT, Dinis-Oliveira RJ, de Lourdes Bastos M, Tsatsakis AM, Duarte JA, Carvalho F. Toxicol Lett. 2014 Oct 15;230(2):85-103
  6. Far-infrared Radiation Improves Motor Dysfunction and Neuropathology in Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 Mice. Liu SW, Chang JC, Chuang SF, Liu KH, Cheng WL, Chang HJ, Chang HS, Lin TT, Hsieh CL, Lin WY, Hsieh M, Kuo SJ, Liu CS. Cerebellum. 2019 Feb;18(1):22-32
  7. Heat shock proteins in neurodegenerative disorders and aging Rehana K. Leak J Cell Commun Signal. 2014 Dec; 8(4): 293–310
  8. Molecular Chaperones as Rational Drug Targets for Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics S.K. Kalia, L.V. Kalia, P.J. McLean CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2010 Dec; 9(6): 741–753
  9. Heat Shock Protein Inspired Nanochaperones Restore Amyloid‐β Homeostasis for Preventative Therapy of Alzheimer's Disease. Yang H, Li X, Zhu L, et al. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2019;6(22):1901844.
  10. Far-infrared ray radiation promotes neurite outgrowth of neuron-like PC12 cells through AKT1 signaling. Wang JL, Lin YC, Young TH, Chen MH. J Formos Med Assoc. 2019 Feb;118(2):600-610
  11. Far-Infrared Therapy Promotes Nerve RepairChen TY, Yang YC, Sha YN, Chou JR, Liu BS. Far-Infrared Therapy Promotes Nerve Repair following End-to-End Neurorrhaphy in Rat Models of Sciatic Nerve Injury. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:207245. doi:10.1155/2015/207245
  12. Improvement of autonomic nervous activity by Waon therapy in patients with chronic heart failure. Kuwahata S, Miyata M, Fujita S, Kubozono T, Shinsato T, Ikeda Y, Hamasaki S, Kuwaki T, Tei C.J Cardiol. 2011 Jan;57(1):100-6
  13. Infrared radiation has potential antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in animal model of depression and anxiety.Tanaka Y, Akiyoshi J, Kawahara Y, Ishitobi Y, Hatano K, Hoaki N, Mori A, Goto S, Tsuru J, Matsushita H, Hanada H, Kodama K, Isogawa K, Kitamura H, Fujikura Y.  Brain Stimul. 2011 Apr;4(2):71-6
  14. Repeated exposure to far infrared ray attenuates acute restraint stress in mice via inhibition of JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway by induction of glutathione peroxidase-1.  Tran TH, Mai HN, Shin EJ, Nam Y, Nguyen BT, Lee YJ, Jeong JH, Tran HY, Cho EH, Nah SY, Lei XG, Nabeshima T, Kim NH, Kim HC. Neurochem Int. 2016 Mar;94:9-22
  15. Far-infrared Ray-mediated Antioxidant Potentials are Important for Attenuating Psychotoxic Disorders. Sharma N, Shin EJ, Kim NH, Cho EH, Nguyen BT, Jeong JH, Jang CG, Nah SY, Kim HC. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):990-1002
  16. Sauna Bathing and Risk of Psychotic Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study. Laukkanen T, Laukkanen JA, Kunutsor SK. Med Princ Pract. 2018;27(6):562-569
  17. Protective potentials of far-infrared ray against neuropsychotoxic conditions. Sharma N, Shin EJ, Kim NH, Cho EH, Jeong JH, Jang CG, Nah SY, Nabeshima T, Yoneda Y, Cadet JL, Kim HC. Neurochem Int. 2019 Jan;122:144-148
  18. Post-sauna recovery enhances brain neural network relaxation and improves cognitive economy in oddball tasks. Cernych M, Satas A, Brazaitis M. Int J Hyperthermia. 2018;35(1):375-382
  19. Effects of Waon therapy on chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study. Soejima Y, Munemoto T, Masuda A, Uwatoko Y, Miyata M, Tei C. Intern Med. 2015;54(3):333-8
  20. Increase in the Regional Cerebral Blood Flow following Waon Therapy in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Munemoto T, Soejima Y, Masuda A, Nakabeppu Y, Tei C. Intern Med. 2017;56(14):1817-1824
  21. Sleep-enhancing effects of far-infrared radiation in rats. Honda K, Inoué S. Int J Biometeorol. 1988 Jun;32(2):92-4
  22. Effects of far-infrared ray on reproduction, growth, behaviour and some physiological parameters in mice. Udagawa Y, Nagasawa H. In Vivo. 2000 Mar-Apr;14(2):321-6
  23. Bibliography of Reported Biological Phenomena ('Effects') and Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-Frequency Radiation, Glaser, Zorach R, Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda MD, 20 Apr 1972
  24. Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression. Pall, ML, J Chem Neuroanat.2016 Sep;75(Pt B):43-5
  25. Electromagnetic fields, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration.I Consales C, Merla C, Marino C, et al.  J of Cell Bio, 2012; 2012: 683897.
  26. Risks to Health and Well-Being From Radio-Frequency Radiation Emitted by Cell Phones and Other Wireless Devices. Miller AB, Sears ME, Morgan LL, et al. Front Public Health. 2019;7:223.
  27. Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations, Abdel-Rassoul G, El-Fateh OA, et al,  Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar; 28(2):434-40
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