Can switching to a far infrared mattress, bedding, or pajamas, *really* help you feel less sore after a heavy lifting session?
Photo: Getty Images / Geber86
After an intense workout, ripping off your spandex and finally hitting your mattress for sleep is usually nothing but pure relief. It's getting out of bed the next morning—and attempting to walk upstairs—that hurts. After all, experts say it can take up to 72 hours for your body to completely recover after high-intensity exercise. (Related: The Best New Recovery Tools for When Your Muscles Are Sore AF)
Luckily, your go-to sleep essentials are evolving to potentially help you recuperate after you push the limits toward your fitness goals. Mattresses, bedding, and even clothing are now being engineered with far infrared technology, which may boost your circulation throughout your system, helping with recovery while you sleep. Here, everything you need to know about the budding technology.
How Does Far Infrared Technology Work While You Sleep?
These new sleep products essentially use the same technology as an infrared sauna by taking your body heat and converting it to far infrared rays. This type of radiation is then able to penetrate the muscles at a deeper level underneath the skin. Theoretically, what's happening is that the far infrared rays are enveloping your muscles and improving your circulation, says Yanna Darilis, an IIN-certified integrative fitness, nutrition, and health coach—that's why far infrared products can be a great solution for people who have Reynaud's (a medical condition that causes reduced blood flow) or other circulation issues. Because of the influx of oxygen flooding the muscles, your muscles are better equipped to detox after exercise during their recovery stage and restore themselves to work out again.
"The increase of local blood flow in the body yields an increase in oxygen, and quicker removal of toxins and waste products of exercise like lactic acid," Darilis says. Good circulation of blood and oxygen to the muscles is what gets you through the workout in the first place, and it's what saves you afterwards. (Related: This Is What the Ultimate Recovery Day Should Look Like)
As for the research to back up these claims, some studies have found far infrared therapy to help patients with wound healing and chronic pain management, but others are inconclusive about its definitive benefits. Though many medical professionals haven't yet made definite statements on the legitimacy of these kinds of products, most far infrared technology sleep products are FDA-recognized as useful wellness products, and many products are still being developed. TL;DR? As with other emerging areas of wellness, scientists are studying further.
In most cases, after exercise, your body is resting better to begin with due to the endorphins that are released, and your core body temperature is elevated, says Melissa Ziegler, Ph.D., R.K.T., executive director of the American Kinesiotherapy Association. That also means your body is primed to make the most of these far infrared products, she explains.
Here, a few you can try out post-workout to speed up recovery and maybe even improve the quality of your sleep.
Recovery Sleep Products to Try
1. Signature Sleep Nanobionic Recovery Mattress
Made with Nanobionic, a far infrared textile that has been shown to have positive impacts on sports performance, the Signature Sleep Nanobionic Reset Mattress (from $360, amazon.com) returns 99 percent of infrared energy to the body. Essentially, the more infrared rays that are emitted, the more effective the mattress can be in restoring the muscles, explains Darilis. Inside the mattress, the latex coils help redistribute heat so that body heat doesn't get trapped and make you feel clammy. A gel- and charcoal-infused memory foam layer is what helps cool down your body temperature, and helps with odor protection (though hopefully you jumped in the shower post-workout before just hopping in bed). All of this is activated naturally, by your body heat, without plugging in a thing.
2. Under Armour Athlete Recover Sheet Set and Pillowcase
Strip your bed for this far infrared bedding, including a sheet set ($226 for queen set, underarmour.com). There are tiny fibers inside the fabric of the sheets that house the far infrared technology, activated by your body heat. Once you lie on the fabric or wrap yourself in it, the infrared energy is released. Don't worry; they're just as useful as the sheets you're used to, if not more so. The fabric is infused with modal, making it both breathable and insanely soft.
3. Lunya Restore Loungewear
After you get out of your sweaty leggings and sports bra and slip into some super-soft, restorative lounge pieces, you'll feel 10 times cozier already (that's the buttery pima cotton fabric that's blended with the far infrared fabric). Then, the compression of the fabric (made with a far infrared fiber called Celliant) will start working on your body. Like the mattresses and sheets above, the Lunya Restore Base Long Sleeve Tee ($88, lunya.co) and Lunya Restore Pocket Leggings ($98, lunya.co) use your body heat and convert it to far infrared rays to help boost oxygen flow to the muscles, which can help you to feel more rested when you wake up.
The Bottom Line
You may not feel the immediate benefits of switching to a far infrared mattress, bedding, or pajamas, but if you find yourself doing more CrossFit than gentle yoga practices, your muscles probably need all the help they can get to relax and restore themselves. "The higher intensity exercise you're doing, the longer recovery takes, because your glycogen (energy) stores are depleted faster," Ziegler says. "In theory, you need longer recovery time, so any way you could speed up the recovery time can be helpful," she adds. (Related: Why You Should Never Skip Your Post-Workout Cooldown)
But when it comes down to it, it's your normal exercise routine that makes a major difference in your sleep health and ability to recover, Ziegler points out. "Regular physical activity leads to better sleep, better circulation, and therefore better muscle recovery."