What is Thermal Wellness?
Since ancient times, temperature has been used as a form of therapy, and it’s a practice that continues today (under the guise of thermal wellness), whether it’s tentatively braving an ice bath to ease sore muscles or heading to the sauna to reduce tension.
Our core body temperature sits at around 98.6F, although it can fluctuate a degree or so either side, depending on circumstances such as ovulation, digestion and stress. Although in depth research is still ongoing, it’s believed that sensible exposure to both high and low temperatures can have a beneficial effect on the body and help enhance and support your emotional and physical wellbeing and processes including stress reduction, sleep and muscle recovery.
Cold therapy or cryotherapy is a well-known therapy frequently used by professional athletes. By using very cold temperatures, it produces a stress response in the body that then helps to reduce blood flow, swelling, inflammation and temporarily, fluid build-up. It can also help numb nerve endings in cases of acute pain. Heat therapy or thermotherapy on the other hand creates a different stress response in the body, creating an increase blood flow and circulation to a specific area to induce healing. Infrared saunas – that use infrared light panels to heat instead of a wood burner or stove – are thought to help lower stress by triggering the release of endorphins and lowering cortisol. The heat is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties which helps to increase circulation.
Thermal therapy is also important to understand when it comes to sleeping. “If your body temp isn’t cool enough, it can be hard to get to sleep,” says Workshop’s founder Lee Mullins. “If you’re part of a couple sleeping together, the challenge is that women and men have slightly different optimum sleep temperatures, which is mostly to do with women’s menstrual cycles.” To avoid one of you overheating, one solution is to invest in a cooling pad that fits underneath your bed sheet and enables you to optimise your own individual temperature.
And it’s not just sleep aids that could enhance our day-to-day wellbeing, experts predict that thermal tech is the next big thing to watch. Products such as Embr Lab’s Wave Bracelet is one such piece of wearable tech that uses insight on personal body temperature to harness the power of thermal sensations and help the body and mind adapt to everything from hot flashes to stress related conditions.