The Sunlighten Solo is a portable infrared sauna that my wife and I have been using for the past few months as part of our wellness routine.
In this hands-on review, I’ll share our experience with the Sunlighten Solo and highlight its pros and cons. I’ll also give you an overview of the health benefits of infrared saunas and explain why I think the Sunlighten Solo is an excellent personal sauna for at-home use — especially if you don’t have the space or budget for a traditional walk-in sauna.
Note that I recently published an in-depth article about hormesis and the health benefits of infrared saunas, with links to the scientific evidence behind each claim. I encourage you to read that article to learn more about why these devices are a good addition to your wellness toolkit.
The Sunlighten Solo is an affordable personal infrared sauna that provides most of the benefits of larger IR sauna systems without requiring a lot of floor space. The nine heaters provide 360 degrees of coverage and temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The additional chromotherapy feature provides additional healing powers beyond what’s offered by infrared light.
Before we jump into the actual review and talk about the nuts and bolts of the Sunlighten Solo system, let me give you a brief overview of the scientifically-validated health benefits of infrared saunas.
Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas
Regular use of infrared saunas has several proven health benefits, many of which my wife and I have experienced first-hand since we started using Sunlighten Solo.
For example, a 30-minute infrared sauna session increases your heart rate to the same extent as a light cardio workout, while also burning extra calories. I confirmed this by wearing a heart rate monitor during a few of my sauna sessions; in one, my heart rate went up to 136 beats per minute (my resting heart rate is in the mid 50s), which is similar to what I’d expect during a brisk walk or a light jog.
Here’s an overview of the benefits of infrared sauna therapy:
- Hormesis. Infrared sauna use is a (positive) stressor that causes your body to adapt and become stronger.
- Relieves stress and tension. Both my wife and I feel relaxed when getting out of the sauna.
- Improves recovery and circulation. IR light causes blood vessels to dilate, thus increasing blood flow.
- Offers temporary pain relief. Increased blood flow relieves pain (though only temporarily).
- Mimics a cardiovascular workout. Infrared therapy causes your heart to beat faster.
- Helps with weight loss. An increased heart rate burns extra calories.
- Increases your core body temperature and resistance to illness. Infrared light can increase your core temperature, thus tricking your body into thinking you’re running a light fever. That triggers the release and activation of white blood cells, which makes your body more effective at fighting pathogens.
- Helps with detoxification. Sweating is one of the body’s natural methods of detoxification (along with urination).
- Helps lower blood pressure. Vasodilation reduces blood pressure, even after your sauna session has ended.
- Increases flexibility and helps build muscle. IR sauna use after intense workouts speeds up recovery and builds more muscle tissue than without a sauna.
- Improves skin health (anti-aging). Near infrared light nudges cells to make more collagen, thus improving skin health and elasticity on a cellular level. It also accelerates wound healing.
To learn more about these benefits and the scientific evidence behind them, check out my article on the top benefits of infrared saunas.
Sunlighten Solo Review
The Sunlighten Solo is a personal sauna that uses heaters to emit invisible far infrared light. This light heats your body from the inside. In contrast, traditional steam saunas heat the ambient air and your skin from the outside, thus requiring significantly higher temperatures to penetrate your tissue.
We’ve had the Sunlighten Solo since October 2021, using it several times a week for about three months before writing this review. We’ve found that it has improved our resilience, increased our circulation, sped up our recovery after intense workouts and helped us relax after a stressful day.
- Takes up minimal floor space.
- Can be easily stored when not in use.
- The far infrared heaters produce plenty of heat.
- Includes a light therapy (chromotherapy) feature.
- The heated pad and contoured pillow use memory foam technology.
- Low EMF radiation.
- Doesn’t offer near or mid infrared light.
- Not as convenient as a walk-in sauna.
- The cables can look messy.
Sunlighten Solo system consists of two domes that house the proprietary SoloCarbon infrared panels and an LED light strip used for chromotherapy, as well as a memory foam pad covered in bamboo carbon that includes four digital far infrared heaters to provide heat from below.
Additionally, the Solo system includes a curtain that prevents hot air from escaping from the domes, control units for both the domes and the SoloPad, and a remote control for the light therapy feature.
One of the main selling points of this far infrared sauna is its portability. Even when fully extended the Solo doesn’t take up a lot of real estate. In fact, we placed our Solo system in the corner of our family room, where it’s been sitting since we got it.
Fully extended, the Sunlighten’s personal sauna is less than 70 inches long and less than 30 inches wide (you can find the full specs here).
That makes the Solo system ideal for even small apartments. We live in a decent-size house, but since we don’t have a dedicated fitness area, our available floor space for something like an infrared sauna is limited. In fact, there was no way we could fit one of Sunlighten’s walk-in saunas into our home — which is why we decided to give the Solo a try.
When not in use, you can easily stack the domes, fold up the SoloPad and move the entire system into a nearby closet or corner. Since my wife and I use the sauna on a daily basis, we decided to keep it stationary instead of folding it up and moving it out of the way.
What that means is that we slide the upper dome back over the lower dome and then let the SoloPad completely dry before folding half of it up. That’s much quicker than unplugging all of the cables and folding everything up completely. We’d only do that if we knew we wouldn’t be using the sauna on a regular basis.
Note that we first placed our Solo system directly on our family room floor. In other words, one of the domes was standing on carpet while the other dome was standing on the hardwood floor.
That wasn’t ideal because the heaters on the SoloPad are located on the bottom, underneath the memory foam cushion. Continuous exposure to heat can damage floors, so we decided to place a towel underneath the pad for extra protection.
Instead of keeping the sauna on the floor, you can purchase an optional riser (aptly called the Solo Rise*). It looks like a massage table and elevates the Solo about 20 inches off the ground. Crafted from eucalyptus wood, it has a built-in Bluetooth stereo and speakers and a cord management system.
If you have a dedicated space for your personal sauna and don’t anticipate having to move it very often, I’d consider getting the riser because it makes it a bit more comfortable to get in and out.
Arguably two of the most important features of any sauna are how quickly it heats up and the maximum temperature it reaches.
The Sunlighten Solo reaches a maximum temperature of 150 Fahrenheit, which isn’t nearly as hot as a traditional steam sauna (which can easily reach 200 degrees or higher). However, one of the unique benefits of infrared saunas is that their far infrared light can carry energy into your body, thus heating you from the inside. As a result, they don’t need to get as hot to achieve some of the same benefits as their steam-based cousins.
In fact, infrared light therapy has several unique benefits, including deep tissue penetration and improved skin health.
Of course, not everyone is equally sensitive to heat, and what’s too hot for some people might not be hot enough for others. For example, with only the SoloCarbon heaters in the domes of the Solo turned on to the highest setting (but not the heaters in the SoloPad), my wife claims that she could stay in the sauna forever. In contrast, I get slightly uncomfortable after about 20 minutes, and I have to get out of the sauna at the 30-minute mark.
With all the device’s heaters turned on to their highest settings, my wife is ready to get out at 30 minutes, whereas I’m dying to get out.
My point is that there might be people out there who are even less sensitive to heat than my wife is, and who would appreciate even higher temperatures than what the Sunlighten Solo (and most infrared saunas in general) can deliver.
However, keep in mind that both my wife and I are used to pushing our comfort levels. We’ve been doing that for years via intense exercise, prolonged fasting, cold exposure and other techniques. So I’d argue that for people who aren’t used to pushing their limits, the Sunlighten Solo gets plenty hot.
On a side note, we like to give the sauna about 30 minutes to heat up before jumping in to make sure it reaches its maximum temperature when the target temperature is set to the highest setting.
Setup and Use
Setting up the Sunlighten Solo system is fairly straightforward. All you have to do is place both domes on a level surface and connect them to the control unit using the included power cables (they’re marked accordingly, so you know which cables go to the upper and lower dome).
Next, connect the second wire that comes out of the upper dome with the wire that comes out of the control unit.
Once complete, you can slide the upper dome on top of the lower dome. You’ll notice two bolts sticking out on the sides of the upper dome, which go into a track on the lower dome. Those bolts make sure the domes don’t slide apart when you’re getting into the sauna.
Once the domes are set up, you can slide the SoloPad into the domes and connect both the pad and the sauna’s control unit to power.
Last but not least, pull on the little tab that sticks out of the light therapy remote control, which separates the battery from the rest of the remote.
It took me less than 10 minutes to set everything up and make sure it all worked. If you’re still uncertain how to assemble the Sunlighten Solo, you can watch this setup video* I found on Sunlighten’s support page.
The Sunlighten Solo doesn’t require a lot of ongoing maintenance. In fact, the only thing you have to worry about is how to deal with and clean up the sweat you leave behind — especially on the SoloPad.
What we’ve done is cover the pad with a towel that we can replace and wash after every session. Just make sure to use a towel that’s big enough to cover the entire surface of the pad. If you don’t, you’ll end up with sweat stains that you might not be able to remove.
An even better option might be the SoloPad Cover*. It’s basically a large towel made from a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal material (bamboo carbon fabric) that is highly absorbent and doesn’t block (most) infrared light. (91% of the IR light emitted by the device passes through the cover.)
If you do get the SoloPad wet, you can use a non-toxic cleaner or mild soap to wipe off the sweat and then let it dry completely before storing it.
Beyond sweat control, we haven’t done any maintenance to our sauna since we got it.
One of the features I didn’t expect a personal sauna to have is chromotherapy, which is more commonly referred to simply as light therapy. I have to admit that I haven’t done a lot of research on the subject, but I certainly appreciate what effect light has on the human body.
I also understand that certain frequencies of (visible) light directly impact our circadian rhythm and the release of hormones, including cortisol and melatonin. That’s one of the reasons why blue-light blocking glasses are so effective (as I explained in this blog post).
Another example of chromotherapy that my wife and I had first-hand experience with is the use of blue light in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to help babies with jaundice (whose liver might not be working efficiently yet) break down bilirubin.
Chromotherapy goes way beyond influencing your circadian rhythm. Instead, it’s supposed to be able to influence various organs and chemical processes in your body to assist you with healing.
For example, the color red is supposed to enhance your metabolism, heart and blood flow whereas orange allegedly helps with digestion (and treats asthma and bronchitis).
I’ll have to do research to learn more about the how and why behind this. But based on the research I’ve glanced at so far, there appears to be no downsides to including light therapy as part of your sauna sessions.
Still, as this paper titled “A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution” points out, there is much we don’t know about the effect light and its different colors have on our health and wellbeing. So we’ll need more studies to better appreciate its effects and the potential benefits.
Note that the Sunlighten Solo implements chromotherapy via an LED strip on the outer bottom of the upper dome, which you can turn on and off using a separate remote control. The latter you can also use to change its colors and color patterns.
High-quality infrared saunas like the Sunlighten Solo aren’t cheap. While the company doesn’t release pricing because each system is configurable based on the customer’s specific needs, the Solo begins at $2,600.
However, I consider it a good investment in my health — one that I expect to have a positive impact on my well-being for years to come.
To obtain the current pricing for a Sunlighten Solo system directly from the company, please use the link below. It’ll redirect you to their pricing request form.
When you fill out the pricing request form, make sure to enter promo “Michael Kummer.” That will knock $250 off your quote.
What Sunlighten Could Improve
Overall, both my wife and I have been really happy with the Sunlighten Solo System. But there are a few things that Sunlighten could potentially improve.
Fewer Wires and Control Units
For example, to turn on the entire system (including the heaters in the dome and the SoloPad and the LED strips for light therapy), you have to use three different control units. That’s not only a minor inconvenience but it also means more cables that clutter up the space around the device.
I understand that the Solo System consists of different parts that are sold separately. For example, you can purchase and use the SoloPad independent of the domes, and thus it makes sense for each of the two components to have their own temperature control. But for those with the entire system, it would be nice to only have to deal with a single control unit.
I would have also preferred having the chromotherapy remote be part of the main control unit, which would reduce the chances of misplacing it or having the kids take off with it.
More Robust Sliding Mechanism (Domes)
To prevent the two domes from separating when you slide the upper dome towards your head (as you get into the sauna), Sunlighten leverages two bolts on each side of the upper dome that slide back and forth in a track connected to the lower dome.
Those two bolts are screwed in, so you can easily take them out and replace them. The problem is if you’re too rough when closing the sauna, the force of the impact when the bolt hits the end of the track can losen it. As a result, it can come out (and you’ll have to screw it back in).
We had that happen a few times with our sauna and almost lost one of the bolts. The caveat is that the review unit Sunlighten sent me has been around the block a few times, and I’m sure it has seen some abuse from shipping and use by various reviewers. So this problem might not become apparent until you’ve had the sauna for a couple of years. But I still think it’s worth mentioning.
Stronger Velcro for the Curtain
The curtain that prevents hot air from escaping when you’re using the sauna is attached with a velcro strap. If you pull too hard on the curtain or if you accidentally drag it down when trying to enter or exit the sauna, it gets dislodged. It’s a minor issue because you can easily re-attach the velcro, but a stronger strap or button mechanism could potentially remedy the issue.
How We Use the Sunlighten Solo System
As I mentioned above, both my wife and I use our infrared sauna almost on a daily basis as part of our wellness routine.
We usually turn it on and set the timer to 60 minutes. Then we wait for half an hour for the sauna to heat up before jumping in for a 30-minute session.
I’ve also started combining sauna use with cold plunges. In these cases, I’ll stay in my cold plunge for 3-5 minutes before jumping into the sauna (or vice versa). That back and forth between hot and cold magnifies some of the benefits that infrared light therapy provides.
For example, it’s an excellent workout for your blood vessels because they go from maximum contraction to dilation (or vice versa) in a short amount of time.
From all of the potential benefits I’ve researched, we’ve experienced the following benefits first hand during our sauna sessions:
- Cardiovascular workout. My heart rate always spikes above 100 beats per minute.
- Relaxation and tension relief. Both my wife and I feel incredibly relaxed after each session.
- Increased metabolic rate. When my heart rate increases, I burn additional calories. Based on one of my last measurements using my Apple Watch, I burn an extra 180 calories with each session.
- Profuse sweating. After each session, my wife and I look like someone just dumped a bucket of water over our heads.
- Improved circulation and vasodilation. I can feel an increased blood flow throughout my body and my increased heart rate confirms there is more blood being circulated.
- Temporary increase in blood sugar. Similar to exercise-induced hyperglycemia, my blood glucose levels temporarily rise during a sauna session. It’s a good sign that the body is responding to the (heat) stress to help me adapt (hormesis).
- Muscle recovery. I’ve noticed that I recover quicker from intense workouts and I’m less sore with regular use of our home sauna.
I don’t know yet how regular sauna use affects our immune system, but I’ll report back and update the article after a few cold seasons.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the Sunlighten Solo different from other Sunlighten infrared saunas?
The most obvious difference is that the Solo is a one-person sauna (also known as a personal sauna). In other words, it only fits one person at a time.
However, it’s worth noting that some walk-in sauna models that Sunlighten offers are also available with a one-person capacity. (But they’re also available with a capacity of up to five people.)
The second difference is that the Sunlighten mPulse and Amplify are full-spectrum saunas that emit a combination of near, mid and far infrared light. The Sunlighten Solo and Signature saunas have far infrared light only.
Does the Sunlighten Solo emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or electromagnetic fields (EMFs)?
Yes, it does — but only at very low levels. In fact, Sunlighten has all of its saunas tested by a third party to ensure ultra-low electromagnetic radiation. You can learn more about that here.
Can I share the Sunligten Solo with my partner or children?
Yes, you certainly can. In fact, my wife and I share the sauna (we just don’t use it at the same time).
How many heaters does the Sunlighten Solo sauna have?
The Solo has five clinically-tested far infrared heaters that use the company’s proprietary SoloCarbon infrared technology. The SoloPad has four additional heaters that emit far infrared light from the bottom.
How do you clean the Solo?
It’s best to use a cover or towel with the SoloPad that you can wash after each infrared sauna session. That way, you don’t have to clean the system itself.
How hot does the Sunlighten Solo sauna get?
The maximum temperature the Solo can reach is 150 F (65 C) but you can set the heat in nine increments ranging from 110 F (43 C) all the way to its highest setting.
How long should each sauna session last?
Sunlighten recommends gradually increasing the temperature and time you spend in your Solo sauna. You can start with 10-15 minutes at level five or lower, and then gradually increase both.
I’ve been sauna bathing at level nine for 30 minutes since the beginning, and it seems to be my sweet spot. My wife started at level six or seven and gradually increased the heat to level nine over the course of a few days.
Regardless of how you start, make sure to hydrate properly. I usually drink several ounces of water before and after a sauna session.
What’s the warranty on the Sunlighten Solo?
For residential use, Sunlighten offers a limited warranty including seven years on the heaters; three years on the Solo and SoloPad controllers; and one year on the heater fabric, SoloPad memory foam and chromotherapy (LED strip and remote).
For commercial use, Sunlighten offers a five-year warranty on the heaters, and one year on the controls, heater fabric, SoloPad fabric, memory foam and chromotherapy features.
Why We Love Our Sunlighten Sauna
Over the past few months, I’ve become a huge fan of infrared saunas (and of our Sunlighten Solo system in particular).
As I mentioned throughout this article, my wife and I use the sauna several times a week to relax and recharge. It’s an excellent wellness tool that you may not know you want and need until you start using it.
In fact, we’ve become such fans of Sunlighten that we’re considering purchasing a larger walk-in model for our covered backyard so we can place it right next to our cold plunge and take our recovery routine to the next level.
Until then, we’ll continue enjoying all of the benefits the Sunlighten Solo has to offer.
Do you own an infrared sauna or have questions before getting one? If so, let me know in the comments below.
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Sunlighten Solo Far Infrared Sauna (Hands-on Review) is written by Michael Kummer for michaelkummer.com