SIOUX CITY | Karen Jauer would love to have an Essential Mate -- the compact version of the Health Mate infrared sauna -- set up in her living room in front of the TV.

The space-saving cedar wood unit offers the same benefits as a full-sized infrared sauna.

Jauer, owner of InfraRed Saunas of Siouxland in Hinton, Iowa, keeps her Health Mate infrared sauna designed for a corner space in a spare bedroom. She said customers also put the saunas in basements, family rooms, workout rooms and garages. She said cedar is the ideal material because it protect against mold, mildew and bacteria. 

Unlike traditional steam saunas, where the air temperature must be more than 200 degrees F, infrared saunas are more bearable for people, operating at temperatures between 100 and 140 degrees F. Jauer said it's not only better for your body, but it also costs much less to operate -- around 10 cents every 20 to 30 minutes.

"It's like the sunshine," she said of the infrared rays. "When it penetrates in, it opens up the veins and arteries so your blood is flowing easier. Your sinuses open up so you can breathe."

Unlike a conventional sauna, which heats around you and causes your blood pressure to rise, Jauer said Health Mate saunas, which are handcrafted, use infrared rays to directly warm your body. She infrared sauna therapy may ease a slew of health problems from arthritis to depression to high blood pressure.

"My husband has high blood pressure. It'll bring it down 20 or 30 points," she said. "It's opening up everything and it's letting the blood flow easier."

Jauer said she even takes her 9-month-old grandson into the sauna with her. She said the soothing atmosphere does wonders for a fussy baby.

"Maybe they have congestion. You put them in the sauna and it clears that out and opens up the sinuses," she said. "They relax and go to sleep or play."

Jauer said the saunas are delivered to customers' homes in boxes. Assembling the pieces, she said, is easy because they just snap together. Plug it in, adjust the touch sensor controls located on both the inside and outside of the sauna -- which features glass panes to look out -- and you're ready to go.

The temperature in the sauna can reach up 170 degrees, which Jauer said won't harm you. She prefers to set hers at 145 degrees maximum and sit for 30 minutes. She likes to use the chromotherapy feature, which produces a specific color or cycles the colors of the visible spectrum.

"In the morning, I like to use the red. Red and orange give you energy. At night, I like the green -- it's a relaxing soothing color," she said. "Each color does something different."

Add a few drops of essential oil to a ceramic cup attached to the inside of the sauna to make the space even more calming. Jauer uses a vinyl seat cushion on the cedar bench for comfort and for cleanliness.

"If you do get a stain on it, you just sand it off," she said.

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