Sauna bathing has been popular for thousands of years and is still popular these days, but it is only now that we have started to uncover the incredible health benefits that can be brought by regular sauna bathing. In this article, we will tell you about sauna bathing, its benefits, and how long should you stay in a sauna without risking dehydrating yourself.
Sauna bathing for beginners: How Sauna work and are Saunas good for you?
Typically, during sauna bathing, your body is exposed to high temperatures. Your heart rate increases, your blood vessels widen, and you sweat, in a similar way to low to moderate exercise, depending on how long you stay in the sauna.
Sauna bathing is simple. All you have to do is sit or even lay in the room. Some people prefer going naked and that is what is recommended, but you can go in whatever you are comfortable in, whether that is a simple cotton robe or a swimsuit.
How long should you stay in a sauna?
When it comes to how long you should sit in the sauna, there’s no hard-and-fast rule you have to stick to. You can experiment to figure out your personal preference and tolerance level. However, if you’re a beginner, you should take it easy at first and limit your visit to 5-8 minutes. Then you may increase the time gradually as your body gets more experienced. Even for long-time sauna goers, it is recommended not to stay for longer than 30 minutes as you will risk dehydration. To make sure it is effective, a sauna session should be at least 8 minutes.
If you’re wondering “Can I go to the sauna every day?” – The answer is…yes! In fact, experts say that going daily may help maximize the health benefits. As long as you limit the time of your sessions and do not visit the sauna more than twice a day, you will be able to safely reap the many benefits of sauna bathing.
If you’re visiting the sauna after a workout, make sure to wait for at least 10 minutes after your workout has ended and hydrate properly before going. Do not stay for more than 20 minutes after a workout though. There is a much higher risk of dehydration since your body is already worn out from the workout.
In infrared saunas, some users extend their session to 40-45 minutes, but you should make sure that you stay for the time that works best for you. To make sure you are safe, increase the time you spend in the sauna by increments. Start with 5-8 minutes; then make your way to 10, 15, and so on.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Sauna
Although the research is limited, studies prove that going to a sauna daily brings about several possible health benefits.
1. Easing Pain
Sauna bathing can leave you energized. As the blood vessels relax and dilate, the blood pressure decreases, sore muscles are put at ease and the tension in the joints is reduced. Research reveals that saunas might also help those with chronic pain and arthritis.
2. Relieving Stress
The heat of a sauna drives the body to release endorphins, which are also known as ‘feel-good hormones’ as they help reduce the feeling of stress. Cortisol- a hormone released in response to stress- decreases, and makes people feel more relaxed and in control.
3. Burning Calories
Due to the heat, the body’s internal temperature regulation system becomes active. The sweat glands in the skin secrete sweat, which helps cool you down when it evaporates. This process requires energy obtained by burning calories, thus increasing the metabolism consequently. While saunas only burn a small number of calories and help you lose only the water mass- which is short-term, as it can be easily be regained- they can still help you achieve long-term weight loss.
Now, this most definitely does not mean that you jump into the sauna and expect to come out with 10 pounds less in no time. But, if you are serious about losing weight, plan on improving your diet, and spending a little more time moving around, then adding twenty to thirty-minute sauna sessions to your routine will most certainly benefit you.
Sweating helps in opening up pores and cleansing the outer skin. Condensation of the sweat cleans it of dirt and gives the skin a fresh look. Toxins can also be removed through sweating. Furthermore, saunas can also be used for acne treatment.
5. Heart Health
As aforementioned, saunas make the blood vessels near the skin dilate. Medical research has told us that the heart rate can rise from 60-70 bpm (beats per minute) to 110-120 bpm in the sauna, and can often sink to below normal after the cooling off stage. Regular sauna bathing has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal cardiac incidents along with the reduced risk of stroke and hypertension.
6. Brain Health
Frequent sauna bathing has also been associated with reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease including improved cardiovascular function and reduced blood pressure and arterial stiffness. As blood vessels dilate, there is better circulation and thus, an adequate supply of blood and nutrients, and so a healthy vascular system might protect against dementia and other neurological degenerative diseases.
7. Muscle Recovery
During exercise, your muscles are worked harder than they are accustomed to, which causes them to form microscopic tears. These tears cause inflammation and can result in muscle soreness, tightness, cramps, and sensitivity. Your body then heals these tears to make your muscles stronger. Better body circulation boosts the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscle cells.
This enhances the muscle recovery process. Heat also aids with muscle relaxation- it soothes the nerve endings-, thus relieving muscle tension. Furthermore, sauna bathing after working out increases your body’s tolerance to heat; so if you’re an athlete, saunas help you perform better in hotter conditions.
8. Immune System
This may sound implausible- but believe it or not- getting a fever is actually a good sign that your immune system is working, helping to fight infection or eliminate viruses. Raising your body’s temperature, (by inducing an artificial fever through sauna bathing), helps kill bacteria and viruses by increasing white blood cells, antibodies, and other disease-fighting agents.
9. Better Sleep
Research has shown that a more profound and relaxed sleep can result from sauna use. Other than the release of endorphins, internal heat levels that increase in the late evening, fall at bedtime. This sluggish decrease in endorphins is the key factor in making sleep easy.
10. Opens up sinuses
The heat from a sauna can open up the mucous membranes around the body. This will make you breathe more deeply and easily. Saunas can also help break up the congestion in the sinuses and lungs and therefore can be used to help treat colds, unblock sinuses, and aid breathing
Some things to be wary of…
- Before going to a sauna, shower and then dry yourself- dry skin sweats faster than wet skin.
- Hydrate yourself before and after sauna bathing.
- Avoid alcohol intake before a sauna session.
- Do not go to saunas during pregnancy.
- Do not sleep in saunas; you can do whatever you want- read, write, chat with friends, etc. – but not sleep.
- Most importantly, listen to your body, if you get a headache or feel nauseous- leave immediately.
Hi People! My name is Monica Khemsurov, and I am the founder of SaunaSavant. I am Finnish, a professional swimmer, and a lifelong sauna & spa enthusiast. In this blog, I will share my insights, suggestions, and recommendations on everything related to saunas and indoor living. Please let me know (through the contact box) if you have any feedback. Cheers!