13 Health Benefits of Being in a Sauna

Written by: Pard Bharaj

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Time to read 14 min

Introduction


Have you ever stepped into a sauna and feel your state completely transform? That enveloping warmth isn't just melting away your daily stress; it's kicking off a cascade of health benefits that are becoming more common knowledge. No matter what state you enter in, for me it has always had a very positive effect mentally and physically.


The sauna possesses some serious health benefits proven by science. In research conducted by Rhonda P. Patrick and Teresa L. Johnson, findings indicated a significant reduction in death rates linked to sauna usage frequency. Specifically, men who used the sauna once a week experienced a 27% decrease in mortality rates. Even more striking, those who used the sauna 4 to 7 times per week saw a 40% reduction in the risk of death.


Here are some other health stats from the study:


  1. Dementia and Alzheimer‚Äôs Disease: Sauna use 4‚Äď7 times/week: 66% lower risk of dementia and 65% lower risk of Alzheimer‚Äôs disease compared to once weekly.
  2. Endurance Improvement: Post-workout sauna sessions twice a week: 32% increase in time until exhaustion for athletes.
  3. Muscle Atrophy Prevention: Local heat application: 37% decrease in muscle atrophy compared to a placebo treatment.
  4. Plasma Volume and Erythrocytes: Improvements were accompanied by a 7.1% increase in plasma volume (fluid component of blood) and a 3.5% increase in erythrocytes (red blood cells).
  5. Sperm Count and Motility: Two sauna sessions per week for 3 months: Reduction in sperm count and motility, reversible after 6 months of discontinuing use. 

In this article we will explore the 13 health benefits of being in a sauna. It is more than just a relaxing pastime‚ÄĒit‚Äôs a powerful too to improve health.

History of Saunas


The tradition of saunas is ancient, stemming from the need for warmth and cleanliness. Originating in Finland over a millennium ago, the sauna was a place to bathe, socialise, and find solace from the biting Nordic cold. Built from the earth and heated with stones, these early saunas were central to Finnish life, serving as a space for healing and relaxation. 


As centuries passed, the practice spread throughout Europe, adapting to local customs, yet the essence remained the same‚ÄĒa tranquil retreat promoting health and well-being. Today, this cherished tradition continues is now popular across the world.


The Different Types of Saunas


There are quite an array of different type's of saunas, to keep things simple we will focus on 4 of the main ones.

Dry Sauna


Dry Sauna: Traditional dry saunas, often clad in rich cedar or hemlock, are heated to temperatures between 70 to 100 degrees Celsius. The heat source, whether an electric heater or a wood-burning stove, warms the air and surfaces, but doesn't add moisture, resulting in a dry heat that promotes intense sweating. Users can experience a deep sense of relaxation and cleansing as the heat penetrates the muscles and skin.

The image depicts the interior of a sauna with wooden benches and walls. There

The Main Health Benefits of Dry Sauna


  1. Higher Temperatures for Intense Sweating: Dry saunas operate at higher temperatures than most other saunas, such as infrared. This intense heat leads to more profuse sweating, which can aid in more effective detoxification and cleansing of the skin.

  2. Better Respiratory Relief: The dry air in these saunas is often preferred by individuals with certain respiratory issues, as it can help clear sinuses and congestion without the humidity that might be uncomfortable for some respiratory conditions.

  3. Deep Muscle Penetration: The high heat of a dry sauna can penetrate muscles and tissues deeply, providing relief from muscle stiffness and joint pain, potentially more effectively than lower-temperature saunas.

  4. Traditional Sauna Experience: The dry sauna offers a traditional sauna experience, which some users find more mentally and emotionally satisfying. This can enhance the overall relaxation and stress-relief benefits.

  5. Adaptation and Endurance: Regular use of a dry sauna, due to its higher temperatures, can help the body adapt to heat stress. This adaptation may improve endurance in other high-temperature environments.


Steam Room


Steam Room: With walls tiled to withstand perpetual dampness, steam rooms operate at lower temperatures than dry saunas, typically around 40 to 50 degrees Celsius, but with nearly 100% humidity. A generator boils water to release steam, filling the room with a warm mist that encourages sweating. This moist heat is particularly beneficial for hydrating the skin and soothing respiratory pathways.

An empty steam room with blue-green mosaic tiles covering the benches and walls, a built-in water basin, and steam filling the air, creating a serene and tranquil spa atmosphere.

The Main Benefits of Steam Sauna


  1. Improved Respiratory Function: The high humidity in steam saunas is excellent for respiratory health. It helps clear congestion, sinuses, and can alleviate symptoms of conditions like asthma and bronchitis.

  2. Skin Hydration: Unlike dry saunas, steam rooms provide a moist heat that hydrates the skin, which can be beneficial for those with dry skin conditions.

  3. Detoxification at Lower Temperatures: Steam rooms operate at lower temperatures than dry saunas but the high humidity makes you sweat profusely, aiding in detoxification similar to higher temperature saunas.

  4. Muscle Relaxation: The moist heat is effective for relaxing stiff muscles and joints, providing relief from soreness and improving flexibility.

  5. Stress Relief and Relaxation: The warm, moist environment of a steam sauna can be particularly relaxing and soothing for the mind and body, offering a different kind of stress relief compared to dry heat saunas.

  6. Improved Circulation: Like other saunas, steam rooms can improve circulation, but the moist heat can be more comfortable for some individuals, allowing them to stay in longer and reap more circulatory benefits.


Infrared Sauna:


Infrared Sauna: These use a different approach by employing infrared lamps to directly heat the body instead of the air. These saunas operate at much lower temperatures, usually around 40 to 60 degrees Celsius, which can be more tolerable for longer periods. The infrared rays are intended to heat the body more deeply, potentially providing greater relief for muscle aches and improving circulation.

Two people relaxing inside a traditional wooden infrared sauna with bright interior lighting; a man lying down and a woman sitting, both wearing towels and appearing calm and comfortable, with a wooden bucket and ladle visible in the foreground.

The Health Benefits of an Infrared Sauna


  1. Deeper Tissue Penetration: Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate more deeply into the skin, which can provide more effective muscle relaxation and pain relief, reaching areas that traditional saunas might not as effectively.

  2. Lower Temperatures: Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than traditional dry saunas, making them more accessible and comfortable for people who cannot tolerate high heat, including those with certain medical conditions.

  3. Enhanced Detoxification: The deep penetration of infrared heat is believed to promote more effective detoxification at the cellular level, as it induces a more profound sweat at a lower ambient temperature.

  4. Improved Circulation: The deep heating effect of infrared rays can stimulate blood flow and improve circulation, potentially more effectively than the superficial heat of a traditional sauna.

  5. Weight Loss and Metabolism: Some studies suggest that the type of heat produced by an infrared sauna can aid in weight loss and boost metabolism, as the body works harder to cool itself, thereby burning more calories.

  6. Skin Health: The gentle heating of infrared saunas can help with skin purification and rejuvenation, potentially more effectively than the high heat of traditional saunas, which might be too intense for sensitive skin.


Portable Saunas - Blankets & Tents

Portable saunas: which can be in the form of blankets or tents, offer flexible sauna experiences using electric or infrared technology. They can reach various temperatures, often up to 60 degrees Celsius, and are designed for easy setup and takedown. While they don't replicate the full sauna environment, they provide a personal heat therapy session that can be enjoyed in different settings, such as a living room or office.

A portable, hexagonal sauna tent labeled "Sweat Tent" set up in a snowy landscape with a person crouching at the entrance, placing wood in a small stove with a chimney emitting smoke, indicating the tent is heated.

13 Health Benefits of Being in a Sauna: Proven By Science

1.  Cardiovascular Health 


Saunas mimic the effects of light to moderate exercise by increasing heart rate and improving circulation, which can lead to better cardiovascular endurance and health. Studies have shown health benefits such as lower blood pressure and enhanced heart function.

Health Benefits:

  • Improved blood circulation, enhanced cardiovascular health and blood vessel dilation.

  • Scientific Study: ¬†Regular sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension and coronary artery disease, by improving endothelial function and blood pressure.¬†The study titled¬†"Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing,¬†used a Finnish sauna, which are typically dry saunas with high temperatures and low humidity and can be heated by a wood or electric stove.

Two hands cradling a red heart with a heartbeat line, representing health care, love, or cardiology, on a light wooden background.

2.  Sauna for Stress Relief & Mental Health
 

Anyone who frequently uses the sauna knows about the sauna benefits for stress reduction; no matter the kind of day you've had, the sauna has an amazing ability to put you back into a better state. 


One of the main ways the sauna does this is by increasing the release of endorphin. These natural feel-good chemicals significantly enhance mood and relaxation. The process of relaxing in the heat not only elevates endorphins but also creates an ideal environment for meditation and mental tranquility, effectively reducing stress levels and promoting overall well-being.  Readers maybe interested in reviewing our article about Natural Solutions for Anxiety and Stress Relief.


  • Sauna Benefits for Mental Health: This¬†study involving a global survey¬†found that regular¬†sauna users reported much better mental well-being scores, and that it was an excellent natural stress relief solution.
A bulletin board with a printed paper reading "STRESS FREE ZONE" with a red mug and pens to the side, suggesting a calm workspace.

3.  Muscle Relaxation & Pain Relief

Saunas are highly effective for pain management, offering significant benefits for those with chronic conditions. The soothing heat aids in arthritis relief, easing joint discomfort.  Additionally, fibromyalgia sufferers often find relief through regular sauna use, as the warm environment helps in the relaxation of aching muscles. 

By increasing blood flow the sauna is also fantastic for muscle tension relief, saunas not only aid in post-exercise recovery but also offer a therapy for aches by soothing muscles, making them a valuable tool for overall physical wellness.

  • This Study found that a single infrared sauna session can enhance recovery of neuromuscular performance and reduce muscle soreness after resistance exercise, without negatively impacting the autonomic nervous system.
A medical illustration showing pain or injury in the elbow with highlighted areas, possibly representing physical health, sports medicine, or anatomy.

4.  Sauna and Detox

Sweating for detoxification is a key benefit of sauna use, as the high heat induces sweating that helps the body eliminate toxins through the skin. While the primary detoxification occurs via the liver and kidneys, the elimination of toxins in the sauna can support this natural cleansing process, enhancing overall health and well-being and making the sauna a valuable tool for detox.

  • This Study shows that sweating through sauna use can significantly increase the elimination of toxins and of toxic heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, compared to levels typically excreted in urine or plasma, suggesting that sauna use may be beneficial for detoxification.
The word "DETOXIFICATION" revealed under a torn green paper, possibly representing health, wellness, or cleansing.

5.  Sauna Benefits for Skin

Sauna sessions are excellent for cleansing skin, as the heat opens pores and induces sweating, effectively flushing out impurities. Regular sauna use not only cleanses the skin but also improves complexion , as the increased circulation brings vital nutrients to the skin's surface, enhancing both its health and appearance

  • This Study titled indicates that regular Finnish sauna use can enhance skin hydration, improve the function of the epidermal barrier, and help the skin recover faster from moisture loss and pH changes after sauna sessions, promoting overall skin health.
A close-up of a smiling woman with clear skin, touching her face gently, against a light blue background, depicting beauty or skincare.

6.  Sauna -Weight Loss & Metabolism

While saunas shouldn't replace regular exercise, they can increase the heart rate, which may temporarily boost metabolism and help with burning calories in the sauna. However, most water weight loss in the sauna, is due to sweating.

  • This Study titled "Sauna-Induced Body Mass Loss in Young Sedentary Women and Men" examines how sauna use contributes to body mass loss through thermal stress, particularly highlighting the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and the weight loss experienced from dry sauna use among adults‚Äč.
The word "METABOLISM" spelled out with wooden blocks on a blue surface, related to health, nutrition, or biology.

7.  Hormones

Sauna sessions can help in balancing hormone levels, reducing stress-related hormones like cortisol, and increasing the production of growth hormones that aid in muscle repair and recovery.

  • Scientific Study:¬†Sauna causes hormone changes similar to stress responses, but with unique effects like increased growth hormone (HGH) and a hormone that can create feelings of pleasure. Any changes typically return to normal within a few hours after the sauna.

The word "HORMONES" in wooden letters on a white surface, associated with endocrinology, health, or biology.

8.  Brain Health

Sauna use can increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports brain health, and may enhance memory and cognitive function by improving focus and reducing the risk of dementia.

  • This Study titled "Post-sauna recovery enhances brain neural network relaxation and improves cognitive economy in oddball tasks" found that after Finnish sauna use, individuals exhibited increased relaxation in brain neural networks and more efficient cognitive processing, without any negative effects on overall cognitive performance.
A creative layout with colorful flowers arrayed around a blank silhouette of a head on a green background, symbolizing mental health, creativity, or spring.

9.  Sauna for Better Sleep

The body's temperature regulation plays a key role in sleep patterns. The cooling down period after leaving a sauna can help signal to the body that it's time for rest, leading to deeper and more restful sleep.

A person in a hammock with a dog: "A relaxed individual wearing glasses lies in a hammock, cuddling with a sleeping brown and white dog, in a serene forest setting."

10.  Sauna and Immune Health

Regular sauna use has been observed to increase the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in your body's immune response and ability to fight off illness.  It is fantastic at strengthening the immune system

  • This Study by Rhonda P. Patrick and Teresa L. Johnson explores the benefits of sauna use in relation to longevity and health. It emphasises how sauna bathing mimics the body's response to exercise, involving cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems. The review consolidates data showing that regular sauna use may decrease the risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, assist in muscle preservation, and improve mental health. These health benefits appear to be dose-dependent, with more frequent use providing greater benefits.¬†
Elephant crashing through a concrete wall

11.  Social Support

Sauna culture often involves communal experiences, which can offer psychological benefits, enhance mood, and reduce feelings of loneliness by fostering social connections.

A group of people holding hands: "Diverse hands joined together in a gesture of unity and teamwork, with a light source shining from above, creating a warm and cooperative atmosphere."

12.  Feels Fantastic

Beyond the physiological benefits, the overall experience of a sauna‚ÄĒthe warmth, the solitude, or the community‚ÄĒcan be deeply satisfying, providing a sense of well-being and contentment.

The word "FEEL GOOD" spelled out in vintage letterpress printing blocks on a wooden surface.

13.  Sauna and Respiratory Health


Regular sauna use also offers incredible benefits for respiratory health. The warm, humid air of a sauna can help open airways, which may provide relief for people with respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis. The heat can help thin mucus, making it easier to expel, and the steam may reduce the inflammation in the bronchial tubes, easing the discomfort associated with these conditions. 


Regular sauna sessions could potentially improve lung function, though individuals with respiratory issues should consult with a healthcare provider before using a sauna.

The image features a human lung-shaped cutout surrounded by green leaves against a white background, symbolizing healthy lungs and clean air, with a focus on environmental health and lung care

Practical Tips for Sauna Use in Your Wellness Routine


  • Start Slowly: If you're new to saunas, begin with shorter sessions (about 5-10 minutes) and gradually increase the duration over time.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before and after your sauna session to replenish fluids lost through sweating.

  • Choose the Right Time: Incorporate sauna sessions at a time that suits your daily schedule. Many find it relaxing after a workout or in the evening before bed.

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels during the sauna. If you feel dizzy or uncomfortable, it's time to step out.

  • Cool Down Gradually: After your session, allow your body to cool down gradually. Avoid jumping into a cold shower immediately; instead, sit or lie down for a few minutes.

  • Combine with Other Wellness Practices: Enhance your sauna experience by combining it with other practices like meditation, light stretching, or breathing exercises.

  • Regularity is Key: Consistency is important for long-term benefits. Aim for a regular schedule, whether it's daily, several times a week, or weekly.

  • Cleanliness: Ensure you shower before and after your sauna session to keep the sauna clean and to remove toxins from your skin.


Potential Drawbacks and Limitations of Sauna and Steam Room Use


While saunas and steam rooms offer numerous health benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone, and certain precautions should be considered:

  • Dehydration and Overheating: Prolonged exposure to high heat can lead to dehydration and overheating. It's crucial to stay hydrated and limit sauna sessions to a safe duration.

  • Heart Conditions: Individuals with heart conditions or cardiovascular issues should consult a doctor before using saunas or steam rooms. The high heat can strain the cardiovascular system.

  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid saunas and steam rooms, as the elevated temperatures can pose risks to the fetus.

  • Blood Pressure Fluctuations: Saunas can cause fluctuations in blood pressure. While they may lower blood pressure over time, the immediate effect can be a rise in blood pressure, which might be risky for people with hypertension.

  • Children: Saunas and steam rooms may not be safe for young children due to their developing thermoregulatory systems.

  • Medication Interactions: Certain medications can affect the body's ability to sweat or respond to heat, increasing the risk of overheating.

  • Alcohol and Drug Use: Using a sauna or steam room under the influence of alcohol or certain drugs can increase the risk of dehydration, hypotension, arrhythmia, and even fainting.

  • Skin Conditions: Individuals with certain skin conditions may experience exacerbation of symptoms due to the intense heat and sweating.

  • Respiratory Issues: While steam rooms can benefit some respiratory conditions, others may worsen in high humidity or heat environments.

It's always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before starting sauna or steam room sessions, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or concerns.



Conclusion


In conclusion, there are several health benefits of being in a sauna. The benefits extend across various types, each with its distinctive advantages. Dry saunas are exceptional for inducing deep, detoxifying sweats and reducing stress, while steam saunas offer excellent respiratory relief, clearing airways and benefiting skin health through increased humidity. Infrared saunas delve deeper with radiant heat, promoting pain relief and circulation. 


Regardless of the type of sauna ‚Äď be it dry, steam, or infrared ‚Äď the numerous sauna health benefits will most definitely leave you feeling mentally and physically better.¬†


FAQ

How long should you stay in a sauna?

The ideal duration for a sauna session varies depending on individual comfort and the sauna's heat. Generally, beginners should start with shorter sessions of about 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing as they become more accustomed to the heat. Most people find 15-20 minutes comfortable, but it's important to listen to your body.

Staying in a sauna long enough to sweat profusely is often sufficient to reap health benefits like relaxation and improved circulation. However, it's crucial to stay hydrated and leave the sauna if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable.

Remember, the higher the temperature, the shorter your session should be for safety.

What are the benefits of infrared sauna blanket?

What are the Benefits of an Infrared Sauna Blanket? Infrared sauna blankets offer a convenient way to enjoy sauna benefits at home. Key advantages include:

1. Convenience: Portable and easy to use at home for a personalized
2. Relaxation: Promotes stress reduction and improves sleep.
3. Detoxification: Aids in eliminating toxins through sweating.
4. Pain Relief: Soothes muscle aches and joint pain.
5. Improved Circulation: Enhances blood flow and cardiovascular health.
6. Skin Health: Improves skin tone and can help with certain skin conditions.

Infrared sauna vs dry sauna: Key differences

1. Heating Method: Infrared saunas use infrared light to warm the body directly at lower temperatures (120¬įF-140¬įF), while dry saunas heat the air to higher temperatures (150¬įF-195¬įF).

2. Heat Experience: Infrared saunas offer a milder, deeper penetrating heat, ideal for those who prefer a gentler sauna experience. Dry saunas provide intense, dry heat, preferred by those seeking a traditional sauna experience.

3. Health Benefits: Both types aid in relaxation, detoxification, and muscle relief, but the choice depends on personal heat tolerance and preference.

Sauna Preference Poll
Which Type of Sauna Do You Prefer the Most?
Dry Sauna
Steam Room
Infrared Sauna
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Image of Pard Bharaj - The author

Author: Pard Bharaj

I am a dedicated researcher with nearly a decade of experience in investigating health best practices. My journey in the health and wellness field has been driven by a passion for understanding and sharing the most effective ways to maintain and improve health. Over the years, I have delved into a wide range of topics, constantly seeking out the latest research and insights. My commitment is to provide well-researched, accurate, and trustworthy information to help readers make informed decisions about their health.

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