You’ve probably heard about the excellent effects of sauna therapy, such as stress relief and improved immune function. Well, the benefits don’t end there.
Studies show that regular sauna sessions can boost sleep quality and help you get the rejuvenating rest you need. This article will break down the key sleep and health benefits of saunas and how to use one for the best results.
What is a sauna?
A sauna is an enclosed room heated to around 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Some saunas can run a little beyond 200 degrees. Traditional Finnish-style saunas produce “dry heat” with a minimum humidity of 10%-20%.
A few examples of saunas include:
- Wood-burning: As the name implies, a wood-burning stove is used to heat the room. This type of sauna is usually low in humidity.
- Electrically heated: These saunas use an electrical heater instead of wood-burning stoves.
- Infrared room: These use special lamps that produce light waves to heat the body instead of the room.
Differences between saunas and steam rooms
The terms sauna and steam room are sometimes used interchangeably. Both options provide health benefits by increasing body temperature but do so differently.
Saunas, such as those mentioned above, use dry heat, while steam rooms use steam to increase body heat.
Steam rooms are a little cooler (usually around 110 degrees Fahrenheit) than saunas and are great for loosening mucus and phlegm, relieving joint pain, easing sore muscles, and hydrating the skin.
Sleep and health benefits of saunas
“I personally sleep better on those nights that I use the sauna,” says Tom Ingegno, doctorate of acupuncture and Chinese medicine (DACM) and owner of Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore.
Ingegno is one of many who benefit from using sauna therapy for better sleep.
Evening sauna sessions before bed have been shown to increase deep sleep within the first two hours by as much as 70%. In one study, participants stayed in deep sleep longer and experienced deeper rest than non-sauna users.
Here’s how sauna therapy primes the body for sleep: Heart rate and blood circulation increase as the body’s internal temperature increases. After therapy, when the body temperature returns to normal, melatonin, human growth hormone, endorphins, and other neurotransmitters are released, inducing a calm, relaxed body and mind.
Beyond sleep, some of the health benefits of saunas include:
Slashes the risk of heart disease and stroke
Studies show that regular sauna therapy can improve cardiovascular health.
A study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland followed a group of over 2,000 men for 20 years and found that individuals who used the sauna at least twice per week had a 22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who used saunas only once per week.
Another study focused on the benefits of frequent sauna bathing and stroke risk. Individuals who engaged in sauna therapy at least four times per week reduced the risk of stroke by 61% percent. And according to research, the benefits accumulate with regular sauna sessions.
Reduces cortisol, the stress hormone
The sauna can be an incredibly relaxing experience because of the reduction of cortisol levels, which lowers stress to make better, deeper sleep more accessible. Uncontrolled cortisol levels cause havoc in the body by raising inflammation and robbing you of precious sleep.
Relieves lower back pain
Precautions to keep in mind before using a sauna
Although saunas can provide a few fantastic health benefits, there are some precautions to consider.
The most obvious risk of using sauna therapy is dehydration as the treatment involves high temperatures that cause excess perspiration.
Remember that severe dehydration can quickly become a medical emergency if not treated immediately.
Seek medical attention if you experience the following during a sauna session:
- Severe thirst
Severe dehydration can lead to:
- Heat stroke
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure
You can help prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water before and after using a sauna.
Decreased sperm production
According to a 2018 study, men who had at least two 15-minute weekly sauna sessions for about three months experienced a decrease in sperm production until they ceased sauna use.
More research is needed to determine if there’s a concrete link between saunas and male fertility. But it’s a good idea for men considering sauna therapy to consult their healthcare provider.
Finally, individuals with these health conditions shouldn’t use saunas or steam rooms:
- Heart disease
- Breathing conditions
- High or low blood pressure
- Alcohol use disorder (as alcohol encourages dehydration)
Additionally, you should wait at least 10 minutes post-workout before entering a sauna—and never use the sauna if you feel unwell.
How much time should you spend in the sauna?
Ingegno says those new to sauna therapy should consult their healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for them to start it. Then “start slow and low,” he says.
That’s a short five- to 10-minute session at the lowest temperature.
As you gain experience, you can move up to 15-20 minute sessions. Also, it can’t be repeated enough: Remember to hydrate before and after using the sauna.
How soon can you see results from using sauna therapy? “It really is going to matter more about the severity of the condition and the underlying cause,” says Ingegno.
Is using the sauna good for sleep?
Regular sauna use can improve sleep by helping to reduce stress, pain, and tense muscles. Regular sauna sessions also encourage the production of the body’s natural sleep hormone, melatonin. According to Ingegno, his clients report increased sleep quality following time spent in the sauna.
How often should I use a sauna to see improved sleep results?
Using the sauna multiple times per week or even daily is safe, says Ingegno. But always remember to follow precautions like staying hydrated and avoiding alcohol and drugs.
Also, use caution with sauna temperatures that exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Consult your healthcare provider if you’re considering sauna therapy for the first time or have serious health concerns.
This article originally appeared on Saatva and was syndicated by MediaFeed.
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