How to Use a Sauna: Risks and Benefits

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The enjoyment of using a sauna extends far beyond mere relaxation. Learn about the health advantages and disadvantages of sauna bathing.


What Exactly Is a Sauna?

A sauna is a room that has been heated to a high temperature in order to cause your body to sweat. It is commonly used to relax after a workout. Dry saunas (either wood-burning or electrically heated), infrared saunas, and steam rooms are among the various saunas. Saunas were first used in Finland over two thousand years ago, and traditional Finnish saunas are still the most popular today.


9 Potential Dry Sauna Benefits

Your temperature will rise regardless of the type of sauna you use, increasing your heart rate and blood flow. This effect is comparable to moderate exercise in a dry sauna and may provide the following benefits:

1. Promotes physical recovery: The heat of a sauna causes your body to release feel-good endorphins and your blood vessels to dilate and increase circulation after exercise. Both of these effects hasten your body's healing process.

2. Reduces pain and inflammation: Sauna therapy may reduce pain and soreness from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis while also positively affecting inflammation biomarkers.

3. Burns calories: Sweating and an increased heart rate during a sauna bath burn calories, though sauna use alone will not lead to weight loss.

4. Detoxification: Sitting in a hot sauna causes you to sweat a lot, which promotes the release of harmful chemicals in the body.

5. Improves cardiovascular health: In a 25-year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Jari Laukkanen discovered that regular sauna use reduced the risk of heart disease, sudden cardiac death, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. It also helped to lower blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attacks and heart disease.

6. Improves memory loss: According to a 2017 study, regular sauna use may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

7. Reduces stress and improves overall wellness: Regular sauna bathing promotes relaxation and a sense of well-being, which lowers your body's stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol suppresses your immune system and disrupts your sleep.

8. Improves skin health: Sweating during a sauna session removes bacteria and toxins from your pores while also increasing capillary blood flow.

9. Sauna bathing after a workout may improve physical health: Sauna bathing after a workout may improve your overall endurance. Researchers studied the red blood cell, plasma, and blood volume of athletes who took a sauna bath after working out and discovered that it improved their ability to work out for longer periods of time over time compared to a control group.


How to Use a Sauna

The average sauna session lasts five to thirty minutes, but depending on the heat and your tolerance, you may be able to enjoy more or less time. For a relaxing sauna session, follow these guidelines:

1. Begin with a lower temperature. If you are new to saunas, begin by sitting in a sauna at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and gradually increasing the temperature as you become more comfortable.

2. Keep your sauna time to a minimum. Start with ten to fifteen minutes in the sauna. You can gradually increase your time to thirty minutes.

3. Drink plenty of water before going to the sauna. Before entering the sauna, drink plenty of water. Do not consume alcohol prior to a session. If you feel lightheaded, get out of the sauna and drink some water; you may be dehydrated. You can return to the sauna once your body has cooled down.

4. Relax after your sauna session. Allow your body to naturally cool down after your infrared sauna session. You can shower once your body temperature has returned to normal.


Dry Sauna vs. Infrared: What's the Difference?

Infrared saunas use infrared lamps that emit electromagnetic radiation, as opposed to dry saunas that heat up around your body. Although infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than dry saunas, the heat permeates your skin, raising your core body temperature and causing you to sweat more than in a traditional sauna. In addition to all of the benefits of a dry sauna, infrared radiation may help to reduce wrinkles and acne.


Sauna vs. Steam Room Benefits

Because the humidity prevents your body from cooling itself through sweat as it would in dry heat, steam rooms feel hotter on your skin than dry saunas. Steam rooms operate at lower temperatures and are especially beneficial if you have respiratory problems.


4 Possible Risks of Sauna Use

Sauna sessions have numerous health benefits, but be aware of the following risks:

1. Dehydration: Because perspiration causes your body to lose fluid, you are at risk of dehydration. Always hydrate before entering a sauna and, if necessary, take breaks to sip water.

2. Lowered blood pressure: According to a systematic review study, sauna use may cause low blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness. If you already have low blood pressure, consult your doctor before using a sauna. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, get out of the sauna right away.

3. Skin irritation: If you have psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema, the humid conditions of a sauna may exacerbate your symptoms. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor first.

4. Temporary low sperm count: According to some studies, sauna use may temporarily lower your sperm count.

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