Benefits of Sauna Therapy: Get many of the benefits of exercise while relaxing and not moving at all? Reduce all-cause mortality while just sitting down? Improve brain health and longevity while relaxing in the comfort of your own home? It sounds too good to be true, but the sauna’s benefits are well studied and very real. Today we explore 9 of the top benefits of sauna therapy.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
What is Sauna?
A sauna is a hot room used to relax in and sweat. Saunas have been used for health and healing for a long time and have roots in ancient Roman, Greek, and Mayan cultures 1.
Although a sauna is simply a hot room, the way that it is used and its many variances have significantly evolved over time and in different cultures. The Finnish have their wood-burning resulting from, typically outdoor saunas known as vihta, Korean saunas are known as jjimjilbangs, for the Swede’s a batsu the Japanese, the sauna is known as sent. For the Russians, it’s bania, in Islamic cultures, hammam. For Mexicans, the temescal, and, in American Indian’s & Eskimo cultures, call it a sweat lodge. Turkish baths evolved using wet heat instead of dry, as did the Laos people, who call their sauna hom yaa. 1
Benefits of Sauna Therapy: Different Kinds of Sauna
The main variations between saunas are the type of heat (wet or dry) and how the heat is delivered (by heating the room or heating the body directly).
The three distinct differentiations of the sauna are:
- Dry sauna: a room heated either by burning wood, hot stones, or heating the room electrically or with gas. The body is warmed by being in the hot space.
- Wet sauna: with more humidity in the air, which is achieved by either applying water to hot stones or by pumping steam directly into the hot room. The body is warmed by being in the hot space.
- Infrared sauna: the most modern innovation uses light waves that use radiant heat to directly penetrate the skin, warming the body, although the room itself is not necessarily getting extremely hot.
The Proven Benefits of Sauna Therapy
Although the studies regarding the benefits of sauna vary slightly depending on the type of sauna used (dry sauna, steam sauna, and infrared sauna), they cross over tremendously. All saunas carry enormous health benefits, and today we will explore the top 10 ways backed by science.
Reduce All-Cause Mortality
One of the most shocking and inspiring reasons to use a sauna regularly is that it is linked to a significant reduction in all-cause mortality 2. The study in question came out of Finland and followed participants for over 20 years. The benefits increased as the sauna’s frequency and duration increase, maxing out around four to seven sauna sessions per week, of at least 20 minutes in duration.
Although the mechanism is not entirely understood, many speculate that this is due to the exercise-mimicking behaviors that sauna usage stimulates in the body.
Detoxify Heavy Metals and Toxins
Sweating is one way our bodies excrete toxins, but most people do not sweat each day adequately to encourage the proper elimination of these toxins. The blood vessel dilation that occurs due to the increase in body temperature promotes a deep sweat. Sweating profusely encourages toxins release, like BPAs, and harder-to-excrete heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead, to be excreted from the body 3.
Improve Muscle Recovery and Function
How sauna help promote muscle function, and recovery are multifaceted. For one, the heat shock proteins generated in the body resulting from heat therapy help repair damaged proteins in our bodies and protect us against oxidative damage 4.
The inflammation that occurs as a result of muscle breakdown is also reduced dramatically during sauna use 5. Studies demonstrate that the inflammation marker C-Reactive Protein serum levels dropped markedly and increasingly depending on sauna usage. The cohorts were divided into groups of single sauna use per week, 2-3 sessions, and 4-7 sessions, demonstrating a clear significant inverse association between the frequency of sauna bathing and the level of C-reactive protein 5. In other words: more sauna, less inflammation.
Improves Heart Health
By mimicking exercise’s reaction in the body, the sauna provides some profound benefits for heart health. A 20-year study highlights sauna’s ability to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, deadly cardiovascular disease 6. The benefits were dose-dependent, with participants visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week (for at least 20 minutes) reaping the most benefit.
Improved Brain Health
Regular sauna use has been linked to significant advancements in neurodegenerative healing. Various studies explore the benefits of sauna use on various neurodegenerative illnesses, including Alzheimer’s and dementia 7, 8. These benefits are linked to the release of norepinephrine during a sauna session, which benefits brain health as a whole.
The brain benefits also come from the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (or BDNF), released during any heat-boosting activity (like exercise or sauna). BDNF has been shown to promote the creation of new neurons as well as boost cognitive function 9.
Stress-relief is one of the apparent benefits of sauna use that most people can relate to without needing any science to back it up. And yet, the hormonal benefits of stress relief are very well studied.
Sauna bathing reduces the levels of cortisol in our blood, also known as the stress hormone 10. As it promotes cortisol reduction, it also stimulates the release of ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. One study even highlights hyperthermia (elevating body temperature) in successfully treating symptoms of major depressive disorders 11.
A sauna is a great way to start the day with an injection of mood-boosting hormones or unwind to help relieve stress.
Promote Deeper Sleep
One of the most amazing benefits of sauna therapy? Sauna use, especially in the hours preceding bedtime, promotes a longer and deeper sleep 12. By raising core temperature before bed, the body’s readjustment mechanism will drop the body temperature afterward, which encourages more calm, relaxation, and deeper sleep cycles.
Sleep is further benefitted thanks to all the other points on this list, including a greater sense of emotional wellbeing and heightened relaxation. We all know how a mind full of stressful thoughts can keep us awake, and by promoting serotonin and reducing cortisol levels, the sauna before bed can ensure we relax enough to drift off into dreamland 10, 13.
Supports a Healthy Weight
One of the healthiest benefits of sauna therapy is promoting weight management. It burns a significant amount of calories, for starters, since the sweating process requires a lot of energy. A single sauna session boosts metabolism up to 25-33% for the following 24-hours! 14 Exposure to heat has increases insulin sensitivity, promoting healthy weight by keeping blood sugar levels more balanced. 15 And finally, time in the sauna increases growth hormone activity in the body, which helps build and maintain lean body mass 16.
Boosts Immune System
A single sauna session has been shown to boost the immune system. One of many studies highlights the increased number of white blood cells, lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil counts in the white blood cell profile due to a mere 15 minutes in the sauna 17.
Buying an In-Home Sauna You Can Afford
The benefits of the sauna as profound but do rely on regular sauna use. One of the best ways to ensure that you get near-daily use of a sauna is to invest in one for your home. With the rising popularity of saunas as science continues to support its great benefits, rest assured that not all in-home-saunas are made equal.
Like anything, when a product becomes popular, there are many companies out there making poor-quality products just to benefit from the wave of new buyers. When it comes to the sauna, the difference in quality makes all the difference and can make the experience itself either healing or harmful.
Many built-up saunas take up lots of space in a home, a luxury that not everyone has. Moreover, if you are renting or considering a move in the future, investing in a built-in or bulky large sauna can prove to be problematic. Luckily, the folks at Higher Dose have built a high-quality, portable sauna ‘blanket.’
The Infrared Sauna Blanket V3
Reaping all the sauna benefits without breaking the bank or worrying about leaving your sauna behind in a move has never been easier. The sauna blanket is the perfect investment.
The V3 Sauna Blanket has eight settings that emit far-infrared rays, and although the face stays out of the blanket, you will receive a whole-body sweat. The blanket and has a low EMF reading. Unlike room-based saunas that generally require a voltage upgrade in the home and can drain significant energy, the blanket runs on a standard 100-120 Volt plug.
It only takes up 71 x 71 inches and is portable, so you can whip it out for daily use and easily store it away under a bed. It folds up for easy travel and can be stored in a suitcase or car. The cleanup process is easy, too, a simple wipe down of the Waterproof Polyurethane (PU) fireproof cotton surface!
HigherDose Infrared Sauna Blankets don’t just offer all the benefits of pricey in-home saunas, they’re also affordable and compact, so you don’t need more square footage to gain the benefits of infrared. Most personal saunas can cost anywhere from $3,000-$10,000… And trips to your local spa can get up to $30-$60 per session!
Now you can save the trip and save space with this super-compact, powerful sauna blanket. Recharge your cells while watching TV… Get glowing skin and recover from your workouts while listening to an audiobook!
No clean-up. No setup. Just lying down.
The benefits of regular sauna use permeate every aspect of wellbeing. From anti-aging to healthy weight, heart health, stress relief, deeper sleep, and immune boost: using a sauna for health and longevity is a no-brainer. The science is well established and hinges on regular use. Investing in a home sauna is one way to reap the benefits regularly, and thanks to Higher Dose, the new V3 Sauna Blanket is a way to have a high-quality portable infrared sauna without breaking the bank.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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