Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas: Backed By Science

The average person might assume that people primarily use saunas for relaxation, pleasure or socializing. You may even imagine a group of men in towels sweating out their troubles in a steamy wooden room. And while that image may ring true for some, using a sauna (known as sauna bathing) is linked to a variety of surprising health benefits that are backed by scientific evidence.

Sauna researcher and author Leigh Ann states, “Extensive studies support the many life-changing benefits of sauna use.”

Sauna health benefits include:

  • Alleviation of arthritis, flu, headache and skin diseases[1]
  • Improved Heart Function and “reduction in the risk of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and neuro-cognitive diseases [2]”
  • Reduced Risk of Stroke. A long-term Finnish study of over 1600 people states that sauna bathing between four to seven times a week reduces risk of stroke [3].
  • Decreased risk of Dementia and Alzheimers Disease: “Sauna bathing, an activity that promotes relaxation and well-being, may be a recommendable intervention to prevent or delay the development of memory diseases in healthy adults. Further study is however needed.[4]”
  • Reduced Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can lead to many diseases, as reported by the Johns Hopkins Health Review[5]. Infrared saunas may reduce systemic inflammation.
  • “Regular sauna bathing reduces the incidence of common colds,” one study explains.
  • Sauna users live longer. “Using the sauna 2-3 times per week was associated with 24% lower all-cause mortality and 4-7 times per week decreased all-cause mortality by 40%” as stated by the JAMA Network Journals (although this has so far only been studied in men)

Regular Sauna Use Improves Immune Function in These Ways

Psychological stress increases risk of acute infectious respiratory illness (such as the common cold). Regular sauna use is associated with a marked reduction in stress and increased relaxation response.

The International Journal of Biometeorology studied rats to determine that far-infrared radiation enhances sleep. “Thus the far-infrared radiation exerted a sleep modulatory effect closely related to the circadian activity-rest cycle.”

Sleep is crucial to good health and immunity. In fact, a study by the Mayo Clinic determined that a lack of sleep can make you sick.

How Sauna Improves Immunity

Heat stress from sauna bathing increases heat shock proteins (HSPs). These HSPs protect against cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and prevent protein aggregation – which is often correlated with disease. Heat stress also triggers your body to turn on genes that protect against DNA damage, loss of immune function, protein and lipid damage, and other age-related stress [6].

“HSPs either exert immune activation as danger signals in cancer immunity and mediate protection against infectious diseases or exhibit regulatory activities in controlling and preventing autoimmunity [7],” As reported by a study by the Department of Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital Regensburg, Germany.

Furthermore, sweating removes toxins from the body. “Sauna increased excretion with sweat fluid of toxic substances (lead, thiuram, captax, sulphenamide C that penetrated the body during work,” as maintained by this study.

How Long Should You Stay In a Sauna?

So how long do you need to stay in a sauna to obtain these immunity-boosting benefits? There’s no need to force yourself to be uncomfortable to reap the benefits of sauna bathing. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends starting with 5 to 15 minutes of sauna bathing for new sauna users.

Many studies indicate that staying in the sauna for a longer duration doesn’t increase the benefits. However, benefits seem to increase the more often you sauna bathe.

Sauna for Stress Reduction

The relationship between stress and sickness has been studied extensively. This study reports that up to 80% of people visit the Doctor for reasons relating to stress.

One particular study about the Effects of Sauna on Psychological States measured participants’ moods using the POMs:Tension–Anxiety, Depression–Dejection, Anger–Hostility, Vigor, Fatigue, and Confusion. The results determined that
Anxiety measures were improved for all participants after sauna use.[8]

Sauna Safety Tips

The following sauna safety tips will help you get the most out of your sauna experience:

  • Before or After your sauna: Don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol leads to dehydration.
  • Start slowly with 5 to 10 minutes of sauna bathing at a time
  • Allow yourself to cool down gradually
  • Stay hydrated: Drink up to 32 ounces of cool water after each sauna session
  • Don’t use the sauna when you’re sick.

When it comes to your immune system, health and overall longevity, sauna bathing has been proven to show incredible benefits.

Sources:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180801131602.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(18)30275-1/fulltext
  3. https://n.neurology.org/content/90/22/e1937
  4. https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/46/2/245/2654230
  5. https://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWKBsh7YTXQ (Dr. Rhonda Patrick)
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16610364
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1713648