6 Potential Health & Wellbeing Benefits Of Taking A Sauna

This just in and somewhat unsurprisingly; in data collated by Move Hub, which considered both life expectancy and the number of centenarians in a given country, Japan has once again been named the healthiest nation on earth.

So far, so predictable.

But perhaps what stands out most starkly in the data is the unavoidable truth that the top five healthiest nations shared a particular trait; they all boast a prominent, prevalent sauna culture. Go figure.

There must be something in the water. Or rather, in the steam, as the vital, vigorous people of Japan, Korea, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland all enjoy a long, languid spell in a sauna as an integral part of their culture.

Saunas have been used for centuries in these countries as a way to relax and detoxify the body, soothe pain and even provide a foundation for social interaction and community ritual.

What’s not to love? If you’re keen to explore some of the potential health and wellbeing benefits of taking a sauna, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive in…

Saunas Could Help Reduce Stress Levels

Saunas have been used for hundreds of years for relaxation and to help reduce stress levels. The heat and humidity in a sauna can cause your sympathetic nervous system to become more active, leading to your body to release endorphins in the process. 

This reaction to the heat can lead to your muscles relaxing and you being less perceptive of pain, both of which can promote stress relief. Some even suggest practicing meditation in a sauna whilst your body is responding to the heat and humidity favourably, enhancing that sense of relaxation and stress relief.

Saunas Can Provide A Healthy Arena For Socialising

By now the scientific consensus is close to unanimous; having an active social life is incredibly beneficial to your health. On the flip side, loneliness has been linked with a higher risk of a number physical and mental health issues, including higher blood pressure, a weakened immune system, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and general cognitive decline.

The problem is that here in the UK, our favourite arena for socialising, the pub, and our favourite social pastime, boozing, is also associated with pretty much every one of those physical and mental health issues we just noted.

Saunas can provide a healthy, sober arena for socialising, promoting companionship, camaraderie and conversation. With the potential other health benefits thrown in for good measure, who are we to argue?

Barrel saunas are a type of sauna that have become increasingly popular in recent years here in the UK, as they represent perhaps the most sociable way to take a sauna. Cylindrical in shape and usable in both an indoor and an outdoor setting, a barrel sauna is a great choice if you want a sauna that is both spacious and comfortable. They can hold up to six people, making them perfect for families or groups of friends. Or both, if everyone gets along!

Saunas Have The Potential To Improve Sleep Quality

Saunas, or more specifically, infrared saunas, have also been reported to help improve sleep quality. The heat and humidity of a sauna can help to relax the body and prepare it for sleep, much in the same way a warm soak in the tub does the same thing.

This is because a sharp spike in body temperature can then lead to a resultant quicker drop, helping you prepare for sleep, as your body needs to be cool for a restful, undisturbed night between the sheets. A sauna a couple of hours before bed can help supercharge this heating then cooling effect.

Additionally, the endorphins released during a sauna, alongside the possible reduced pain perception, can help to improve sleep quality.

Read: 6 things we like to do before bed every night

Saunas May Help Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia

Saunas have also been shown to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One study conducted on a group of 2,315 healthy Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 found that regular sauna use was associated with a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 66% lower risk of dementia.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, spending some time in a sauna may be helpful, though it should be noted that more studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn, and in some cases, exposure to extreme heat has actually been shown to increase the risk of dementia in some people.

The Potential For Pain Relief

Do you live with constant aches and pains? ”Don’t we all?”, your subconscious sighs resignedly.  But you shouldn’t raise the white flag to life’s crippling inevitability just yet; using a sauna is thought to be a natural remedy for so many common physical ailments. 

Stiff joints, muscle aches, and general soreness can all be eased using a sauna, particularly an infrared one. Health problems often result from strains and overexertion, whether that’s suffered during exercise or via bad posture, and this can create tension in the muscles and soft tissues, restricting proper circulation and sending pain signals to the brain. However, the heat of a sauna serves to increase blood circulation, helping relieve pain from muscle spasms or tightness.

Skincare Benefits

Dry heat increases blood flow, that we’ve established, which can help deliver nutrients more efficiently to your skin. But a spell in the sauna can clear your complexion, too, by opening up your pores, flushing out toxins and declogging those same pores. 

We only have to look in the mirror after a sauna to note that glowing, radiant complexion first hand. And what a sight it is to behold!

The Bottom Line

Saunas, when used as part of a traditional and complementary approach to our health and wellbeing, may well bring some benefits.

That said, saunas certainly aren’t for everyone, and in some demographics, may actually present a risk to health. Always check with a qualified health professional before using a sauna.

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