Have you ever wondered how long you should stay in a sauna to get the most out of it? Saunas are a great way to relax, detoxify, boost metabolism, and promote weight loss, but they can also be potentially dangerous if you overdo it.
How long should you stay in a sauna to maximize its benefits without compromising your health, and what happens if you stay too long?
Keep reading to learn more about the appropriate time limit for sauna bathing and expert tips on enjoying it safely and effectively.
Why Is Spending the Right Amount of Time in a Sauna Important?
While saunas have been used for years to improve physical and mental health, it is only in recent times that the concept of sauna bathing has received widespread recognition as an important part of healthy living.
Healthline states that saunas can help improve cardiovascular health, boost energy levels, and promote weight loss. However, your time in a sauna can significantly affect your desired outcome.
For instance, if you're short on time and need to get in and out of the sauna quickly, you may not avail yourself of the full benefits.
You might experience:
Poor detoxification: One of the main benefits of sauna bathing is the detoxification process that occurs as you sweat. A short session might not produce enough sweat to effectively remove toxins from your body.
Limited respiratory benefits: If you're suffering from chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies, a short sauna session may not do much good in clearing up your mucus or improving lung function.
Reduced relaxation:Research shows that sauna bathing lowers your cortisol (aka the stress hormone) level and encourages your body to release endorphins. Cleveland Clinic notes that this combination can produce a state of deep relaxation that can help ease stress, anxiety, insomnia, and even chronic pain. However, if you only have a few minutes to spare, it's highly unlikely for your mind and body to unwind fully.
Likewise, if you spend excessive time in a sauna, you might notice your skin getting pruney and your body too languid. Boston University explains that extreme heat exposure can lead to several side effects, including:
Dehydration: Since you sweat profusely during a sauna session, your body loses water, minerals, and electrolytes. Mayo Clinic notes that this can cause dehydration, ultimately resulting in dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Hyperthermia: Spending too much time in a sauna can raise your body temperature to potentially dangerous levels, leading to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Skin Problems: While saunas can do wonders for your skin, overexposure to heat can dry it out, resulting in itchiness and irritation. This can lead to premature aging of the skin, increased sensitivity, and even acne breakouts. It can also worsen existing skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Cardiovascular Issues: When you stay in a sauna too long, your heart works twice as hard to maintain your body's core temperature. The Temple Health & Vascular Institute notes that this increased heart activity can result in heart palpitations and arrhythmias, potentially dangerous for those with existing heart conditions.
How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna?
Generally, experts recommend that you should spend around 15 to 20 minutes in a sauna. While this is a good starting point for most people, it's important to listen to your body and take breaks if you feel uncomfortable.
For folks new to a sauna, it's best to take it slow and start by spending only 5 to 10 minutes at a time. If you've finished your workout, wait 10 minutes before hopping in a sauna.
Avoid using a sauna for more than 15 minutes at a time. With frequent breaks, however, you can safely stay in a sauna for up to 45 minutes. Of course, some individuals may need to take longer or shorter breaks, depending on different health factors.
Factors Affecting Sauna Duration
Several factors can influence how long you should stay in a sauna, including:
There are different types of saunas, each with varying temperature and humidity levels, which can influence your sauna duration such as:
Traditional Finnish sauna: Such saunas use an electric or wood-burning heater to generate dry heat. The temperature in a Finnish sauna is typically between 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity levels around 10-20%. Because of the high temperature and low humidity, Finnish sauna sessions are usually shorter, between 10 to 15 minutes.
Infrared sauna: Infrared saunas (such as the Dynamic Sauna Barcelona) use infrared light to heat the body directly rather than heating the surrounding air. The temperature in an infrared sauna is lower, usually around 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So infrared sauna sessions can be longer, between 20 to 45 minutes.
Steam room: Steam rooms use steam to create a hot, humid environment, with temperatures around 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels close to 100%. High humidity levels can cause drowsiness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and headaches, notes NBC News. Therefore, sessions in a steam room are typically shorter than those in a dry sauna, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
Your age significantly affects how often and for how long you can safely use a sauna. As you age, your body composition changes, with a decrease in muscle mass and bodily fluid and an increase in body fat. Cleveland Clinic explains that this change in body composition can decrease your thirst sensation and decreases your body's ability to conserve water, increasing the risk of dehydration.
Older adults may need to spend less time in a sauna or opt for lower temperatures to avoid overheating or mitigate the risk of dehydration.
Children can also struggle to regulate their body temperature during a sauna session. They typically sweat more since they have a higher surface area to body weight ratio. Children also have smaller fluid reserves, so they rapidly become dehydrated. Young children, especially infants and toddlers, can also not communicate their thirst effectively; it is recommended that that children so young do not use saunas.
For children and older individuals, limiting sauna sessions to 10 to 15 minutes is generally recommended to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Your overall health and pre-existing medical conditions play a vital role when it comes to how long you should stay in a sauna.
Research indicates that individuals with certain health issues, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, respiratory issues, or skin conditions, may need to limit their sauna sessions or avoid them altogether.
It's best to consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna to avoid any adverse reactions. They can help guide you better on the appropriate duration and precautions to take before planning your sweat session.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal preferences and comfort level.
While some individuals prefer shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes as a part of their workout regimen, others may enjoy longer sessions of 20-30 minutes to unwind and relax.
The most important thing is to listen to your body and enjoy the sauna's benefits. If you are new to a sauna, start with a shorter duration — preferably 15-20 minutes — and gradually increase it as your body acclimates to the heat.
Sauna Duration for Specific Health Goals
If you enjoy using a sauna, you may wonder how long you should stay in one to reap the most health benefits. The answer depends on what health benefits you're aiming for.
Whether you want to shed some pounds, improve your cardiovascular health, or even fight off an illness, there's a sweet spot for each sauna session.
Here are some examples:
Tips for Safe Sauna Use
Follow these sauna guidelines and safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable sauna experience:
Consult your doctor before using a sauna, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions including high blood pressure, heart problems, or asthma.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after using a sauna to maintain fluid levels.
Avoid drinking alcohol before or during your sauna session, as it can affect your body's ability to sweat properly, leaving you nauseous and lightheaded.
Wearing appropriate, loose-fitting clothing or a towel is an important sauna etiquette for proper air circulation and hygiene.
Limit your sauna sessions to 15-20 minutes at a time. First-time users should start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration.
Keep the sauna temperature between 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous during your sauna session, leave the sauna immediately and rest in a cooler area.
When using essential oils during sauna aromatherapy, dilute the oils properly and use them sparingly to avoid skin irritation or potential respiratory issues.
Allow your body to cool gradually after leaving the sauna by sitting in a cooler area or taking a lukewarm shower.
How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna?: FAQs
Is it Okay To Use The Sauna Daily?
Yes, using a sauna daily is perfectly safe, provided you don't use it for more than 20 minutes at a time, take regular breaks between sessions, and wear appropriate sauna attire.
What Happens If You Stay in a Sauna Too Long?
If you stay in a sauna for too long, you may experience dehydration and heat exhaustion, resulting in dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. In several cases, spending too long in a sauna can also lead to a heat stroke, which is potentially fatal if not treated immediately.
How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna: The Takeaway
Saunas can be an enjoyable way to relax, eliminate toxins, boost immunity, and improve skin if you use them safely.
Experts generally recommend staying in a sauna for no longer than 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Listen to your body for any signs of discomfort or dehydration. If you start feeling uncomfortably hot, cut your session short and try again another time.