The article addresses a frequently asked question related to the sauna, which is “How long should you stay inside your sauna?” Let’s explore how much time you need for optimal health benefits.
Before we get started, please remember that this article is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medically backed instruction. Please consult with your health care practitioner before engaging in regular sauna use.to
Determining exactly how long to spend in the sauna can be difficult because it all depends on what it is that you want to accomplish and also on your own body’s needs. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a definitive answer for this question, but conventional wisdom says that you should not stay inside the sauna longer than 15 minutes at a time. In this article, we will try to understand this time limit, and also focus on a few different health benefits so that you can choose what is best for your body and your lifestyle.
As mentioned, because we don’t have a wealth of studies which focuses on this particular topic, we have to rely upon conventional wisdom to understand why we are typically limited to just 15 minutes at a time (and why most sauna timers are set at this time limit). If you are curious as to how to properly use a sauna, then we’ve written a helpful article here for you to check out.
Now, it’s no secret that you sweat in the sauna, and with that can come a whole host of benefits, such as benefits for your skin condition, acne, and even loss of water weight and temporary weight loss. Having said that though, there are some claims that you can lose up to a pint of fluid after just 15 minutes! That’s a lot of fluid. By losing that much fluid, you could run the risk of dehydration- particularly if you worked out before entering the sauna (we always recommend you cool down and rest before doing so!), or simply haven’t drunk enough throughout the day. Regardless, severe dehydration can result in you passing out by impacting your blood pressure.
It’s never a good idea to pass out; let alone in a hot environment that caused you to pass out in the first place!
As mentioned in another article, while sauna use is generally beneficial for your skin, it is possible that it aggravates certain skin conditions depending on your body. If you are unfortunate enough to be such a case, longer periods in the sauna might not be suitable for you. And hence, we would certainly not recommend sessions longer than 15 minutes.
Having said this though, this does not mean that your whole sauna session need be limited to just 15 minutes. Instead, you could treat your sauna session like a workout by incorporating 15 minute ‘sets.’ That is, 15 minutes inside the sauna, followed by a cool down period outside (or in a cold shower, or plunge pool), and then straight back into the sauna. It is quite common that this practise is repeated several times for sauna sessions to exceed an hour at a time in Finland! That’s dedication…
You may have heard that infrared saunas allow you to increase the length of your sets for up to 45 minutes, but we do not recommend this. The argument is that the heat is more evenly distributed throughout the sauna, and while there is an element of truth here, the source of the heat simply does not negate what has been previously mentioned. If you would like to try out an infrared sauna, check out our range of indoor saunas, or one of our featured products such as this Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna.
As mentioned, the duration of your sauna set is also dependent on your own individual body. There’s no room for ego when it comes to saunas- simply stay as long as is comfortable for you. Here are some questions that you might want to consider in determining your optimal duration:
HOW FIT ARE YOU?
Or rather, how healthy are you? This is a very general question, and one which only you can answer, but if you are generally quite healthy than you may be able to sit in a sauna longer than somebody who is not in as great health and fitness. Of course, if you have any underlying health issues then we urge you to consult your health practitioner, and these issues may influence how long you can use a sauna. If you are severely overweight then you may overheat much quicker than somebody with a low body fat percentage, so do be mindful of this and remember to listen to your body.
HOW EXPERIENCED ARE YOU?
If you are a relative newbie, than you may only find that you can last for 5 minutes at time. And that’s totally fine! As with most things, an experienced practitioner will be more familiar with that feeling of that experience and may be able to better deal with this heat. This could be all be down to the power of the mind, or it may be physical. Over time your body will adapt in terms of hormones, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems. Only you will be able to tell, but no matter how experienced you are, do be sensible and limit your time by utilizing the idea of ‘sets.’
ARE YOU TRYING FOR CHILDREN?
We’ve already written a full article on whether it is safe to use the sauna while pregnant. If you want the abridged version; there are some health risks associated that you should be aware of if you are pregnant and wish to use the sauna, such as fetal development issues which is of course a very serious issue. However, that does not mean that you absolutely cannot sauna (at least the data does not explicitly state so), so we recommend that you keep your time short if you absolutely must use the sauna; no more than 10 minutes. It’s not worth risking the health of your precious baby.
For men on the other hand, some studies have shown that regular sauna use may result in lower sperm count, although this is thankfully not permanent. A study conducted on 10 Finnish men over a period of 3 months found a noticeable general reduction in sperm count and motility, without a decrease in sex hormone levels. Nevertheless, these levels returned to normal after 6 months without bathing. Definitely something to consider if you are planning a family.
IS YOUR CHILD USING THE SAUNA?
In Finland it is actually common for children to also participate in sauna bathing, although with parental guidance. As in, children are not to be left alone in the sauna, and typically there is an age restriction of around 7 years old. Leppaluoto (1998) found that after a 30 minute session at 176°F found that internal body temperatures rose by 34°F whereas children saw an increase in 35°F. These ranges are considered safe and can result in a pleasant and relaxing feeling in the users.
DO YOU HAVE HEART DISEASE OR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
We’ve written about it before, but its always good to reiterate that regular sauna use can see a decrease in blood pressure and increased cardiovascular strength. Studies have suggested that using a sauna 2-3 times a week were less likely to die from heart related diseases by up to 27%. Men using the sauna 4-7 times a week were up to 50% less likely! That same study stated that the optimal time to stay in the sauna was in fact 19 minutes per session!
ARE YOU OVERWEIGHT?
If you have metabolic disorders, regular sauna use has shown to use can actually help to metabolize cholesterol and triglycerides better. Furthermore, there can also be an increase in heat shock proteins which affects insulin sensitivity, muscle growth and regeneration, and coudl even benefit weight loss.
A study on a group of young women required the two groups of participants to regularly bathe in a sauna for 30 minutes, and 40 minutes respectively (they were allowed a break). Both groups saw the aforementioned benefits to their metabolisms.
And so, there are a few questions that you might want to consider when thinking about entering a sauna. While you could stay in the sauna for prolonged periods of time, we would say that a good rule of thumb is to stick to 15 minutes at a time. That way you can reap the benefits without any of the potential risks (should they apply to you). As always, if you do have any specific requirements, we do urge you to consult with your healthcare practitioner.