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Article: Remarkable Health Benefits of Dry Sauna Bathing for Your Overall Well-being

Remarkable Health Benefits of Dry Sauna Bathing for Your Overall Well-being

Remarkable Health Benefits of Dry Sauna Bathing for Your Overall Well-being

Written by Chris Lang

Stress relief. Relaxation. Peace. These are just some of the concepts commonly (and deservedly) associated with saunas. But while these desirable feelings can result from sauna bathing in general, it’s important to know there are different types of saunas with varying benefits and experiences.

Among these types, dry saunas are arguably the most known. After all, Finnish saunas, the predecessors of modern Western saunas, harness the power of dry heat. But some new sauna types—primarily infrared saunas—have been making waves in the wellness industry. Of course, we also can’t forget steam rooms or the so-called “wet” saunas.

But what does a dry sauna do for you compared to these other popular types? That’s what this article is all about. We’ll dig deep into the dry sauna benefits to help you understand how this type stands out from other sauna experiences. Let’s begin.

How Dry Saunas Work

Before diving into the benefits of the dry sauna, let’s explore how its heating mechanism operates to create its unique therapeutic environment.

Using a heat source, a dry sauna raises the ambient temperature of a small room without letting out steam, making its users sweat in the process. Traditionally, wood fire was used as the heat source topped by rocks used for temperature regulation. However, the modern versions of dry saunas increasingly use electric heaters to control the temperature more precisely and efficiently.

But no matter what the source is, one thing remains the same – it heats the room (or its air) directly. That’s why the temperature in a dry sauna can reach a staggering 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, it can go even over this figure, but this is considered unsafe.

Pair the intensely high temperatures with low humidity levels, and you’ll quickly understand why these saunas are referred to as “dry.” But don’t worry; “low humidity levels” don’t equate to 0%. Generally, these levels range from 5% to 30%, meaning the air inside a dry sauna will still retain a decent amount of moisture.

Dry Heat vs. Steam

Different sauna types primarily differ in their heating methods. Dry heat saunas and steam rooms are no different.

For dry heat sauna benefits to take effect, the room’s moisture must be kept to a minimum. That’s why a dry sauna features multiple vents to help steam escape. That’s also why traditional dry saunas are usually made of wood, as this material naturally absorbs moisture, ensuring a low-humidity environment.

It probably won’t surprise you to find out that steam rooms aim to do the completely opposite thing. After all, they are often referred to as “wet saunas.” To earn this name, steam rooms use a generator filled with boiling water to consistently pump steam into their air, thus maintaining a high humidity level. And “high” might even be an understatement, as the humidity level inside these rooms can go up to 100%.

Thanks to this humid environment, steam rooms are ideal for cleansing your skin and respiratory passages.

Dry Heat vs. Infrared Light

Infrared light saunas differ from most saunas in how they approach heating your body. Unlike their wet and dry counterparts, infrared saunas don’t heat the air inside the room. Instead, they heat your body directly. How? By emitting light invisible to the human eye. Your body directly absorbs this light, which, in turn, triggers the same physiological mechanisms as dry saunas.

This lack of extreme environmental heat is perhaps the biggest advantage of infrared saunas over the traditional types. These saunas heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making them more tolerable for longer stays, as well as for people with heat sensitivity or certain medical conditions.

As for the infrared sauna time benefits, they’re similar to those of dry saunas. But because infrared saunas allow longer stays and directly target your body, they might beat some of the health benefits of dry sauna in terms of their long-term effects.

For instance, both sauna types can be used to lower blood pressure. But using the infrared sauna for hypertension yields better long-term results.

Health Benefits of Using a Dry Sauna

By now, it should be clear that the answer to the question “Is a dry sauna good for you?” is a resounding yes (for most people, at least!). But now, let’s see just how good it is. Here are the most notable health benefits of a dry sauna.

Improved Circulation

As the dry sauna’s heat source warms up the room, your body temperature also starts rising. As a response, your body will automatically trigger its cooling mechanism—sweating—to keep you from overheating. Also, this heat will positively stress your heart, which will start pumping blood at a much faster rate (up to 150 beats per minute).

To allow this new intensely pumped blood to pass freely, your blood vessels will dilate. In such an environment, oxygen-rich blood has no trouble circulating your body and reaching all the vital organs, which is highly beneficial to your overall health. That’s why improved blood circulation is considered a major dry sauna benefit and one that serves as the foundation of numerous others.

Heart Health

The improved blood circulation resulting from sauna bathing positively affects your overall heart health in several ways.

For starters, it helps you reduce blood pressure instantly and long-term, as suggested by multiple studies. As for the instant blood pressure reduction, that’s where dry heats saunas excel. Two 2018 studies (Lee et al. and Laukkanen et al.) showed that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased after a single sauna session. But, more importantly, dry sauna bathing can also have long-term effects on blood pressure.

A 2015 study conducted in Finland found that participants using the sauna more frequently (four to seven sessions a week) saw a long-term decrease in their resting blood pressure. Another study, this time from 2017, concluded that regularly using a sauna can even decrease the risk of developing hypertension by 50%.

While better blood pressure management is a significant benefit of dry sauna in and of itself, it also has some crucial implications for your overall cardiovascular health.

Lower blood pressure, paired with decreased stress levels and improved cardiovascular function (all benefits of dry heat sauna), can help you keep your heart healthy longer. The above-mentioned Finnish study from 2015 found that regularly going sauna bathing can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, as well as suffering a sudden cardiac death.

Of course, these promising results don’t mean that you should rely solely on sauna bathing for your cardiovascular health. Instead, sauna bathing should be just a part of your overall health and wellness routine, complementing a balanced diet, regular exercise, and medical check-ups.

Skin Health

Besides providing cardiovascular benefits, dry sauna can do wonders for other body systems and organs as well. Take the dry sauna benefits for the skin as an example. Not only can the dry sauna affect the overall aesthetic appearance of the skin, but it can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of specific skin conditions.

As for the first benefit, the improved circulation resulting from sauna bathing will also impact your skin, making it more elastic and, thus, more plump. Though the steam rooms are more effective in cleansing your skin, the heat from dry saunas will still open up your pores, helping expel toxins.

As for skin conditions, some older studies suggest that a dry sauna can help alleviate psoriasis symptoms, as it facilitates removing scaly patches and, in turn, relieves the unpleasant itching or burning sensations. However, you should always consult your dermatologist before entering a sauna, as there are some conditions that can be worsened by heat (like atopic dermatitis).

Risks and Precautions

When answering the “Is dry sauna good for you?” question, we made the point to emphasize that the answer is positive for most people. Naturally, this means that there are some people who should exercise caution or avoid dry saunas altogether. This mostly affects people with underlying medical conditions and specific sensitivities.

But before breaking down these exceptions, let’s talk about the precautions that should apply to all sauna users.

  • Drink plenty of water. When using the sauna, you can lose as much as one pint of fluid through sweating. If you’re not careful, such fluid loss can result in dehydration. So, make sure to drink at least one glass of water before entering the sauna and at least two upon exiting. Also, promptly exit the room if you feel any signs of dehydration, like dizziness or a sudden headache. Failing to do so can cause severe complications, including a heat stroke.

  • Limit your sauna time. After reading about the incredible benefits of hot dry sauna, you might get tempted to stay in the room longer to maximize its effects. But this can actually do more harm than good. To avoid any side effects of sauna bathing, limit it to 20 minutes per session. Beginners can do five to 10 minutes, while more experienced (and tolerant) users can go up to 30, but not a minute over.

  • Avoid alcohol consumption. Alcohol and sauna don’t mesh well. So, avoid drinking alcohol before and even after going sauna bathing.

  • Follow the proper post-sauna procedure. After exiting the sauna, give your body time to cool down gradually.

Who Should Avoid Dry Saunas?

People with the following conditions should avoid saunas altogether or consult their healthcare providers before use:

  • Pregnancy

  • Uncontrolled blood pressure (both low and high)

  • Abnormal heart rhythm

  • Unstable angina pectoris

  • Chronic heart failure

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Severe cardiovascular disease

  • Recent myocardial infarction (heart attack)

  • Recent heart surgery

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Severe infectious disease

  • Chronic respiratory disease

  • Autonomic dysfunctions

  • Seizure disorders

  • Skin conditions

You should also avoid using the sauna if you take any medications that make you drowsy or affect your body’s ability to regulate temperature (e.g., antidepressants).

The Science Behind Dry Sauna Benefits

Though we’ve gone over most metabolic changes responsible for the incredible dry sauna benefits, there are a few more notable mechanisms to mention.

Heat Shock Proteins and Other Mechanisms

As we’ve already explained, the heat stress stimulates your heart in a good way. But this stress also causes an increased production of heat shock proteins (HSPs). These proteins are responsible for protecting the cells and maintaining homeostasis, and they only get produced as a response to specific stressors.

Since increased HSP production prevents a protein disorder and repairs potentially damaged proteins, it has been suggested that these proteins can offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. This means that the regular use of sauna could potentially prevent the development of such diseases, a benefit that was also suggested in a 2016 study.

Other metabolic changes that bring about dry sauna benefits include the following:

  • Reduced oxidative stress

  • Decreased reactive oxygenated species

  • Increased insulin sensitivity

  • Increased nitric oxide bioavailability

  • Reduced inflammation pathway activities

Should You Incorporate Dry Saunas Into Your Routine?

There’s no doubt about it – a dry sauna can do wonders for your overall well-being. Unless you have any condition that might prevent you from using this sauna, you shouldn’t think twice about purchasing one for your home. As long as you follow all the necessary precautions, this action will elevate your wellness routine to the next level, allowing you to experience dry sauna benefits in full force. For the best results, use the sauna post-exercise and enjoy its wonderful soothing effects. For more advice on sauna use, contact Komowa Wellness.

 

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