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Article: Sauna Routine to Improve Sleep

Sauna Routine to Improve Sleep

Sauna Routine to Improve Sleep

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas are a great way to improve skin and cardiovascular health, but did you also know that using a sauna helps us sleep better? The secret lies in the heat therapy you experience during the treatment and the cooling process afterward. The two stages help release melatonin, which is the main hormone responsible for optimizing your sleep cycle.

We’ve only scratched the surface of sauna and sleep, so keep reading for a detailed breakdown of how regular sauna bathing can enhance your sleep quality.

The Science of Sauna and Sleep: Understanding the Effects of Sauna on Body and Mind

When examining the link between sauna and sleep, you first need to understand the basics: what is a sauna bath? A sauna bath is a type of therapy that exposes you to high heat. The impact of prolonged exposure to high heat varies, but one of the most valuable effects is higher sleep quality.

The reason for that is pretty straightforward – sauna bathing promotes deep relaxation. The moment you step inside a sauna, your body is shocked by the elevated temperature. The immediate reaction to this shock is to expand your blood vessels and raise your core body temperature.

You might not experience the relaxation effect as soon as you start therapy, but it’ll kick in right after you start the cooling process. As your body gradually regains a normal temperature, your muscles and mind relax, putting you in an ideal state to get some sleep. 

Furthermore, the psychological effects of saunas can play a pivotal role in helping you fall asleep more rapidly. Think about it – if you make sauna visits a standard nighttime routine, your body will get used to it. It may start associating sauna use with bedtime preparation, which relaxes your mind and helps you doze off pretty much instantly. Also, an evening session is a great way to distance yourself from your smartphone, TV, laptop, and other electronics that keep you awake.

That’s the simplest explanation of how you can use a sauna for sleep. Now let’s delve into the scientific breakdown of this phenomenon.

Sauna Use and Melatonin Production

The main driver of why a sauna helps you fall asleep faster is higher melatonin production. To figure out why that’s the case, you need to understand what exactly takes place when you complete your sauna session and start cooling down.

As you’re inside a sauna, the heat stimulates your body by exposing it to conditions similar to working out. Although the air inside is hot (between 110 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit), your core body temperature jumps by only four or five degrees. It might not seem like much, but the increase is more than enough to enhance your blood circulation throughout your body.

However, the real magic happens as you start cooling down. As your body temperature drops, your body releases melatonin, which is key for improving sleep. Not only that, but the cooling also generates your growth hormone, endorphin, and many other neurotransmitters that alleviate any pain, relax your muscles, and soothe your mind.

All of which translates into higher quality of sleep and decreases sleep latency (the time it takes for you to fall asleep).

Now, you might have heard several times that your body temperature needs to be low for you to doze off faster. That’s only partially true. In reality, your core temperature doesn’t need to be lower than usual when you want to fall asleep. What really matters is the reduction. 

And the reduction is precisely what you achieve when cooling down your body after sauna bathing.

But keep in mind that you need to time this effect of sauna bathing carefully. A sauna bath in the middle of the day will make little difference (if any) because your melatonin levels are at their lowest during the daytime. The cool-down effect will raise them slightly, but not enough to put you in a sleep-ready state.

Likewise, you shouldn’t use a sauna four or five hours before hitting the sack because the drop in temperature will take place too early. 

The gold standard is somewhere between 30 minutes and two hours before bedtime. This should give your body enough time to achieve the temperature decrease and trigger melatonin production. Plus, it shouldn’t be too early and put you at risk of missing the melatonin window.  

Health Benefits of Sauna Beyond Sleep

While sleep is a major part of your well-being, it’s not the only thing a sauna can help improve. For instance, many studies have shown that a sauna boosts immune system functioning. It makes you produce heat-shock proteins (HSPs), which, in turn, may increase the number of white blood cells. Over time, this can bolster your immune system and make you more resilient to various diseases.

But that’s not all. There are many other health benefits of regular sauna sessions that can contribute to your overall well-being.

Sauna Therapy and Cardiovascular Health

If you’re looking for a natural method of improving cardiovascular health, you’ll hardly find a better option than sauna treatment. A sauna can be an excellent choice if you have elevated blood pressure or want to make your heart more resilient to various conditions.

But what makes saunas so good for your heart? The answer once again lies in heat therapy. By exposing your body to high heat, saunas expand your blood vessels, which reduces the pressure on your veins and arteries. Over time, this can translate into a long-term reduction in your blood pressure.

On top of that, dilated blood vessels allow the heart to supply the rest of your body with more nutrients. And, perhaps even more importantly, more blood recirculates to the muscle to make it stronger and more resistant to disease. 

Another way a sauna can help strengthen the heart is by increasing heartbeats. Just a few minutes into your therapy, your BPM may rise to 120-150. This may sound alarming, but the same thing happens when doing cardio, weightlifting, and other exercises that support optimal heart health. With frequent sauna use, you give your heart a much-needed workout that keeps it vigorous and robust.

Relaxation and Mental Well-Being

The whole point of a sauna bath is to help you unwind. People have different definitions of being relaxed, but here’s what all relaxed people have in common – they have low cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in your body. The higher the level, the more tense you feel, and the harder it is for you to fall asleep quickly.

Rescue for the unnerved comes in the form of sauna therapy. It appears that regular trips to the sauna can dramatically decrease your cortisol levels, which can dramatically improve your mental health and keep you relaxed.

While your body suppresses cortisol during a sauna bath, it releases two other hormones that make you feel better – serotonin and endorphin. Also known as happiness hormones, they’re commonly associated with feelings of pleasure and joy. If you can maintain this sensation, which is definitely possible through sauna use, you’ll be more likely to improve your sleep quality.

Apart from your body’s natural response to sauna treatment, you can take matters into your own hands for even better results. There are many tried-and-true techniques to upgrade your sauna experience and achieve an even better relaxation effect.

For instance, you can try meditating to bolster the relaxing effect of your sauna use. You need only close your eyes, inhale the warm air, and let the surrounding heat take over.

To achieve a proper breathing rhythm, breathe in through the nose for about three seconds and hold your breath for another two seconds. Finally, exhale for approximately four seconds through your mouth. Done before bedtime, this routine can ease your insomnia and promote a feeling of calmness.  

In addition to meditating, you can also invest in high-quality sauna accessories. The most popular item you can try is pillows. Well-made, sauna-friendly textiles and cushions are perfect for any sauna since they make the experience more enjoyable. They let you lie on the bench, so you can relax more easily.

Then there are essential oils. Put them inside your sauna and enjoy their stress-relieving, sleep-inducing properties. When inhaled through sauna heat, the oils can relax your body to a greater extent, which helps you go to sleep faster, keeps you from waking up too early, and lets you wake up energized. Virtually any essential oil will do, including ylang-ylang, valerian, chamomile, and kava-kava.

Types of Saunas and Their Unique Benefits for Sleep

There are different types of saunas, including traditional and infrared saunas, but they all contribute to better sleep. The only difference is how they accomplish this.

Traditional Sauna vs. Infrared Sauna

A traditional sauna heats the air around you using stones or wood-burning stoves. Once you spend enough time inside, your body temperature rises as well. After cooling down, you can experience longer sleep and feel revved up in the morning. 

By contrast, an infrared sauna penetrates the skin using infrared rays. It heats your body directly, which may translate to deeper relaxation and even higher sleep quality.

Another difference is that infrared saunas are much less humid than their traditional counterparts. On the one hand, infrared saunas have minimal humidity because they use infrared rays. On the other hand, standard saunas often feature water poured on heated rocks, which can make humidity soar to 100%.

As such, infrared saunas are the better alternative to traditional saunas if you prefer less humid environments, which allow you to stay inside longer.

That’s especially true if you have an infrared sauna of your own. Private saunas are superior to their public counterparts because you can tweak the experience according to your needs only.

If you want to upgrade your property with a top-quality infrared sauna, Komowa won’t let you down. Browse our selection and discover a wide range of infrared saunas to help enhance your sleep quality.

How to Use a Sauna for Optimal Sleep Benefits

In general, you want to visit a sauna between two and seven times per week to maximize sleep improvements. The ideal session duration is 20 minutes, but you can shorten your visits (as well as the frequency) if they get too intense. All that matters is to listen to your body and see how it reacts to the therapy.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Sauna Into Your Sleep Routine

The next time someone asks you, what does a sauna help you with, improving sleep will probably be your first answer. Although there’s no denying the impact of sauna bathing on sleep, it’s important to be careful with your sauna use by timing it properly and staying safe during the treatment.

Best Times for Sauna Use to Promote Sleep

As previously discussed, the best time to use a sauna for sleep is approximately 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. Visiting a sauna right before you go to bed doesn’t give your body enough time to cool down. Doing it too early means you’ll most likely miss the temperature drop that’s essential for a good night’s sleep. 

Safety Considerations and Recommendations

Like with any form of sleep therapy, safety should be your top priority. Here are a few ways to ensure safe sauna use:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the therapy to stay hydrated.

  • Don’t drink alcohol on your sauna days.

  • Relax for 20-30 minutes between workouts and sauna visits.

  • Step outside if the heat is too intense.

  • Consult your doctor before starting the therapy.

Research and Studies on Sauna Use and Sleep Quality

All the different ways a sauna can boost your sleep quality listed in this article aren’t wild guesses. They’re based on extensive research on this topic that underpins the positive effects of sauna therapy on your sleep cycle.

Insights From Recent Studies

One of the studies used to support these claims is this one by Joy Hussain and Marc Cohen. The authors focused on the effects of sauna use on different aspects of health, including sleep quality. Although they concluded further research was necessary, they discovered promising signs of using saunas as a reliable way to improve sleep.

During their research, they discovered that the participants who visited saunas regularly (every day for four to six weeks), slept for nearly two hours longer than those who didn’t go to saunas.

The same authors, along with Ronda F. Greaves, completed another study that demonstrated the effectiveness of sauna bathing in improving sleep. They surveyed hundreds of men and women who used saunas one to two times per week, 83.5% of whom reported sleep improvements.

Sauna Experience Unraveled: The Ultimate Lullaby

When it comes to natural sleep remedies, few methods compare to saunas. A sauna can help you sleep better by increasing melatonin levels, relaxing your muscles, and lowering stress. All of these are the main ingredients for getting a good night’s sleep.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to explore saunas as a natural way to elevate your sleep quality and overall health. To make the most of your regular sauna sessions, consult your doctor to determine the optimal duration and frequency.

And if you want to boost sleep from the comfort of your home, consider buying a world-class infrared or traditional sauna from Komowa. Check out our entire offer right here and find the right sauna for your house. We provide saunas of different sizes (from one to eight persons), materials (alder, aspen, thermo-aspen), and applications (indoor and outdoor) to help you maximize the soothing effect.


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