We all know that saunas are great for relaxation and detoxing, but did you know that they can also improve brain health? It’s true! Recent studies have shown that regular sauna use can help improve cognitive function and memory.
Do you want to learn more about this fantastic connection between sauna and brain health? Then, keep reading to find out how saunas can help improve brain health and some tips on how to get the most out of your sauna experience.
How Can Sauna Bathing Help Improve Brain Health?
When it comes to improving your overall health, it’s essential to consider the role that sauna bathing can play. While its benefits have long been touted for its physical health effects, recent research shows that it can also improve brain health.
Below are the proven ways that sauna bathing can help improve brain health.
Increasing Blood Flow to the Brain
Your brain is particularly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of aging. The cumulative effects of oxidative stress, unhealthy dietary patterns, and everyday energy metabolism work against long-term cognitive function. Heat-induced responses, however, protect the brain and include:
- Improved blood flow to your brain, facilitating clearance of amyloid-beta, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Prevention or reduction of symptoms of depression.
- Increased production of norepinephrine, which improves focus and attention, and prolactin, which supports myelin growth, a critical feature in repairing nerve cell damage.
Infrared saunas can feel more comfortable to sit in as opposed to a traditional sauna. This is due to the infrared wave lengths penetrating your skin and warming you up from the inside. Infrared saunas usually sit at 55-60 degrees celsius. Compare that to traditional sauna, where hot rocks heat the room to 80-100 degrees. Infrared sauna provides a gentle heating experience that promotes relaxation while promoting cognitive function. It’s no wonder infrared saunas have become increasingly popular over the last few years to improve mental performance without any medication or other significant lifestyle changes.
Beyond the physical benefits of sauna bathing, there are the brain and mental health benefits to consider. Spending time in a sauna away from our phones, can help us get in touch with our emotions and unpack whatever is going on for us mentally and emotionally. This can lead to improved brain function and greater insight into ourselves and our relationships with others.
There will be a point in your sauna session where you will want to get out, this is the release of dynorphin, a natural opioid the body produces in times of unease and helps mediate the response to heat, helping the body to cool.
A biological feedback response that occurs after dynorphin is released is a cascade of processes that make your beta endorphins (feel good) much more receptive, sensitising them and increasing future endorphin exposure.
Enhancing Sleep Quality
Researchers have found that a heat therapy can help provide a deeper and more relaxed sleep. As endorphins are released to your body, they create a soothing euphoria type feel that can not only help with pain relief and muscle soreness but can also help with relaxation and sleep quality.
Thermoregulation is the most taxing on the body, meaning for your body to maintain its balance it trying to keep you cool in a sauna, it does this by increasing blood flow to the muscles and allows the body to sweat to cool down, this uses a considerable amount of energy. Next time you’re struggling to sleep, try having a sauna 2-3 hours before your bedtime and feel the effects for yourself. Even better would be alternating with a cold shower or an ice bath for a few rounds.
Improving Cognitive Function
With regular use, traditional saunas can do more than just relax your muscles and make you feel good – they can also improve your cognitive function. This is because the heat of the sauna causes heat shock proteins (HSPs) to be released by the body, which helps protect and repair brain cells.
In addition to increased levels of dopamine and serotonin. Regular sauna bathing has been found to cause an increase in norepinephrine, a hormone related to focus and attention.
How To Use a Sauna for Best Results?
Just like any other healthy habit, using a sauna regularly is essential for reaping the full benefits. But before you jump into a sauna and start sweating, there are some things to keep in mind for optimal brain health.
Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your sauna session:
1. Start With a Low Temperature
If you’re new to exercising in a sauna, it is important to start slowly and cautiously. It can be tempting to quickly ramp up the temperature for a faster session. But remember that the best approach is to begin with a manageable temperature and gradually increase it as your body gets used to the heat. This allows you to become familiar with sauna use and ensure that your body can handle the temperatures without overdoing it.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
A sauna session is an excellent way to rejuvenate your body and mind. Still, it is also important to take proper precautions before and during. One of the best things you can do is drink plenty of water. Not only does staying hydrated throughout the day keep your body functioning optimally. But it’s especially important for sweating out toxins through a sauna. You will replenish lost fluids by drinking enough water before and after your session.
3. Limit Your Time in the Sauna
The sauna can be an incredibly relaxing experience and a great way to unwind. Still, it’s important to keep safety in mind. To ensure that you don’t overdo it, it’s important to limit your time in the sauna each time. We recommend not staying in the sauna longer than 20-25 minutes at one time, so clock-watching is key. If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous while using the sauna, take a break and get some fresh air outside.
4. Cool Down After a Sauna Session
After soaking up the heat of a sauna session, it’s important to cool down your body so you don’t continue to sweat. Having a cool shower is a great way to allow your body to cool down. You can also get into an ice bath, but we recommend to have at least a 2 min shower to gradually cool your body down before the extreme temperature change. If you go from hot to cold very quickly, it can be too much for your body and you may feel light headed or dizzy so its best to ease into this.
Using a sauna regularly can have many positive effects on both your physical and mental health. If you take the necessary precautions and listen to your body, you can reap all the benefits of a regular sauna session. Just remember to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after each session to ensure that you stay hydrated. Also, limit your time in the sauna and cool down slowly after each session. Following these tips will make sure that you get the most out of your sauna experience.