Saunas have been around for thousands of years, with the original wooden sauna being created in Finland. The idea arose by trying to find a way to improve blood circulation. The Finnish people designed, developed, and built wooden saunas near lakes to work up a sweat in the sauna hut before taking a dip into the cold lake or rolling around in the snow. The extreme temperatures caused an increase in blood flow and blood circulation.
Studies today show that Finns had the right idea. Regular sauna usage offers numerous health benefits, including better blood flow, pain relief, relaxation, and anxiety relief.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your emotional response to anxious thoughts and feelings of tension. It is what you feel when anticipating future concerns. Physical changes, such as elevated blood pressure, are often accompanied by anxiety.
Anxiety itself is not an indication of poor mental health. Occasional anxiety at reasonable levels is considered healthy and even necessary for survival. Feeling anxious and worrying about your health, loved ones, job, and other things is normal.
When anxiety becomes more than just small, temporary worries, it can become a form of mental illness. Constant or recurring intrusive thoughts, fears, and disproportionate anxiety levels can significantly impact your everyday function and overall quality of life.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders. The five major ones are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social phobia or social anxiety disorder
Although different types of anxiety disorders have other specific effects on a person’s everyday life, they still share similarities. People struggling with anxiety disorders generally experience symptoms including:
- Feelings of restlessness and tension
- Sweating and increased heart rate
- Difficulty falling asleep or poor sleep quality
- Trouble concentrating or switching off their mind
The different ways that anxiety disorder symptoms manifest make it challenging to lead an everyday life. Social situations, especially with large groups of people, can be tiring and extremely difficult. This can significantly impact relationships with friends, family, and significant others.
Anxiety disorders make it harder for people to complete simple, everyday duties. Simply going to work, concentrating on school tasks, and doing groceries can require much greater effort. Even merely resting and relaxing can be a challenge.
Stabilize Your Anxiety Through Sauna Sessions
In addition to psychotherapy and medications like antidepressants, lifestyle changes and alternative treatment can help reduce anxiety and help people cope with their disorder better.
One lifestyle change or alternative treatment individuals with anxiety are turning to is using a sauna to relieve some impactful feelings.
What Are Saunas?
A sauna usually refers to an enclosed wooden room heated to a specific temperature. The typical temperatures for a sauna range between 158 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit or around 70 to 100 degrees Celsius. Traditional Finnish saunas, also known as savusaunas or smoke saunas, use dry heat and steam produced by throwing cold water on heated stones.
Today, dry saunas have become widely popular across different countries. Modern dry saunas typically use a wood-burning stove or electrical heater attached to the floor to produce high temperatures while maintaining low humidity.
How Does it Work?
Saunas work by raising your skin temperature and promoting heavy sweating. Depending on the sauna room’s temperature, it is possible to increase the skin temperature to around 104 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius in a few minutes.
As your skin temperature rises and your body starts to sweat, the heart works harder to pump and circulate more blood through your body, particularly to your extremities. The increase in heart rate also causes dilation or widening of your blood vessels for better blood flow.
Dry Saunas vs. Infrared Saunas
Dry saunas and infrared saunas work similarly, using dry heat to raise your skin temperatures to promote perspiration and better blood circulation. The main difference between dry saunas and infrared saunas lies in how they produce heat and increase your skin temperature.
Dry saunas warm up the air inside the sauna room. In turn, the surrounding hot air raises your body temperature and causes you to sweat.
In comparison, infrared sauna therapy heats the body directly. The infrared lamps do not affect the air of the surrounding environment.
As a result, infrared saunas have a much lower temperature, around 120 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 48 to 49 degrees Celsius. The lower average temperature means people can safely stay inside longer than in dry saunas.
Dry and infrared saunas share many of the same benefits. Some of the benefits attributed to infrared sauna therapy include:
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Decrease levels of chronic pain
- Improve chronic fatigue syndrome
- Better exercise tolerance
- Boost cardiovascular function
Benefits of Sauna Sessions
Studies show that regular sauna sessions offer potential physical and mental health benefits. Sauna bathing induces hormonal changes, many of which help in managing stress.
In particular, experts have noted the following benefits of repeat sauna usage for controlling and minimizing anxiety.
- Increased endorphins: Evidence suggests that heat therapy from dry and infrared sauna sessions can help boost the production of beta-endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are feel-good hormones. These are commonly released during physical activities like exercise. Producing more endorphins leads to better psychological well-being and improved mental health. Studies show that endorphins help minimize symptoms of depression, lower stress levels, and reduce anxiety.
- Improve energy levels: The effects of limited or controlled heat stress from saunas are not limited to increased heart rate and lower blood pressure. The heat stress also helps raise norepinephrine levels in your blood. Increased norepinephrine readies the brain for action as it helps boost energy levels and attentiveness. As a result, saunas can induce a similar effect as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs, a common medication for anxiety and major depressive disorder.
- Reduced stress hormones: A few earlier studies have noted that repeated sauna usage may help lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is also known as the body’s primary stress hormone. It is partly responsible for raising our blood pressure and blood sugar. Cortisol is also known to alter our immune system, digestive system, and more. High cortisol levels increase stress and anxiety and cause many anxiety symptoms. These include digestive issues, weight gain, heart problems, sleep problems, and more, which can further contribute to your worries and exacerbate anxiety disorders.
- More accessible meditation and relaxation: Meditation has long been shown to help with stress and anxiety. Taking time to meditate daily can promote greater focus, relaxation, and clearer minds. As quiet, solitary, and comfortable environments are best for meditating, it is no surprise that saunas can help make meditation easier. The interiors and comfortable surrounding temperature of infrared sauna therapy especially compared to dry saunas, create an optimal environment to relax and immerse yourself in meditative practices.
- A balanced mood and fewer mood swings: Whole body heating is also shown to help improve mood, particularly anxiety states and traits. Findings show that spending time in a sauna and experiencing controlled whole-body heating helped improve all six mood factors used in the test, namely: tension–anxiety, depression–dejection, anger–hostility, vigor, fatigue, and confusion.
Although the type of sauna used in the study was a dry charcoal kiln sauna, this produces similar benefits as infrared sauna therapy. It can even be said that infrared saunas heat the entire body more efficiently than dry kiln saunas, as the heat is directed towards the body rather than the environment.
What You Need to do For the Sauna Sessions to Work
Spending time in a sauna promotes relaxation, helping you unwind and reduce stress and anxiety.
However, a single sauna session alone will not provide you with all these physiological and psychological benefits. Regular or repeated sauna therapy is necessary to reap dry and infrared saunas’ complete physical and mental benefits.
Here are some tips and typical sauna bathing habits to help you lower anxiety through sauna usage:
- Have weekly sessions: Weekly sessions are ideal for experiencing the optimal effects of saunas. Findings also suggest more frequent sauna therapy leads to more significant benefits. In one study, participants who used saunas four to seven times a week were found to have 63% less risk of sudden cardiac death than those who only used saunas weekly.
- The recommended sauna time for beginners: First-time sauna users are advised to spend only 5 to 10 minutes inside. You can gradually extend your time to 20 to 30 minutes in infrared saunas as you become more used to it. Although saunas have many potential physical and mental health benefits, there is no need to spend hours inside one.
- Make sure to hydrate sufficiently: A crucial element of baseline sauna bathing habits is to ensure you are well-hydrated before and after each session. It is also better to drink water while inside the sauna. It is recommended to drink two to four glasses of water afterward.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before a session: Alcohol increases the likelihood of dehydration, irregular heartbeat, and hypotension. Since sauna bathing increases your heart rate and can lower blood pressure, drinking alcohol before a session can leave you severely dehydrated and even cause sudden death.
Before using a sauna for the first time, it is also advised to consult your physician first. This is important, especially for people with underlying medical conditions and those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Some health conditions may require you to limit your time in a sauna and exercise greater care to ensure your body cools down slowly.
Get Your Infrared Sauna Today!
Occasionally, going to a spa for a sauna session is a great way to treat yourself after a stressful week. However, that would not be enough to get saunas’ full mental health benefits to help with anxiety problems.
The best way to fully enjoy your sauna bathing sessions and improve your overall health is to have one of your own!
Enjoy all the many physical and mental health benefits that infrared sauna therapy can bring in the comfort of your own home. The Sauna Life offers a variety of outdoor and infrared saunas nationwide.
Visit our website to discover all the infrared sauna models we have available. Find the best-infrared sauna model to match your home aesthetics and needs.
Contact us today to request a free quote and schedule a free consultation.