The Health Benefits of Sauna, Part IV: Heat Therapy to Cherish the Brain and the Mind

It’s time to finish our Health Benefits of Sauna series (read part I, II, III) with talking about the perks that sauna has on your brain and mental health. We at Sauna from Finland wish you lots of pleasant and healthy moments with the Finnish sauna!

The hot and humid touch of the Finnish sauna is particularly beneficial to functioning of organs. However, as a cause of this it also supports brain health and mental wellbeing. Having sauna regularly protects the head from perils of aging, but a more occasional visit is already enough to reinvigorate the mind.

Habitual sauna bathing hinders the possibility of suffering a stroke, as shown in a longitudinal study that made its way to an issue of Neurology, a highly acclaimed medical journal. The researchers monitored a large group of people consisting of Finnish middle-aged or older men and women to discover that cerebral infarction struck those who enjoyed sauna 4-7 times each week with over 60% less chance than those who went to sauna only once a week.1

Another study, published in the academic paper Age and Ageing, in turn showed that the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia had a remarkable reduction with sauna use. Out of the middle-aged male participants observed, the ones who sat in the steamroom on 4-7 occasions weekly had once again an over 60% lower likelihood of developing either type of memory disease when compared to those who had only one sauna visit a week.2 Researcher Tanjaniina Laukkanen, along with the rest of the team behind the study, believe that the main explanation for these results lies specifically in the effects of heat, which in the sauna nurses the entire cardiovascular system and produces a wholesome sense of relaxation.3

Since sauna is a room shut and secured from the stimuli of our everyday lives, it allows the senses to stray into blissful serenity and thus provides a space for calming down both the body and the mind. In other words, popping in there can bring an immediate release from the shackles of stress. According to cardiologist Jari Laukkanen, who is responsible for several studies exposing the correlations between sauna and cardiac health, spending time in the sauna stretches heart rate variability, which leads to a decrease in stress levels of the body. Simultaneously, the sauna goer enjoys an elevation in sleep quality.4

What’s more, an article published in the the Journal of Psychopharmacology has suggested that sauna, in addition to other warmth-inducing activities, may increase functioning of the pleasure hormone serotonin as part of heat regulation mechanisms of the body.5 Based on this it has been hypothesized that sauna bathing could be useful in the fight against mental disorders like depression.6

1) http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2018/05/02/WNL.0000000000005606
2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27932366
3) https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/01/20/saunas-are-a-hot-trend-and-they-might-even-help-your-health
4) https://saunafromfinland.fi/uutiset/jos-et-ehdi-liikkua-tarpeeksi-kay-edes-saunassa-tutkimukset-vahvistavat-saunan-monet-terveyshyodyt (in Finnish)
5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19074539
6) https://www.tylohelo.com/blog/sauna-bathing-alleviates-symptoms-of-depression

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