Undoubtedly, sauna use has a multitude of benefits on your health, but one particularly unexpected benefit, is the effect on sleep. 

Sleep quality is one of the most overlooked areas of our health. It’s also no argument that quality of sleep reflects our overall health. Maintaining good sleep quality helps improve mood, energy, metabolism, mental function… nearly everything necessary for your body. Oftentimes, quality of sleep suffers from the effects of caffeine and alcohol use, stress (mental or physical), muscle tension, light pollution, technology use, and many other factors.

Poor sleep quality is often associated with cardiovascular diseases – including risk of stroke and high blood pressure. We are also more susceptible to accidental injury when deprived of sleep.

So how does the sauna affect sleep?

Heat from the sauna stimulates the body as if it were exercising. Though the air in the sauna is hot (60–100 °C) the body temperature increases only slightly (1–2°C). The heart rate increases and blood flows more easily to all parts of the body. After exertion, and as the body cools, it releases melatonin and human growth hormone to relax and repair itself. Melatonin is one of the hormones necessary for the body to sleep. Other neurotransmitters and endorphins are released during the sauna, relieving pain, and calming the mind.

In a classic sauna study, it was discovered that deep sleep increased by over 70% within the first two hours and by 45% within the first six hours, in participants who had a sauna bath in the evening before sleep. These participants sustained stages 3 and 4 of sleep for longer periods during the night compared to those who did not sauna. Stage 4 sleep is particularly characterized by deep, restful sleep in which the body repairs itself – rebuilding muscle fibers and tissues, further activating growth hormones, and stimulating the immune response. 

A global study which surveyed over 400 sauna users found that the overwhelming majority, (83%) responded that the sauna had a positive effect on their quality of sleep. Improving the quality of sleep was also popular response for why participants use the sauna.

A second, equally important factor is the psychological effect of relaxation. A relaxing activity like sauna bathing, can become a part of the night-time routine, and soothe the mind into a state of deeper relaxation. An evening sauna session is also a great way to distance yourself from tv and electronics before bedtime.

There are many ways to make a sauna session more relaxing. One great way is to have high quality sauna textiles, such as a good sauna cushion to rest your head on. You can find them for example from Harvia!

Sauna can become a part of your sleep hygiene routine, further improving your quality of sleep.

Sweet dreams from Harvia!

Putkonen, P.T.S., Eloma, E., (1976). Sauna and physiological sleep: Increased slow-wave sleep after heat exposure. Sauna Studies. pp 270-279. Vammala. ISBN: 951-95328-0-3 https://sauna.fi/saunatietoa/sauna-ja-terveys/sauna-ja-uni/

Global sauna survey https://www.saunasociety.org/blog

Hussain, J. N., Greaves, R. F., & Cohen, M. M. (2019). A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey. Complementary therapies in medicine, 44, 223–234. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.012

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