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How Long to Sauna: Finding the Ideal Time for Optimal Benefits

by Max
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How Long to Sauna - Finding the Ideal Time for Optimal Benefits

It’s natural to feel like time slows down to a crawl when you step into a warm sauna. But slowed down or not, it’s normal to wonder how long you should stay in the sauna each time you step in. Depending on your level of experience with saunas as well as several other factors, there is good reason to keep your time spent in the sauna within a certain range. At that, it’s natural to wonder how long you should stay in the sauna to maximize the health benefits you can get from a good session. Also, are you using a wood-burning sauna, steam room, or infrared sauna? There is a lot to know before settling on a definite number of minutes one should spend in the sauna per visit, but let’s start from the top.

How Long Should You Stay in the Sauna?

Health experts say that the maximum amount of time a person should spend in their sauna per visit is 20 minutes. While this is true for the general population, there are several reasons someone may be able to spend more or less than this time per visit.

The Maximum Time per Sauna Visit Can Vary by Your Sauna Experience Level

If it is your first time using a sauna, 20 minutes is likely beyond excessive and could even be dangerous. Sauna beginners may want to spend around 5-10 minutes per visit. Those who don’t use the sauna regularly ought to gradually increase their time spent as guided by their comfort level. Forcing your body to spend too long in the sauna can actually cause fainting and, of course, dehydration.

Sauna experts, however, may find 20 minutes to be too short an amount of time for them to enjoy the heat. Sauna-goers who drink water during a session sometimes comfortably spend up to 30 minutes per visit. It’s essential, though, that anyone spending more than 20 minutes in the sauna at any one time takes at least one water break, as the body gives off a tremendous amount of water in the heat of a good sauna.

The Maximum Time per Sauna Visit Can Vary by Temperature

The time you spend in the sauna may actually depend most on the temperature your sauna rests at. While modern in-home saunas allow for degree-specific tuning, traditional wood-burning saunas heat through a balance of adding new wood and steaming out the sauna by splashing water on rocks. While most saunas are heated to about 80 degrees Celsius, it is more than possible for a sauna to rest at 70 degrees or even up to 95 degrees.

Put the same person in a 70 degree and then a 95 degree sauna and they’ll certainly spend a shorter time in the hotter sauna. For those who can fine-tune their saunas, an 80 degree sauna for 15 minutes matches the existing health research. If traditional sauna users are noticing that they are either lasting much longer than 15-20 minutes or need to get out much sooner, it may be smart to invest in a digital thermometer and find the temperature you are most comfortable with.

How Long Should You Stay in an Infrared Sauna?

Unlike wood-burning saunas or steam rooms, infrared saunas point heat directly at you. Infrared sauna sessions are usually longer compared to those in traditional saunas. Healthy regular infrared sauna users often spend 25-45 minutes per visit. This is because infrared saunas also generally run at a lower temperature than their old-school counterparts. Infrared saunas reach their peak temperature over time. Unlike a wood-burning sauna which are pretty hot right when you get in, infrareds will get progressively hotter with time until they reach their predetermined peak.

Ideal Sauna Time to Maximize Health Benefits

Those of us who regularly sauna for health benefits have a lot to consider when picking an ideal time. Let’s go into each major health benefit of saunas and the time threshold that ties into each of them.

Ideal Time for Skin Health Benefits

Our skin health benefits in a visible and meaningful way each time we use the sauna. Regular sauna use can help our body clear out toxins and produce natural compounds like sebum that give our skin a natural glow. All of these benefits are tied to sweating. Our skin feels the health benefits of the sauna the more that we sweat. So there isn’t a specific number of minutes that a person must spend in the sauna in order to maximize their potential skin health benefits. Instead, it’s only necessary that the sauna user gets a good enough sweat that their pores are meaningfully engaged. Sweating too much, of course, brings us right back to dehydration. Listen to your body and exercise extra caution if spending more than 20 minutes per session.

Ideal Time for Circulatory Health Benefits

Every time that we visit the sauna, our circulatory system gets the equivalent of a good workout. As our body heats up, our blood moves around at a faster-than-normal pace. Every time we make our body kick up its blood pressure like this, we’re essentially aiding our thermoregulatory and circulatory health. So the threshold for maximizing circulatory health benefits in the sauna is up to increasing your blood pressure and inducing sweat. It will usually take around 5-10 minutes for the average person to get to this level.

There is, of course, an upper limit to how much blood pressure is a good thing. Your goal shouldn’t be to make your blood go as fast as possible; chronic high blood pressure is actually one of the main health conditions that can make long sauna visits dangerous. Each person’s body will react to sauna heat differently, so be sure to listen when your body says it’s too hot or thirsty. No sauna health benefit outweighs your base needs.

Ideal Time for Attitude and Mood Health Benefits

There are both immediate and long-term benefits to our overall mood, attitude and mental health that come about from regular sauna use. Beyond just feeling good, spending time in the sauna is a healthy way to exercise your body’s ability to return to homeostasis. As you spend time in a hot sauna, your body is working extra hard to keep your internal systems cool and functioning. Think about it this way: when you first step into a sauna, the heat can feel aggressive. It can be hard to breathe and a bit uncomfortable. But as you spend more time in that environment, your body makes all of the changes it needs to in order to stay comfortable. You probably won’t even notice that after 5 or 10 minutes in the sauna, it’s not too hot; it’s just right. Every time your body adjusts to the temperature of the sauna, you practice keeping homeostasis. The nervous system associates this with being at ease.

Like after a good workout or taking a good drink of water, our body mentally rewards us for doing the things that keep us healthy. Each time our body acclimates to the temperature of the sauna, we engage those systems that make us feel good.

Naturally, this means that our body needs to feel acclimated to the sauna in order to get the most out of the mood and attitude benefits that come with it. Once you’ve got a good sweat going and the sauna’s heat feels more comfortable than when you first stepped in, consider it a victory for your overall mental health.

How Often Should I Sauna to Maximize Health Benefits?

Nearly all of the major health benefits that come about from sauna use require regular use over a long amount of time to get the most of them. For those of us looking to get the most out of our sauna use, how many times a week (or even per day) should we be spending time in the sauna?

How Many Times Should I Sauna Per Day?

While very healthy people and sauna experts are likely able to sauna multiple times a day, this isn’t necessarily true for everyone. The average person should probably sauna anywhere between 1 and 2 times per day; this of course, is assuming you are spending the recommended 15-20-ish minutes per session. There are some medical experts who advise two saunas per day to maximize health benefits. On the other hand, there are also long-time sauna users who can comfortably stomach 3 or even 4 sessions a day. You are certainly able to get the most out of the sauna’s health benefits with only one session a day. If you are comfortable with two sessions, it can only help.

How Many Times Should I Sauna Per Week?

This is where the answer gets a bit more interesting. While there are certainly people who sauna every day of the week, this is by no means necessary to get the most out of sauna health. There is a Finnish study about brain health and saunas which showed, however, that the more people sauna, the more present those health benefits were in the subjects. The study showed that people who used the sauna four times per week were less likely to suffer from certain brain conditions later in life compared to those who only used the sauna once per week. If you have the time and the interest, using the sauna four times per week is entirely healthy.

The Finnish study, however, specifically studied people using traditional wood-burning saunas. If you are using an infrared sauna, there are wholly different ways to approach weekly use. If you are new to infrared saunas, it is often recommended to separate sessions at a pace of every other day. After a month of acclimating your body to the temperature and environment of infrared, it is entirely possible and healthy to use the sauna for all seven days of the week.

How Long is Too Long in the Sauna?

While your body will probably tell you long before you reach it, there is a generally agreed hard upper limit as to how long someone should spend in the sauna per session. You should not exceed 30 minutes in a traditional sauna without taking a break. After this time, the body runs a severe risk of overexerting itself. The body has to work double duty to keep your internal temperature steady while you’re in the sauna. After 30 minutes, your body has likely worked too hard for too long. Think of it in the same way as exercise: if you’re going for a run, your body will tell you quite clearly when you’ve overexerted yourself. If you overdo it past that point, you have a real risk of injuring yourself. The same logic is true for the sauna. The average person will probably feel uncomfortable in the sauna long before 30 minutes. The trick is to be certain that you don’t spend more time in the sauna than your body wants in the name of health benefits. The health benefits that come from saunas will all be negated if you force your body to spend too long in the sauna. Hence, the recommended time per session is about 20 minutes; adjust this number over time to your comfort level.

Health Concerns with Spending Too Long in the Sauna
Health Concerns with Spending Too Long in the Sauna

Health Concerns with Spending Too Long in the Sauna

While some health concerns from the sauna are acute and situational, there are actually several long-term health conditions that may cause problems when in the sauna for too long. While saunas are unquestionably good for our health, it is more than possible to spend too long in the heat. Knowing the major health concerns bound up in sauna overuse is one of the best ways to help avoid seeing them in the future.

Saunas Can Cause Dehydration

The biggest health concern that comes about with long sauna sessions is dehydration. Dehydration is more sneaky than many people expect. Until you’ve been hit with a strong case of it yourself, there is no way to comprehend how quickly the body can go from “OK” to “dire” when dehydrated. Dehydration is one of the things your body may not tell you about until it’s too late. That means that sauna users must always be aware of their water intake. Are you about to take a sauna? Take a drink of water. Just got out of the sauna? Glass of water. Make a habit of drinking water regularly when doing anything that makes your body sweat, especially when using the sauna regularly. Some people like to use the sauna when hungover to “sweat out” the alcohol. This does not work – and on the contrary, it can be dangerous, as you are already dehydrated.

Saunas Can Cause Skin Irritation

Next, be aware of where you are sitting in the sauna. If you are wearing shorts that let your skin make direct contact with the bench you are sitting on, be cautious of rashes or blisters. Because of the heat of the sauna and the sweat from your body, it’s possible that sitting in the same spot for too long can bring about some serious skin irritation. This, however, is quite easy to avoid: just be certain to let the parts of your skin that make contact with surfaces in the sauna don’t stay that way for too long. Stand up or simply move your legs every few minutes to reduce your risk of major irritation.

Saunas and Fainting

One of the major reasons people faint in the sauna is dehydration but it is not the only reason. A person can make themselves faint in the sauna as a result of poor breathing habits. In the sauna, taking long, deep and consistent breaths is the best way to breathe in the sauna. But those who are new to saunas may instinctively take shorter, furtive breaths because of the heat. This can lead to hyperventilation over a long period of time and eventually fainting. The best way to avoid fainting from hyperventilation is practicing deep breathing. Another tip is to not go to the sauna alone. People are less likely to be aware of poor breathing habits when they sauna alone; with friends, you are much more likely to catch yourself in dangerous breathing practices.

People who suffer from anemia may have more trouble spending long stretches of time in the sauna. While there is actually data that steam rooms specifically can help anemic people up their red blood cell count, it is considerably easier for anemic people to overexert themselves in the sauna. Rather than being caused by hyperventilation, anemic people are likely to faint because the hemoglobin level in their blood is too low. Then, when those people’s bodies are overexerted in the sauna, they run an even higher risk of fainting.


Luckily, those who want to get the most out of the sauna don’t have to work hard to get the results they likely wish for. Just by spending time in the sauna a few times a week, you start to awaken those health benefits to a meaningful level. As your usage goes beyond four times a week, you’re probably entering the area of diminishing returns. But the ultimate conclusion is that each person should spend exactly as long in the sauna as they would like and that they feel comfortable doing: Do not force yourself to spend more time in the sauna than you usually would in the name of health benefits. Your body is extraordinarily good at telling you what is and isn’t good for you; be sure to listen to your body as often as possible.

There is no magic number of minutes that makes the sauna more healthy. Do not get hung up on maximizing your time for health benefits but rather on perfecting your sauna time for your comfort. If you are saunaing to your comfort level, you are well on your way to maximizing the health benefits that come about from the warm walls of your sauna.

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