Home » What is the Temperature in a Sauna? – Overview of Sauna Types and Temperatures

What is the Temperature in a Sauna? – Overview of Sauna Types and Temperatures

by Max
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What is the Temperature in a Sauna - Overview of Sauna Types

While it’s easy to just dismiss sauna temperature as a minor piece of the heat-soaking experience, there are more than a few reasons why knowing and understanding the temperature of your sauna can be a useful tool for getting the most out of each experience. The ideal temperature for a sauna can depend on several factors. Also, the temperature in a sauna can vary quite a bit; but it can also be controlled down to the digit in modern saunas. So, it’s natural for a sauna owner to want to know what temperature they can both take advantage of all potential health benefits of the sauna and maximize their enjoyment. Let’s explore everything there is to know about sauna temperature here.

What is the Temperature in a Sauna?

This question actually has quite a bit of nuance to it. Depending on what type of sauna you are using, this answer can actually be very different.

What is the Temperature in a Wood-Burning Sauna?

In a traditional wood-burning sauna with a normal wood stove, the temperature generally ranges from 70-95 degrees Celsius. The heat from a wood-burning sauna comes from an active fire, so it is quite difficult to stabilize the temperature in such a sauna down to a degree. This is why the temperature range for a wood-burning sauna can be so wide. The most traditional wood-burning saunas are essentially rooms heated by the continuous burning of wood in a large heating stove. The more wood added to the fire, the hotter the sauna room can become. This means that those who want to run their saunas at a higher heat simply need to put more wood in the stove; the larger the fire, the hotter your sauna will become.

Traditional wood-burning saunas also allow for quick temperature decreases. A very common practice in traditional wood-burning saunas is to keep a bucket of water with a ladle in the heated sauna room. Spreading a ladleful of water over the stove will quickly turn the water to steam and drop the temperature in the main room (although this feels like it’s becoming hotter!). Because wood-burning saunas have unstable temperatures it makes sense to keep a thermometer in the sauna room to help monitor the overall feel of the room.

There are, however, also modern versions of the traditional Finnish sauna that do not use an active flame to bring about the dry heat of a sauna. Modern electric saunas have the same dry heat qualities as a wood-burning sauna but are both more energy efficient and allow for better temperature control. If you are using an electric version of a wood-burning sauna, it is entirely possible to tune your sauna down to a degree-exact measurement. This is true for infrared saunas as well.

What is the Temperature in an Infrared Sauna?

Infrared saunas generally run anywhere between 40 and 55 degrees Celsius. As you can tell, this is significantly lower than traditional wood-burning saunas. Even though the temperature of an infrared sauna is lower than that of a wood-burning sauna, it may not necessarily feel that way. Because infrared saunas are smaller and allow heat to be grafted directly onto the sauna user, there is a lot less heat lost to the air. Think about it: even though a wood-burning sauna can run at higher temperatures, it is also heating a larger room, and that heat will also leave through the sauna’s walls and roof.

Infrared saunas are advanced enough to allow users to choose their desired temperature down to a specific degree. But this doesn’t paint the full picture of infrared sauna temperatures. While users can choose the temperature at which they want to relax, infrared saunas gradually raise the temperature over time. While it isn’t generally advised to go into a wood-burning sauna before it reaches the temperature you are looking for, it is standard to get into an infrared sauna long before it reaches its peak temperature. On the same point, infrared sauna visits are also generally much longer than their wood-burning counterparts – check out our guide on how long to stay in the sauna.

What is the Temperature in a Steam Room?

It is normal for steam rooms to range from 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. Once again, this is seemingly much lower compared to wood-burning saunas. This mostly has to do with the way that steam rooms are heated, namely with a central boiler. Modern steam rooms are powered by electric boilers that are more concerned with overall humidity than temperature; anyone who has used a steam room can probably imagine why. Even though steam rooms run considerably cooler than traditional wood-burning saunas, it’s entirely possible to feel even hotter in a steam room. This is because of the overall humidity, which makes the air in a steam room feel a touch muggier and grip the skin.

The humidity in steam rooms is usually close to 100 percent. Modern steam rooms can allow for precise tracking of both that humidity as well as overall temperature, but for reasons we will explore later, it makes more sense to be aware of humidity rather than the temperature in a steam room.

What is the Ideal Temperature of a Sauna?

Knowing what we do about the health benefits waiting for us in saunas and steam rooms, it’s only natural to then question what temperature helps bring about those benefits most fully.

The good news is, it is exceedingly unlikely that a person’s sauna or steam room is too cold or too hot to miss out on any of the major benefits that come from their use. The concept of an ideal temperature has much more to do with a person’s overall comfort.

Those who are newer to saunas may find the average temperature of saunas or steam rooms to be far too aggressive. So it is more than worth it to consider ideal sauna temperatures both from the perspective of a total sauna newcomer and a sauna expert. The ideal temperature for either a sauna newcomer or an expert is likely entirely different.

Ideal Sauna Temperature for Newcomers

The best temperature for a sauna newcomer is approximately 75 degrees Celsius. Of course, since traditional wood-burning saunas are controlled by an active fire, it is impossible to nail the temperature down to a specific digit. But keep an eye on your sauna’s thermostat. Wood-burning saunas are generally quite tough for newcomers to adjust to. Incrementally raising the temperature in the sauna over each subsequent visit is generally the best way to build up your heat tolerance in the sauna. Further, while experts generally say around 20 minutes is the best amount of time to spend per session in a sauna, don’t feel like this number is a bottom-line requirement. Especially for sauna newcomers, spending 10 minutes (or even less) per sauna visit is entirely fine; just make sure you get a good sweat going! Getting sweaty in the sauna is the starting point for all of the major health benefits that come from saunas.

Ideal Sauna Temperature for Experts

Those in a wood-burning sauna for more than 20 minutes ought not to let the sauna’s temperature go higher than 95 degrees Celsius. While there is no outright danger in letting the temperature get this high, anything above 95 degrees puts the sauna user at a serious risk of rapid dehydration. Even a sauna expert could become dehydrated much faster than anticipated in an environment like this. Of course, when using a sauna at a higher temperature, the body is likely to give off much more sweat. So any health benefits related to sweating will likely come about faster and more fully in a hotter sauna.

Ideal Infrared Sauna Temperature

Infrared saunas allow users to customize their target temperature down to a degree. So it’s a common question: what temperature is best to use? Most infrared saunas won’t let users tune their saunas above 65 degrees Celsius for safety reasons, but this is likely a much, much higher temperature than the average user would need. The ideal temperature for an infrared sauna is anywhere above 40 degrees and below 65 degrees. Within this range, infrared sauna users can still get just about every benefit that comes from dry heat. Because infrared saunas take some time to reach their peak temperature, it’s unlikely that you’ll spend your entire visit at the same digit-specific temperature, but rather in a range; that range should be anywhere between 40 and 65 degrees.

Ideal Steam Room Temperature for Newcomers

The trick with steam rooms is that temperature is not nearly as important as overall humidity. When a person is in a steam room, the feeling of heat is actually made even stronger by the steam in the room. This means that even if your steam room is comparatively cool, it can actually feel hotter than it actually is. But nonetheless, beginners to steam rooms should tune their rooms to approximately 40 degrees Celsius and aim for about 70% humidity. The combination of these two factors will probably make the overall feeling of the steam room much more tolerable for newcomers. As you become more comfortable with the feeling of high-humidity spaces like a steam room, experiment first with raising the humidity in the room rather than the temperature.

Ideal Steam Room Temperature for Experts

It is entirely reasonable for a steam room expert to tune their rooms to about 45 degrees Celsius and as close to 100% humidity as possible. Higher humidity in a steam room will make the air much heavier and muggier. While this is, of course, the goal of a steam room visit, the closer a person gets to 100% humidity, the more difficult it may be to spend long stretches of time in a steam room. The body is likely going to sweat quite a bit when temperatures and humidity are this high, so also be certain to take regular breaks. Even more importantly, it is key in steam rooms to keep a close watch on your breathing. Deep, consistent breaths are very important when staying in high-humidity environments.

The Difference Between Wet and Dry Heat in a Sauna

While wood-burning and infrared saunas emit dry heat, steam rooms emit wet heat, which affects the body differently. Understanding the difference between wet and dry heat can help you get in tune with your sauna intentions and goals. Also check out our comparison of saunas and steam rooms to learn more about dry and wet heat.

Benefits of Dry Heat in Saunas

Compared to the wet heat of a steam room, there are several health benefits that are more likely to show up in a dry heat sauna like a wood-burning or infrared sauna. The major benefit of dry heat in saunas is increased cardiovascular health. When a person spends time in a dry heat sauna, they are actually strengthening their cardiovascular health. Each time that we start to sweat in the sauna, that is our body working to maintain temperature homeostasis, meaning the baseline temperature for our body to run normally. To get back to homeostasis, the body’s heart rate increases and blood moves around the body at a faster pace. Each time the body engages these systems, we are helping our overall cardiovascular health. Further, there is evidence that shows dry heat actually benefits our cardiovascular health even more than wet heat.

Another benefit of dry heat is that people with asthma or other breathing conditions are less likely to have trouble spending a long time in saunas like these. Dry heat is generally much easier to breathe compared to wet heat. And especially for those with breathing or respiratory conditions like asthma, spending long amounts of time in spaces with high humidity can be very difficult.

Dry heat from wood-burning saunas has also been found to help reduce and hold off cognitive disorders like dementia. Specifically, a recent Finnish study found that people who spent more time in wood-burning saunas were less likely to have serious cognitive disorders later in life.

Dry heat is also extraordinarily good at relieving muscle soreness. Taking a sauna after a workout or after heavy muscle soreness sets in is a very common practice and for a good reason! Dry heat helps increase the blood flow to our muscles, which in turn will reduce soreness and stiffness.

Benefits of Wet Heat in Steam Rooms

Steam rooms have several key benefits that show up more often in them compared to saunas. Most importantly, spending time in a steam room is incredibly good for the skin. A combination of both the water vapor in the air in a steam room and the sweat given off by the body brings about a great collection of health benefits. The steam in steam rooms actually helps further open our pores. So, compared to a wood-burning sauna, it’s likely our pores will give off more natural oils and more sweat in a steam room.

Another major benefit of wet heat is that it helps with congestion. Even though the air in a steam room is debatably more difficult to breathe, the water vapor in the air is extremely beneficial for clearing mucus from our nasal passages and throat. Those with seasonal allergies or an uncomfortable cold may find more relief in a steam room compared to a sauna. There is further data that even shows people with bronchitis could find more relief in a steam room.

Similar to dry heat, wet heat is also very good for our muscle health. While a dry heat sauna can help us reduce stiffness and soreness, wet heat is actually much more likely to reduce the soreness that could happen in the future. If you step into a steam room directly after a big workout, it’s likely that you will have much less soreness in the hours and days afterward.

Health Benefits of Saunas and Steam Rooms in Comparison
Health Benefits of Saunas and Steam Rooms in Comparison

Conclusions on Sauna and Steam Room Temperatures

There is, luckily, almost no way to go wrong when it comes to heating your sauna or steam room. As long as the body is sweating and experiencing heat, there are no health benefits that you are potentially missing out on in your sauna. Of course, the hotter your sauna or steam room is, the quicker your body will reach that healthy temperature. But the objective of taking a sauna or spending time in a steam room isn’t to do it quickly! The best way to experience a sauna is to take your time and relax. So instead of worrying about the exact temperature of your sauna, be aware of your comfort level. Tune the temperature of your sauna and the humidity of your steam room based on your personal preference. As long as you are comfortably relaxing, you are already getting most of the major benefits out of your sauna or steam room.

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