The Benefits of Sauna for Body and Mind
The Benefits of Sauna for Body and Mind
The tradition of sauna bathing originates from Scandinavia, particularly Finland. The most well-known form of sauna bathing is the Finnish sauna. Due to its health-promoting effects, saunas are popular worldwide, not only as a wellness service but also in private households and at resorts and swimming pools. In this article, we will explain the functioning of the sauna, different types of saunas, the health effects, and the differences between the Finnish sauna and the infrared sauna.
History and Functioning of the Sauna
The Nordic peoples likely knew about saunas or an early form of them for over two thousand years. Originally, saunas were used for bathing, but due to their cleanliness, they were also used during births and funerals. European travelers became acquainted with saunas as early as the 17th century, and from their descriptions, we learn that Scandinavians regularly offered their guests the opportunity to enter the hot rooms and beat each other with birch branches.
A sauna is essentially a room that is heated to high temperatures. The difference lies in how the heat is generated. Until the early 20th century, the smoke sauna was the only known form. It is a separate small wooden house where a fire is lit. Once the fire is reduced to embers, one enters the room. These houses do not have chimneys, so the smoke escapes through the door. While in use, there is relatively little smoke inside, but a lot of soot is generated. This method raised questions about hygiene and the health effects of the smoke. For this reason, saunas using chemical means were developed, which are now known as “conventional” Finnish saunas. In recent times, infrared saunas have been gaining popularity.
In Finnish saunas, the heat is no longer exclusively generated by a wood stove but can also be provided by electricity or gas. Regardless of the heat source, it is used to heat the sauna stones onto which water is poured to create the desired humidity.
In contrast, infrared saunas work on a completely different principle. They utilize infrared rays to directly heat the body. These facilities can have ceramic heating elements, which take a bit longer to heat up and can be easily warmed. However, over time, carbon-based heating elements have become dominant, which are larger and therefore have a lower surface temperature.
Differences Between Finnish Saunas and Infrared Saunas
In a Finnish sauna, the stones are heated using a stove and then water is poured over them to regulate the humidity. The temperature can reach up to 90 degrees Celsius. After turning it on, one must wait for the temperature to reach the desired level, and it is recommended not to use the sauna more than twice a week. While there are many benefits, high temperatures can be taxing on the body and are not recommended for health reasons.
On the other hand, an infrared sauna operates at a temperature of only 35-45 degrees Celsius, and the infrared rays directly heat the body. The heart of the infrared sauna is the infrared emitter, which emits invisible rays with a specific wavelength. The long-wave infrared radiation penetrates the skin and muscle fibers to a depth of 3.5-4 cm. This achieves the desired effect at a gentler temperature. Sweating is 3-4 times more intense with this type of treatment, and sweat is not only produced through the sweat glands but also through the sebaceous glands. In a traditional sauna, sweat is 97% water, whereas in an infrared sauna, sweat is 80% water and 20% fat, cholesterol, and other fat-soluble toxins. As a result, it has a stronger effect on body shape and is ideal as an adjunct measure for weight loss. The infrared sauna can be used daily and is ready for use immediately after turning it on.
Sauna sessions are typically conducted in cycles, which means spending 15-20 minutes in the heat and then going outside to cool down the body in some way. This can be done through showering, standing in cool air, or even taking an ice bath by immersing oneself in ice holes in northern areas.
The Benefits of Sauna Bathing
As mentioned earlier, sauna bathing is not just a wellness service, but it also has many health benefits. It has a positive impact on many of our organs and improves the functioning of the human body, including blood circulation, the immune and nervous systems, and the musculoskeletal system.
For all types of saunas, they have a stimulating effect on the body, boost metabolism, support the elimination of toxins and waste products, and tighten and rejuvenate the skin.
The Finnish sauna can cause the heart to beat faster, promoting blood circulation. It is also recommended for alleviating allergy issues, eczema, inflammation, and muscle pain.
Sauna bathing can be used for both maintaining health and treating specific problems. It accelerates wound healing and has a positive effect on mood. During a sauna session, the body produces endorphins, which have a very relaxing and mood-lifting effect. It significantly reduces stress levels after a hectic workday and contributes to an overall improved quality of life. Athletes also use the sauna to warm up their muscles and aid in recovery after exercise.
What to Consider When Sauna Bathing
As the saying goes, something good can also have its downsides, and the same applies to sauna sessions. As mentioned earlier, you should limit Finnish sauna sessions to a maximum of twice a week and not stay in the sauna for hours on end. Infrared saunas can be used more frequently, but it is still recommended to limit it to once a day.
The high temperature in the sauna has a significant impact on the heart and internal organs, and it also increases heart rate. This generally does not have negative effects on a healthy body, but it can cause problems for certain illnesses or during pregnancy.
Pay attention to proper etiquette in public saunas! While being nude is expected or allowed in some countries and resorts, it is generally not well-received. However, avoid bathing suits made of synthetic fibers or bathing suits soaked in chlorinated water, as they can emit unpleasant odors and cause skin irritations. Also, avoid using plastic flip-flops, as thermoplastic materials can be harmful to health! If you are suffering from an active illness, especially a contagious one, you should avoid public saunas. It is also not advisable to further increase body temperature when you have a fever.
Furthermore, it is recommended to take a shower before and after each sauna session. Before sauna bathing, it is important to remove makeup, deodorant, creams, and dirt from the body, as they can cause discomfort. Taking a bath after sauna bathing is advisable as well, as you sweat heavily and bathing helps cool down the body.
The most important thing is to pay attention to your fluid intake! Since we continuously lose water in the sauna, it is advisable to replenish fluids between sauna sessions. It’s best to drink water during breaks to keep your body hydrated. It is not recommended to eat or drink in the sauna, and it is also recommended to avoid eating anything for one to one and a half hours before sauna bathing as it can disrupt digestion.
In Scandinavian countries, sauna bathing is sometimes associated with enjoying beer. However, it is strongly advised against consuming alcohol as it intensifies sweating and can lead to overheating.
Different Types of Sauna Baths
Sauna bathing provides a way to relax and rejuvenate, prepare for and recover from physical activities, as well as enhance mental abilities. The ability to enjoy sauna heat varies from person to person and can be supported by professional training or guidance from health experts. In this case, it is advisable to follow the advice of professionals.
- Activating Sauna Bath: It is performed before strenuous physical or mental activities to prepare the body for active work. In this case, one enters the heated room once and then cools down through showers or in the swimming pool. If avoiding physical activities, intensive muscle cooling is not recommended.
- Tonic Sauna Bath: It is similar to the activating sauna bath but the cycle is repeated twice. It has a refreshing and relaxing effect at the same time, and after a short rest period, one feels a strong sense of freshness. In Finland, for example, kindergartens offer tonic sauna baths to children during the day.
- Relaxing Sauna Bath: It is usually performed after a tiring workday, followed by a few hours of rest after the final cooling phase. It has a pleasantly soothing effect and can also be used for recovery after intense physical or mental exertion. For this reason, it is also recommended as an adjunct treatment for certain illnesses.
- Exhaustive Sauna Bath: This is a more serious and relaxing sauna treatment that includes up to 5 cycles. It is mainly used by individuals suffering from sleep disorders. After five cycles, any activity becomes very demanding, but sleep is very light and pleasant.
The other variations can be considered as irregular sauna baths and usually involve more than 5 cycles.
The duration of a cycle can vary from person to person, but it is not recommended to stay for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Even if short cycles are repeated for hours, sauna bathing may prove to be more harmful than beneficial to the body.
Sauna for your Home
It has never been easier to enjoy the numerous benefits of a sauna in the comfort of your own home! With Wellis saunas, you can bring this Nordic specialty to your home in various sizes and designs.
The Finnish sauna Calidus accommodates up to six people and allows for comfortable relaxation. The interior is made of Canadian hemlock wood and features sturdy 8mm thick safety glass doors. The heat-resistant lighting is also adorned with an elegant wood paneling.
If you prefer infrared saunas, we also have suitable options for you. Thanks to advanced technology, these saunas are extremely easy and cost-effective to operate. Typically, no special modifications to the power supply are required, and the energy consumption of the saunas is barely higher than that of a vacuum cleaner. The Helios Hemlock sauna for one person is an excellent choice for those who wish to enjoy the benefits of a sauna alone.
However, if you can’t decide between the two technologies, we also offer a combined sauna. The Eclipse Hemlock sauna features a Finnish sauna stove and eight infrared heaters. This allows you to choose which technology to use at any given time. The energy-efficient Redlight™ heating elements achieve better effectiveness with a fraction of the energy consumption of conventional heating elements, and they have a long lifespan of 5-7,000 hours. For the ultimate sauna experience, it also includes color therapy LED lighting and two built-in speakers.
The saunas are delivered in flat packs, and we recommend seeking the assistance of a professional for assembly to maintain the warranty. Contact our staff for a customized offer, so you can enjoy the warm comfort of our sauna in your home every day!