Using a sauna is not rocket science, and it’s nothing to stress about. In fact, one of the main reasons for using a sauna is to reduce stress.
A big part of learning how to use a sauna is to figure out what you like. There are many types of saunas to choose from, and many ways to use them. As long as you follow some basic safety rules (which I will cover below) and good sauna etiquette, the rest is up to your personal preference.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about “how to use a sauna” to get the most out of your sauna experience.
Introduction to Saunas
A sauna is a small room or structure designed for people to sweat and relax in. It typically consists of a heat source, such as a stove or electric heater, and is made from materials that can withstand high temperatures, such as wood or tile.
The heat source warms up the air inside the sauna, creating a warm and humid environment. People typically use saunas for health benefits, such as improved circulation, relaxation, and reduced stress.
There are many different types of saunas, such as dry and wet saunas, traditional Finnish saunas, Turkish saunas, steam rooms, infrared saunas, and many more. The typical sauna temperature and humidity vary between the different types of saunas, but in the most common Finnish-style saunas, the temperature is typically from 160°F to 200°F (71°C – 93°C).
Key Information About Saunas
Here’s a table highlighting some main information about saunas:
|Introduction to Saunas||A sauna is a small room or structure designed for people to sweat and relax in. It typically consists of a heat source, such as a stove or electric heater, and is made from materials that can withstand high temperatures, such as wood or tile.|
|Types of Saunas||Dry and wet saunas, traditional Finnish saunas, Turkish saunas, steam rooms, infrared saunas, and many more.|
|Temperature||In Finnish-style saunas, the temperature is typically from 160°F to 200°F (71°C – 93°C).|
|Benefits of Taking a Sauna||Improved cardiovascular health, relaxation and stress relief, detoxification, pain relief, improved skin health, and improved immune function.|
|Safety Tips for Using a Sauna||Start slowly with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time, stay hydrated, use a towel to sit on, monitor your temperature, avoid alcohol and drugs, seek fresh air and drink water if feeling uncomfortable, never leave children unsupervised, and consult your doctor if you have a medical condition or are pregnant.|
|How to Use a Sauna||Shower before entering, respect the dress code, enter and exit calmly and quickly, don’t talk loudly or disturb others, don’t listen to music or bring your phone, be considerate of others, ask before throwing water on the heater, fill up the water bucket if you use it all, don’t bring food or drinks (except water and possibly beer in a home sauna), get out after 10-20 minutes, don’t groom or exercise in the sauna.|
|How to Choose a Sauna||Traditional Finnish sauna, infrared sauna, steam sauna, wood-fired sauna, electric sauna. Personal preference and available facilities are the key factors in choosing a sauna.|
Benefits of Taking a Sauna
There are some wild claims for the health benefits of saunas. Sauna is not a magic cure-all or a health hack, but a growing body of evidence supports some of the health claims.
Using a sauna regularly can provide various health benefits, including:
- Improved cardiovascular health: Regular sauna sessions can increase heart rate and dilate blood vessels, providing a workout for the heart and improving circulation.
- Relaxation and stress relief: The heat and moist air in a sauna can help relieve muscle tension, reduce stress and improve overall relaxation.
- Detoxification: The heat and sweating produced in a sauna can help flush out toxins and impurities from the body.
- Pain relief: The heat and moisture in a sauna can help relieve pain, particularly for people with conditions such as arthritis.
- Improved skin health: Regular sauna sessions can help improve skin health by opening up pores and promoting sweating, which can help remove impurities and dead skin cells.
- Improved immune function: Regular sauna sessions can boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells.
Watch the video of Dr. Alex Huberman explaining some of the health benefits of saunas. Dr. Huberman is a neuroscientist and a tenured professor at Stanford University.
Safety Tips for Using a Sauna
- Start slowly with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after using a sauna
- Use a towel to sit on to prevent skin irritation and keeping the sauna clean
- Monitor your temperature and avoid staying in the sauna for too long
- Avoid alcohol and drugs which can impair your judgment and increase the risk of dehydration and other health problems
- If you feel uncomfortable, dizzy, or lightheaded, leave the sauna immediately and seek fresh air and drink some water
- Children should never be left unsupervised in a sauna
- If you have a medical condition or are pregnant, it is best to consult with your doctor before using a sauna
- A sauna is not a place to sleep! Don’t let yourself fall asleep in the sauna.
- Ensure proper ventilation in the sauna, especially in wood-burning saunas: don’t cover air vents or the space under the sauna door.
- Read how to make the sauna hotter safely
How to Use a Sauna
Here’s a simple guide on how to use a sauna, covering the most important aspects of this traditional form of relaxation and wellness:
- Don’t use the sauna if you’re sick, dehydrated, or intoxicated (unless in Finland where it’s common to have a beer or two)
- Make sure to shower before entering
- Respect the dress code (naked, swimsuit, towel)
- Enter and exit the sauna calmly and quickly
- Don’t talk loudly and disturb others
- Don’t listen to music or take your phone into the sauna
- Be considerate of others and don’t hog the space
- Ask before throwing water on the heater to increase heat and steam
- Fill up the water bucket if you use it all
- Don’t bring food or drinks into the sauna (except water and possibly beer in a home sauna)
- Get out of the sauna after 10-20 minutes, leave if feeling dizzy
- Don’t groom in the sauna
- Don’t exercise in the sauna
How to Sauna: Your Questions Answered
Here’s everything you might need to know about using a sauna safely and ensuring a relaxing time in the heat:
How to Choose a Sauna?
These are some of the most common types of saunas, and the choice of which one to use often depends on personal preference and the facilities available.
- Traditional Finnish sauna – a dry heat sauna that uses hot rocks and water to produce steam
- Infrared sauna – uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat and warm the body directly
- Steam sauna – a humid type of sauna that uses a generator to produce steam and maintain a high level of humidity
- Wood-fired sauna – similar to a traditional Finnish sauna, but heated by a wood stove
- Electric sauna – uses electric heaters to warm the air and provide a dry heat experience.
My personal favorite is of course the traditional Finnish Sauna. If you have the option to try different types of saunas, I highly recommend doing so to know which you like the best.
How Hot and Humid Should the Sauna Be?
Monitoring the temperature and humidity in the sauna is a big part of using the sauna properly.
I wrote a full guide about the temperature and humidity in the sauna. In short, the temperature in a sauna ranges from 90°F to 200°F (32°C to 93°C) and the humidity ranges from 10% to 100% depending on the type of sauna.
? Tip: Get a sauna thermometer to monitor the temperature in your sauna.
What to Wear in a Sauna?
Before using the sauna, make sure to review the rules regarding nudity and the dress code.
It is recommended to wear a clean bathing suit or a towel while in the sauna. If you prefer to wear additional clothing, a clean cotton t-shirt or bathrobe are suitable options.
To keep your feet clean, rubber slippers or shower sandals are acceptable to wear in the sauna.
Read more about what to wear in a sauna.
How to Prepare Your Body for a Sauna Session?
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before and after a sauna session to prevent dehydration.
- Eat light: Avoid eating heavy or fatty meals before a sauna session as they can cause discomfort.
- Take a warm shower: A warm shower before entering the sauna can help open up your pores and prepare your body for the heat.
- Gradually increase temperature: Start with a lower temperature and gradually increase it over time to allow your body to acclimate to the heat.
- Relax: Find a comfortable position in the sauna and try to relax and clear your mind.
What to Do in a Sauna?
You should sit or lie down in the sauna and relax. That’s it, there’s not much more to do in the sauna.
In a practical sense, some things you need to do in the sauna are:
- Throwing water on the sauna rocks to produce steam and heat
- Monitor the time in the sauna, getting a sauna timer helps
- Keep hydrated and monitor how you feel and listen to your body if you start to feel dizzy
- Keep the sauna clean
- Respect others and follow proper sauna etiquette
How to Enter the Sauna?
Take a shower and slip into a clean bathing suit before going to the sauna. Keeping the sauna door open for a long time is frowned upon because the heat and steam will “escape”. Enter the sauna calmly but quickly and find your seat. Be aware the floor might be slippery when wet!
How to Adjust the Temperature and Humidity in the Sauna?
I wrote a full guide on how to heat a sauna. In short, electric and wood-burning saunas are heated differently. The preheating times and things to keep in mind vary with different types of saunas.
Here’s a video guide on heating a traditional Finnish-style wood-burning sauna:
How Long to Stay in the Sauna?
The duration of your sauna session depends on both your tolerance to heat and the temperature of the sauna. Lower-temperature saunas may allow you to stay longer.
Suggested sauna duration:
- For Beginners: Start with a brief session and gradually increase it. Your first session should not exceed 5 to 10 minutes.
- For Experienced users: It is recommended to limit your time to a maximum of 20 minutes, even with experience.
Read more about how long should you stay in a sauna.
How Long Should I Wait Before Going in the Sauna After a Workout?
Allow at least 10-20 minutes for your heart rate to return to normal and for your body to recover before entering the sauna after exercising.
Read how often should you go to the sauna.
What to Do while in the Sauna?
There’s not much more do to than relax and enjoy the experience.
In Finland, where I’m from, saunas are usually quiet places. You can have conversations with other people in the sauna or listen to music, but please check with others first.
Saunas are not a place for exercise or grooming.
Cooling Down after the Sauna
Your body needs some time to cool down after the sauna session.
You can take a cool shower, sit or lie down, or get some fresh air outside. Dipping into a cold pool might be also nice after a hot sauna session.
Remember to also stay hydrated!
How to Maintain Good Hygiene after a Sauna Session?
Take a shower after a sauna session. Read also tips for cleaning the sauna after the sauna session to keep your sauna clean.
How to Incorporate Sauna Sessions into your Wellness Routine
Incorporating sauna sessions into your wellness routine can be simple and straightforward. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Schedule sauna sessions: Decide on a regular schedule for your sauna sessions and make it a part of your routine. You can go to the sauna after a workout, before bed, or whenever you have free time.
- Set a goal: Determine what you hope to achieve from your sauna sessions, such as stress relief, relaxation, or improved health. This will help you focus and maximize the benefits of each session.
- Start slowly: Begin with short sauna sessions and gradually increase the time as your body becomes acclimated to the heat.
- Alternate between heat and cold: To maximize the benefits of the sauna, consider alternating between hot and cold temperatures. For example, spend a few minutes in the sauna, then take a cold shower or dip in a cold pool.
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before and after your sauna sessions to stay hydrated.
- Create a relaxing environment: Bring music, a book, or other items that help you relax to your sauna sessions.
- Reflect: Use your sauna sessions as an opportunity to reflect, meditate, or simply unwind.
By incorporating sauna sessions into your wellness routine, you can reap the many benefits they offer and enhance your overall sense of well-being.
? Did you know? Using essential oils in a sauna is a great way to make the sauna session even more relaxing!
Main Takeaways on Using Saunas
In conclusion, saunas offer a variety of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, relaxation, detoxification, pain relief, improved skin health, and improved immune function.
It’s important to follow safety tips while using a sauna, such as staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol and drugs, not staying in the sauna for too long, and seeking medical advice if you have a medical condition or are pregnant.
Additionally, it’s essential to follow proper etiquette in a sauna, such as showering before entering, respecting the dress code, and being considerate of others.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure a relaxing and enjoyable sauna experience.