The use of saunas for stress relief, relaxation, and health promotion have been around for decades. Some studies now even point to better heart health with regular use of a dry sauna.

While sitting in a sauna for the recommended amount of time is generally safe, there are some safety tips and precautions you should consider before giving this heated, wood-lined room a try.

Keep reading to learn more about these safety recommendations, along with the many benefits of dry saunas and how they compare to steam rooms and infrared saunas.

Regular use of a dry sauna can benefit your health in several ways.

Positive impact on heart health

A study published in 2015 found that regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep the heart healthy and extend life. More specifically, the frequency is associated with a reduced risk of:

  • sudden cardiac deaths
  • coronary heart disease
  • cardiovascular disease
  • all-cause mortality

Reduced symptoms of rheumatic diseases

A 2018 systematic review that looked at the clinical effects of regular dry sauna bathing, suggests that saunas may benefit people with rheumatic diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Regular sessions may also benefit people with:

  • chronic fatigue and pain syndromes
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • allergic rhinitis

Better exercise performance

Athletes, gym-goers, and anyone who exercises may also benefit from spending time in the sauna. The 2018 systematic review also found that sauna bathing may improve exercise performance in athletes.

It should be noted that these findings on are based on two small noncontrolled interventional trials that studied the physiological effects of repeat sauna in athletes.

Relief from certain skin conditions

Psoriasis, which is a chronic autoimmune condition, causes raised, red, scaly patches typically on the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp. These patches can itch, sting, or burn.

Harvard Health reports that some patients with psoriasis experience relief from itching when using a sauna.

Fewer symptoms of asthma

Asthma is a chronic health condition that intermittently inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. People with asthma may experience less wheezing if they use a sauna regularly.

Lower risk of dementia

The results from a 2017 study found a connection between the frequency of sauna use and a lowered risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in men. They point out that sauna bathing, which promotes relaxation and well-being, may be a potential protective lifestyle factor for common memory diseases.

Sauna or steam? It’s a common question many people have when trying to decide where to spend their time. Steam rooms use a generator filled with boiling water to heat the space, which typically is somewhere around 110°F (43.3°F).

The water causes humidity, and consequently, creates a wet environment for you to sit in.

This wet or damp air is very different from the dry air you experience in a dry sauna. Because of this, some of the health benefits of a steam room are different than the benefits of a sauna.

Steam rooms may help improve circulation, loosen stiff muscles and joints, promote skin health by opening pores, and break up congestion inside your sinuses and lungs.

A dry sauna and an infrared sauna both heat your body, but that may be where the similarities end.

When you sit in an infrared sauna, your body is warmed directly by the heat from the infrared lamps that use electromagnetic radiation. Dry saunas, on the other hand, heat the air around you. This type of heat directed to the body is what makes infrared saunas a popular choice for many people.

Infrared saunas also operate at a much lower temperature, usually between 120˚F (48.9°C) and 140˚F (60°C). And you can stay in them longer than dry saunas, with 20 minutes being the average time.

If you’re new to this experience, start with a 10- to 15-minute session, and gradually work your way up. Some people will stay in an infrared sauna up to 30 minutes.

In general, saunas are safe to use. That said, there are times when using a sauna may be unsafe. If you’re not properly hydrated, using a sauna may cause dehydration.

Since your body sweats as a way to maintain a steady core temperature, the longer you stay in a sauna, the more water you will lose. This may pose a problem for anyone that’s not properly hydrated before a sauna session.

Most healthy adults can avoid adverse side effects if they follow the proper safety procedures for using a sauna.

Warnings

Pregnant women, and people with poorly controlled blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, unstable angina, and advanced heart failure or heart valve disease should talk to a doctor before using a sauna.

Healthline

Knowing the proper way to use a sauna before your first session can help keep you safe and make your experience more beneficial.

Length of time. Most guidelines say 15 minutes is a reasonable time limit for most healthy adults. However, the length of time you stay in a sauna also depends on your comfort level.

You may need to start with a shorter session and work your way up to the maximum time. You can also break up a larger chunk of time into smaller segments with cooling time between sessions. Most saunas come with a timer, so make sure you set it for the appropriate time before getting in.

Normal temperature ranges. The temperature in a dry sauna can range from 150°F to 195°F (65.6°C to 90.6°C) with the higher end being more of the average temperature.

Cooling down period. If you’re doing more than one sauna session at a time, make sure to step out of the sauna and give your body a cooldown period before getting back in. Use this time to sit, relax, and hydrate.

In addition to the guidelines for using a sauna, there are also several precautions to consider before settling into a relaxing sauna session.

  • Don’t go over the recommended time.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after you use the sauna.
  • Allow your body temperature to cool gradually after leaving the sauna.
  • Avoid alcohol before and after your sauna session.
  • Get up slowly to avoid getting dizzy. If you do feel dizzy or faint, sit down and let your body cool.
  • Take a shower before your sauna session.

Incorporating dry sauna sessions into your wellness routine may lead to several health benefits. For healthy adults, using a sauna at the recommended temperature for 10 to 15 minutes per session is considered safe.

Make sure to follow all of the safety precautions before using a sauna, and allow your body adequate time to cool down after you finish.

If you have any medical conditions or health issues, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor prior to sitting in a sauna.