Sauna use is almost always helpful in improving overall health, but is there a specific time of day to sauna that will enhance your benefits? The answer to this question depends somewhat on an individual’s purpose in using a sauna, their unique schedule, and other factors. Recent data suggests that if you can sauna in the morning, that time frame may produce improved mental focus throughout the day. (1)
If an individual is looking to improve sleep, for example, an evening sauna session would be advantageous in the cooling mechanism before bed, and if an individual is looking to recover faster after an intense workout they would want to sauna immediately after training.
Ultimately, when a person saunas depends entirely on their specific health goals and what they are looking to achieve with regular sauna use. This article will explore the various ways timing your sauna sessions can provide optimal results.
Morning Sauna For More Mental Focus and Clarity Throughout the Day
A recent study emerging from Japan found that those who experienced heat therapy in a variety of platforms, from hot baths, steam rooms, and saunas demonstrated higher levels of mental focus and clarity throughout the work day. (1) By taking a sauna in the morning it is possible to alter brain wave activity during the work day.
This Japanese study focused on ‘work efficiency’ and compared a group of ten healthy male participants who engaged in heat therapy in the morning versus the other subjects who did not. The group who engaged in heat therapy in the morning demonstrated less work-related errors, lower pulse rate, and a steady maintenance of alpha brain waves from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. (1)
Based on this study, it appears that any type of heat therapy or sauna use in the morning will improve mental acuity throughout the day. Conversely, sauna bathing in the evening appears to improve sleep and the body’s ability to transfer from states of vigilance into states of relaxation conducive to sleep.
Evening Sauna For Better Sleep
It may seem strange that a sauna in the morning demonstrates improvement in work efficiency and also promotes better and deeper sleep when done in the evening, but there is a scientifically sound reason for this. All sauna use is a form of hyperthermia, which means that internal body temperatures are raised beyond a normal level. This fact means that the correlative benefits within this framework are plentiful, and when it comes to a sound night sleep, a critical portion of the ‘falling’ asleep component entails a drop in core body temperature.
By raising the body’s temperature before bed in a sauna, it means that as the temperature of the body starts to decrease after a sauna, you will begin to feel sleepy. It is in a sense like jumpstarting the circadian rhythm. According to Dr. Huberman of Stanford University, the process of core body temperature drop is directly correlated to the action of ‘falling asleep’. (2)
By intentionally raising the temperature of the body by a few degrees in the sauna, you will help the body to begin the natural process of cooling itself for sleep. If you choose to use an infrared sauna in the evening, be sure that the reading lights are off so as to not confuse your circadian rhythm.
Infrared light is naturally a part of sunlight and it appears most strongly in the morning hours, and the evening hours as the sun is setting. It is unlikely that exposure to infrared light will negatively affect sleep as infrared light is invisible to the eye and is a part of the natural spectrum of light in the evening.
Any form of sauna or heat therapy that intentionally raises the body’s temperature in the evening will help with falling asleep.
Post Workout Sauna For Muscle Recovery
Whether you are exercising as an elite level athlete for an endurance sport or lifting weights, right after a workout is the best time to sauna if your intention is specifically to improve muscle recovery. A study from the National Institute of Health that studied healthy male athletes demonstrates a remarkable uptake in muscle recovery when a far infrared sauna is used after a workout, the article writes:
“In conclusion, deep penetration of infrared heat (approximately 3–4 cm into fat tissue and neuromuscular system) with mild temperature (35–50°C), and light humidity (25–35%) during FIRS bathing appears favorable for the neuromuscular system to recover from maximal endurance performance.” (3) (FIRS = Far Infrared Sauna)
If you are looking to use a sauna for muscle recovery, the data would suggest that a far infrared sauna is the most effective in producing positive muscle recovery because of this light spectrum’s ability to deeply penetrate into the soft tissues of the body.
Exercise breaks down muscle fibers, and it is during recovery that the results of the effort are most easily seen. By increasing the body’s ability to repair itself with sauna use, it becomes possible to workout more frequently with less downtime for recovery.
Sauna Before A Massage, Chiropractic, or Acupuncture
By increasing the heart rate in a sauna session, more blood moves throughout the body and positively impacts circulation. If you are choosing to use any form of therapy such as massage, a sauna prior to your session will increase the benefits of the massage substantially.
This is also true of acupuncture, a system that depends upon fluid and free flowing circulation to break down inflammation in the body. So, if you choose to treat yourself to a spa day, and the spa has a sauna on site, book yourself into a sauna prior to your treatment. Or if you have a sauna at home, be sure to sauna prior to treatment for best results.
If You Choose To Sauna More Than Once A Day Take Precautions: Stay Well Hydrated At All Times
Some peoplw will choose to sauna twice a day to meet different needs, and while this is generally safe, the increased risk of dehydration will be a factor. Be sure to hydrate well before, during, after each sauna session. Be sure to intake fluids that contain electrolytes and other essential minerals. As an individual sweats in a sauna, while they may be detoxifying the body of unwanted substances, other elements essential to health and well being will also exit the body.
This means staying well hydrated, and being conscious of eating in a way that will re-mineralize the body in a positive manner.
If you are unsure of the correct sauna protocol for your unique circumstances consult with a healthcare professional and reach out to the saunas.org team to ensure you are using saunas in the most healthful way possible.