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The Benefits of Gentle Sauna Sessions: Why Hotter Isn't Always Better

Updated: Mar 8

The temptation to bump up the temperature in your sauna session is very real. Some people are keen to see how much they can get their heart pumping, or don’t feel like the session is worth it unless they are dripping in sweat. Increasing your heart rate and getting a good sweat on are great if you are looking for a more cardio based session, but if it is relaxation, better sleep and decreased inflammation you are looking for, here are some reasons that a lower temperature might be your new best friend.

It all comes down to the nervous system. To relax, we need to switch into our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), our rest and digest mode. When our PSNS is activated, it slows our heart and breathing rates as well as lowering our blood pressure. Setting your sauna to 48-52 degrees, using red or orange lights, laying down and listening to your favourite music or meditation = perfect conditions for soothing the mind and body.

The cardiovascular output from a more intense sauna session can be compared to that of a brisk walk. As exercise can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), this may result in you not achieving the zen benefits you are after. An intense session, particularly later in the day, may be too stimulating and could potentially affect your sleep.  When we are stressed and our SNS (fight or flight) is engaged, our cortisol levels rise to help us manage. Sauna use has been linked with reducing and balancing cortisol, with some studies showing that sauna sessions can induce hormonal changes including lowering levels of cortisol by as much as 10–40%.

Everyone’s ideal sauna session is going to look different; the key is finding what works for you. Maybe next time you're tempted to add a few more degrees to your sauna, just check in with yourself and ask what it is you really need on that day.