I recently became a member of Hotworx - a fitness studio that combines exercise with Infared saunas. I enjoy it for many reasons - the variety of the workout classes, individual saunas so I can work out alone, 24/7 access; plus, let's talk about how amazing a sauna feels when it's zero degrees outside. The classes and heat push my body and mind to uncomfortable limits - I remember during my first class moving my head around searching for cold air like a fish searching for water; I remember thinking "wow this is uncomfortable", but then quickly reminded myself, "was working out ever supposes to be comfortable?"
During my most recent session, I found myself wondering about the mental health benefits these classes may be providing. I know exercise is good for mental health, but what about the Infared saunas? Turns out research is indicating that Infared saunas can have many mental health benefits!
Decrease depressive symptoms
Lots of research shows that they can make you feel euphoric. Saunas are somewhat stressful on the body, so your brain produces and releases more euphoric hormones to deal with it, and these changes appear to be semi-permanent. Other researchers have looked at the effects of infrared sauna therapy on mildly depressed patients with fatigue, appetite loss, and mental complaints. They found that sauna treatment significantly increased their appetite and reduced their mental complaints.
Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Several studies have shown that regular sauna use lowers levels of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. In one study, researchers found that using a sauna can reduce both state and trait anxiety, and other research shows that sweating increases relaxation, and reduces feelings of frustration and anxiety.
Your brain produces and releases these natural painkillers during times of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and pain. Since saunas are a stressor, the release of endorphins are increased when you spend time in one. Several studies have shown that heat stress and heat exposure in a dry sauna cause a significant increase in beta-endorphin levels. This may explain why research shows that sauna therapy can lessen the pain experienced by patients with fibromyalgia. In one study, people with fibromyalgia experienced a 33 to 77% reduction in pain after using an infrared sauna regularly. Six months after the study was done, the participants still reported a 28 to 66% reduction in pain. Other researchers have found the same thing and concluded that infrared sauna therapy is effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Decrease ADHD Symptoms
Norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, is a hormone and neurotransmitter in the brain that can help with focus and attention. Numerous studies have found that sauna use significantly increases norepinephrine levels. In one study, women spent 20 minutes in a sauna, two times each week, and researchers witnessed an 86% increase in norepinephrine.
In another study, men that stayed in a sauna until exhaustion increased their norepinephrine levels by 310%.
Besides increasing norepinephrine, heat stress also increases your body’s ability to store norepinephrine for later release. Medications. that increase the reuptake norepinephrine are often prescribed to people with ADHD, so researchers believe that sauna therapy should be considered as an alternative treatment. Medications that increase the reuptake norepinephrine are often prescribed to people with ADHD, so researchers believe that sauna therapy should be considered as an alternative treatment.
Reduce Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue
One study found that infrared sauna sessions significantly reduce fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. It also significantly reduced their anxiety and depression.
Another study found that daily infrared sauna sessions dramatically improved symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, including fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances. The patients in the study didn’t improve with prednisolone, a steroid medication, but did improve with sauna therapy.
Source: Optimal Living Dynamics.