So, when is the best time of day to use the sauna, morning or night? Truthfully, the answer is mixed. Your body automatically reacts to the heat of the sauna any time you step inside, regardless of the time of day, but there are other advantages to both morning and nighttime use. These advantages depend largely on whether you’re using a traditional or an infrared sauna.
If you’re using a traditional sauna, the morning might be the best time of day to use it. And using an infrared sauna may be best at night. Using a traditional sauna in the morning will help you feel energized and be more productive, while an infrared sauna at night will help you sleep better.
It’s important to know that you’ll benefit from the sauna at whatever time of day you use it. Here, we’ll look at some of the benefits of both morning and nighttime use to help you decide when will be the optimal time for you to use it.
Is Morning or Night Better for Sauna Use?
No matter what time of day you enjoy the sauna, your body and mind will reap tons of benefits. Saunas are known to improve heart and lung health, boost immune functions, remove harmful toxins from the body, reduce pain, facilitate better sleep, and alleviate stress.
As your body temperature rises, a complex process known as “thermoregulation” kicks in to help prevent you from overheating. Your body works hard in response to the heat, increasing your heart rate and blood circulation to pump more blood to your extremities, similar to how your body reacts to cardio.
Simultaneously, your blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased blood flow. Pores on your skin open to allow you to sweat, and your breathing pattern changes, too, to carry more oxygen around your body to help it function.
Hormonal activity shifts; for example, among countless changes is the release of endorphins; one of the body’s feel-good chemicals. It also causes a reduction in cortisol; one of your body’s stress hormones. All these changes while you sit back and bask in the relaxing heat.
This physiological reaction happens no matter the time of day, so, there isn’t a proven “best” time for sauna use. That said, you may have a personal preference based on how you feel after your sauna session and the type of sauna you are using.
While the body’s general response to sauna heat isn’t dependent on the time of day, traditional saunas and infrared saunas each have subtly different physiological effects that may influence your decision of when to have your sauna session. Your personality and preferences play a part, too.
Morning Use May Boost Productivity
Researchers in Japan were curious as to whether sauna bathing in the morning impacted people’s daily performance and productivity, so they conducted a study to investigate. This study, which was published in 2015 in the International Journal of Biometeorology, focused on mist saunas—traditionally heated sauna rooms with regular misting effects created by periodically dousing the stove with water.
The scientists examined participants’ physiological responses while in the sauna, including body temperature, heart rate, and brain waves. Later in the day, they measured their performance and efficiency while completing specific tasks.
The study revealed that during their morning sauna bath, participants demonstrated a lower heart rate and a heightened presence of alpha brain waves. Alpha frequency is associated with states of relaxation, memory, creativity, and academic performance/learning. Later, when performing tasks, these participants were noticeably more alert, productive, and successful than those participants who did not use a sauna in the morning.
Based on their data, researchers concluded that morning sauna bathing may help people begin the day in a state of relaxation rather than stress. Not only was this better for their cardiovascular health (as indicated by their lower heart rate), but it also enabled better concentration and performance later in the day.
Is Sauna Use Good First Thing in the Morning?
The Japanese study provides evidence that sauna use is good first thing in the morning. Other studies have indicated that the high heat of a traditional (non-infrared) sauna helps you feel awake and remain alert and focused.
You might find that spending some time in a traditional sauna early in the morning may be a great way to start your day. Early sauna sessions can help you:
- Feel energized
- Be alert and focused
- Feel relaxed, rather than stressed with everyday thoughts and worries
- Decide an daily intention that will help motivate you throughout the day
If this sounds like a great way to start your day, definitely experiment with using a traditional sauna first thing in the morning. If you’re absolutely not a morning person, it doesn’t fit into your schedule, or you prefer infrared saunas to traditional ones, that’s also okay. You can benefit from this experience any time of day. Plus using it at night also offers some unique advantages.
Does Sauna Use Before Bed Help You Sleep?
When it comes to infrared saunas, nighttime might be the best. Some people who tried infrared sauna bathing in the morning didn’t like the experience, claiming it made them feel groggy. There’s a scientifically valid reason for that.
Infrared light is often used as a treatment for sleep problems because it encourages melatonin production. Melatonin is a natural sleep-promoting hormone made by the brain; it’s an integral part of our circadian rhythm, our natural sleep-wake cycle.
Too little melatonin can create many sleep problems. Melatonin production is triggered by light wavelengths of 600-900 nanometers (nm), and infrared light, including the light in infrared saunas, is 700 nm, the perfect length to activate melatonin production.
Saunas further encourage your body to fall into healthy sleep-wake patterns because they mimic your natural circadian rhythm. Your body temperature naturally rises during the day and then gradually cools through the evening to prepare you for sleep. As you heat up in the sauna and cool down after, your body is primed for sleep.
Use a Sauna Before Bed to De-Stress and Relax
Recall that using a sauna early in the morning has been found to promote relaxed alpha waves in the brain. This happens any time of day you’re relaxing in the sauna, including at night. Just as using a sauna can help you start the day in a calm mental state, basking in the sauna before bed helps you destress and release anxious thoughts. As you relax and let go of pent-up tension, stress, and even physical pain from the day, you can fully unwind and prepare for easier, more restful sleep.
Adding the sauna to your night routine can promote better sleep in other ways, too. Sleep experts recommend ditching anything with a screen at least 30 minutes, but ideally two hours, before bed. Both the blue light emitted from all electronic devices and the stimulating nature of phones, computers, and television can keep you awake long after you’ve turned off your devices and hit the sheets. Relaxing in a sauna is a great replacement for screens before bed.
So if you have difficulty sleeping, using an infrared sauna in the evening or night may be just what you need. It may help you sleep better and wake up feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to tackle the day.
A Great Sauna Morning Routine
If, after reading this, you’ve decided that morning sauna use is a fantastic way to start your day, try this routine to fully embrace the experience and whatever lies ahead.
- Have a bottle of water by your bed, and drink a good eight ounces to begin to hydrate yourself.
- Take a quick shower before entering the sauna, washing with soap.
- Drink more water (you’ll want about six cups total, consumed before, during, and after sauna use).
- Hop in the sauna. While inside, stretch gently, meditate, set a daily intention, and visualize success in your day. Drink water.
- When you step out, rinse off (avoid soap so you don’t irritate your skin)
- Drink more water.
- Eat something healthy; something high in protein, for mood and energy.
- Embrace the rest of your day feeling both relaxed and productive.
Whether your preference is to use the sauna to set yourself up for a great day or a great night’s sleep, keep your sauna momentum going after your session is done. Remain mindful, and bask in the healthy feeling your sauna can give you.