If you suffer from migraines or headaches, you’re probably always looking for treatment options. But you also want to know what to avoid. So where do saunas fall on that spectrum?
The sauna can cause a migraine if you use the wrong type of sauna based on your triggers. For example, if your migraines are triggered by humidity and you use a steam room, it will likely cause a migraine. Saunas can cause headaches if you get dehydrated. However, they can also treat headaches under the right conditions.
Keep reading to discover how saunas, headaches, and migraines are related!
Can the sauna give you a headache?
If you’re prone to headaches, you might want to know how you’ll react to a sauna before hopping in.
The sauna can give you a headache if you stay in for too long and become dehydrated. On the contrary, saunas can help relieve tension headaches by reducing stress.
There are over 150 different kinds of headaches. The two main categories are primary headaches and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches aren’t caused by other medical conditions. Some examples include:
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headaches
Secondary headaches are caused by other medical conditions. Some examples include:
- Head injury
- Sinus congestion
In addition, headaches can be triggered by environmental factors like:
- Strong odors
- Secondhand smoke
Headaches are caused by signals in the brain, surrounding nerves, and blood vessels. The nerves then send pain signals to the brain.
One of the main ways headaches are treated is by discovering your triggers. For example, if your headaches are caused by tension then stress management may be helpful.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can treat occasional tension headaches, but using them too often can cause long-term daily headaches.
Severe or frequent headaches may require prescription medications.
Headaches and nausea after the sauna
Sometimes people get headaches and nausea after the sauna. But why?
If you have a headache and nausea after the sauna, it may have triggered a migraine as those are migraine symptoms. You also may have been overexposed to heat or become dehydrated.
Drink plenty of water and get some rest until you feel better.
Feeling sick after the sauna
There are lots of reasons you might feel sick after the sauna.
You might feel sick after using the sauna if you stay in for too long, if you’re not used to the heat, or if you were dehydrated to begin with – which alone can cause headaches and lower blood pressure.
If you’re just starting out, you probably need a lower temperature and to stay in for less time. You should also experiment with other kinds of saunas to see if you have a different reaction.
Could the sauna actually help a headache?
So much talk about saunas making you feel ill. Aren’t they supposed to make you feel better?
Using the sauna regularly can reduce the pain intensity of chronic tension-type headaches, but it won’t affect how long the headaches last.
Regular sauna usage can greatly reduce how much chronic tension-type headaches hurt.
While the sauna won’t reduce the period of time you have the headache, it may be able to make it more bearable.
Can the sauna cause a migraine?
When you have migraines, it’s common to be extra wary of your activities in order to avoid inducing one.
The sauna can cause a migraine depending on what your migraines are triggered by. For example, if your migraines are triggered by humidity and you use a steam room, it might trigger a migraine.
Migraines are severe headaches typically accompanied by extreme sensitivity to sound and light, vomiting, and nausea. They can last hours (or even days) and are can be bad enough to interfere with daily activities depending on the severity.
Warning symptoms called auras sometimes take place before migraines. These warning signs include visual disturbances, tingling in the body, and trouble speaking.
There are lots of things that can trigger migraines, such as:
- Fluctuations in estrogen
- Caffeine or alcohol
- Sensory stimuli
- Changes in sleep
- Physical exertion
- Change in weather
There are both OTC and prescription medications to treat migraines, but both can cause overuse headaches. Other treatments are holistic, such as using peppermint essential oil on the temples, wearing sunglasses, and getting rest.
Does heat trigger migraines?
If saunas are one thing, it’s hot. But does that pose a problem if you have migraines?
An increase in weather temperature can cause migraines in some people. The migraine isn’t induced by hot weather, but rather by how much the heat increases from the day before.
Spikes in heat can trigger migraines. For every 9 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature increases, there is a nearly 8% increase in the risk of a headache that is severe enough to bring someone to the ER. This study was based on the weather on the day of the migraine as compared to the day before – not just how hot the day itself was.
However, the weather doesn’t affect all people who experience migraines.
Does steam or humidity trigger migraines?
Steam rooms have a humidity of 100%. But how do migraines react to steam and humidity?
Steam and humidity trigger migraines in some people, while dry air triggers migraines in others.
One study found an increase in ER visits for migraines on warm, humid days and a drop on colder, dryer days. However, another study found an increase in ER visits for migraines on hot, dry days.
Therefore, humidity affects everyone differently. Humidity triggers migraines in some people, while dry air triggers them in other people.
What type of sauna is best for avoiding migraines?
If you’re prone to migraines but still want to use a sauna, it’s important to know what your triggers are.
If humidity triggers your migraines, then a dry or infrared sauna is best to avoid migraines, as steam rooms have a humidity of 100%. If high heat triggers your migraines, then a steam room is best to avoid migraines because it has the lowest temperature of all sauna types.
- Tradition sauna – 150-190°F
- Infrared sauna – 140-150°F
- Steam room – 110-120°F
If you know ahead of time what triggers your migraines, it will be much easier to decide which sauna is best for you to avoid migraines.
Using a traditional dry sauna with migraines
Let’s talk about how to use a traditional dry sauna if you suffer from migraines.
To use a traditional dry sauna with migraines, start at the lowest temperature setting and only stay in for five minutes. Depending on how you react, you can increase the temperature and time spent. If you’re sensitive to dry heat, be sure to throw water on the sauna rocks.
Even with the increased humidity caused by the sauna rocks, the air still may be too dry for you if you’re sensitive to dry heat.
Using an infrared sauna with migraines
Maybe you’re all-in on the infrared sauna craze. But what if you also have migraines?
To use an infrared sauna with migraines, start at the lowest temperature setting and only stay in for five minutes. Depending on how you react, you can increase the temperature and time spent.
Infrared saunas have no humidity, so they may not be the right sauna for you if dry heat triggers your migraines.
Using a steam room with migraines
Time to get steamy! Well, maybe.
To use a steam room with migraines, start at the lowest temperature setting and only stay in for five minutes. Depending on how you react, you can increase the temperature and time spent. If you’re sensitive to humidity, steam rooms aren’t your best option.
You can stay in for up to 20 minutes if all goes according to plan!