There are many reasons to quit smoking, but the most common one is that it’s terrible for your overall health. You might be wondering how to tackle this addictive habit- could a sauna be the answer to help you quit smoking?
The sauna could help you quit smoking by stimulating the release of endorphins and serotonin, which boost mood levels and lower stress, increase blood flow to your muscles and brain, and regulate appetite changes associated with withdrawal.
Keep reading to explore why smoking is so addictive, what happens when someone quits smoking, and how the sauna can help a person to quit smoking.
Why is smoking so addictive?
Smoking cigarettes is one of those nasty habits that, after continued use, becomes a part of your everyday life and routine. When you smoke, you’re inhaling thousands of harmful chemicals and carcinogens that can cause chronic health problems- even death!
Smoking is addictive because of the nicotine ingredient, which is easily absorbed into the blood through the lungs. Nicotine activates the same brain pathways that addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin use to flood the brain’s reward systems with dopamine. Nicotine provides a tiny amount of adrenaline rush too, which raises your blood pressure.
In a 2012 study, scientists looked at 28 studies of people who were trying to quit an addictive substance. They found that more than 40% were able to quit opiates or cocaine, around 18% were able to stop drinking, but only 8% could quit smoking.
Additionally, according to the Becker-Murphy model of rational addiction, even strong addiction patterns are usually rational regarding the need for predictability and a preference for stability. This model adds that addicts are even less happy when they are prevented from consuming the addictive substance.
What happens when a person quits smoking (withdrawal)?
The withdrawal from any substance is pretty challenging (and painful), but it can be even more difficult with cigarettes. The obstacles that lay ahead are enough to keep any smoker from quitting.
So, what exactly does the withdrawal process look like? Here are some common symptoms:
- Headaches and difficulty concentrating
- Dizziness, fatigue, or other flu-like symptoms
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression (the lack of serotonin can cause this)
- Feeling restless/jumpy
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight gain
- Craving smoking
Does withdrawal usually take a certain amount of time?
The timeline of withdrawal can be daunting to imagine for most aspiring nicotine quitters. It can be a tedious process that requires support from everyone around you.
Withdrawal symptoms typically begin about an hour after the last cigarette and can continue for up to five weeks. However, in cases of severe addiction to a greater amount of nicotine, withdrawal symptoms could last up to six months.
Here is the typical timeline of events for moderate nicotine addiction:
- 1-12 hours (post last cigarette): You’ll start to miss cigarettes, and after the nicotine has worn off, you’ll want another one (like your body is conditioned to having). Several hours later, emotional withdrawal symptoms will begin- you may start to feel hopeless and sad.
- 12-24 hours: You begin to feel irritable and hungry.
- 2 days: Headaches start, and insomnia kicks in. You may find it difficult to get out of bed, and you could start feeling other severe physical ailments, such as stomach cramps and body aches.
- 3 days: The nicotine should be entirely out of your system now. The cravings will subside, but mental and emotional withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and depression continue to increase.
- 1 to 2 weeks: The physical and emotional symptoms start to disappear altogether. As you can see, the initial cravings for cigarettes are pretty intense and challenging to overcome without remaining disciplined.
- 3 to 6 weeks: The main symptom now will be exhaustion, but your memory will start to return, and your hunger will subside. Your depression and anxiety will also lessen as time goes on.
- 6+ weeks: As your energy levels return and all withdrawal symptoms start to disappear, it’s important to remain mentally strong and committed to quitting smoking. Keeping a supportive circle that will hold you accountable is key.
What are the other factors involved?
As we know, several other contributing factors may affect a person’s reaction to quitting smoking.
Withdrawal symptoms may be impacted by a person’s preexisting conditions, such as anxiety, iron deficiency, and predisposition to headaches and insomnia. These symptoms can increase a person’s reaction to stopping smoking and make withdrawal more challenging.
It’s important to consult your doctor before quitting smoking if you have preexisting conditions so that they may advise the best way to go about doing so to avoid potential relapse.
How the sauna can help a person to quit smoking
Now that you or someone you know is committed to quitting smoking, it’s time to look at some different ways you can facilitate a successful departure from cigarettes, including sauna usage. How can the sauna help a person quit smoking?
Some of the potential ways a sauna could help a person quit smoking include:
- Body detoxification
- Decreased stress (to help a person relax/cope with withdrawal symptoms)
- Increased energy
- Increased mood stability
- Boost in brain function
- Appetite control
These benefits will help combat some of the woes many cigarette smokers alike experience when trying to quit.
One of the most significant benefits of sauna usage when quitting cigarettes is detoxification. The body’s natural ability to release toxins through sweat can help to remove nicotine and other chemicals from the body quickly.
The sauna can aid in quitting smoking via detoxification by helping a person release up to 8 cups of sweat per 30-minute session. This will help to remove nicotine from the body more quickly, which will speed up the withdrawal process and lessen symptoms.
The quicker you get the nicotine out of your system, the sooner you’ll be able to recover from the effects of withdrawal and decrease your risk for a relapse.
Another way in which a sauna can help people quit smoking is by helping to reduce cortisol levels.
The sauna can help decrease stress associated with withdrawal and improve relaxation by creating a warm, safe space that stimulates the release of endorphins after just one use. Lowered stress will make it easier for you to remain disciplined and achieve your goal of quitting smoking.
Stress, when quitting cigarettes, is an important factor in relapse. This is because stress can affect mental clarity and decision-making, which are both vital assets when making a difficult life change.
The sauna can help a person quit smoking by actually increasing their energy levels.
Hitting the sauna at least once or twice a week can give you an energy boost that will increase your stamina for physical activity and exercise. Saunas do this by boosting blood flow to the muscles and delivering more concentrated oxygen, which results in extra energy for healing.
When you quit smoking cigarettes, your body will need to adjust. The sauna can help aid in that process by creating a rejuvenating effect that will make you feel more energized and empowered to continue your journey towards quitting.
Increased Mood Stability
Another way a sauna can help you quit smoking is by stabilizing your mood.
According to a 2005 study, 15-minute sauna sessions five times a week helped improve the mood of patients with mild depression (like that experienced during withdrawal). The sauna does this by heating our bodies to stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin to help regulate mood swings.
Both are important neurotransmitters that can be severely affected by withdrawal.
Boost in Brain Function
Improving brain function to think more clearly is yet another way the sauna might help you quit smoking.
The sauna can improve cognitive function via heat therapy by increasing blood flow to the brain. This results in more oxygen and nutrients being delivered, which can help people think more clearly during withdrawal (which is an integral part of making good decisions).
So, not only will you feel better physically after using the sauna, but you will also be able to combat some of the mental difficulties involved in withdrawal from nicotine.
Some people experience increased cravings (to replace the nicotine they’re lacking) during withdrawal from cigarettes or appetite loss due to depression. The sauna can help with both.
Heat therapy has been shown to suppress the desire for sweet or fatty foods by increasing satiety. Scientists also observed that patients’ levels of ghrelin, a hunger-inducing hormone, returned to normal ranges during sauna therapy.
Whether you suffer from appetite loss or uncontrollable cravings during the withdrawal period, spending some time in the sauna can help regulate eating.
The sauna is a great way to detoxify and reduce your cravings for nicotine. The science behind the increased heat helps to boost moods, manage stress levels, stimulate endorphins and serotonin production to improve energy and regulate appetite changes associated with withdrawal from smoking cigarettes.
A sauna can help you quit smoking once and for all!