Can You Bring a Book Into a Sauna or Steam Room?

When thinking of how to spend the time while in the sauna or steam room, bringing an interesting book is typically one of the top options. Imagine getting lost in that thriller novel while the 15-20 minutes fly by as the heat works on your skin. Is it realistic, though? Will it be allowed?

You can bring a book into most sauna and steam rooms except in places where there is strict adherence to the sauna culture. However, the general atmosphere in a sauna or steam room means that you may be too hot to concentrate on reading. The book may also get damaged by heat and moisture.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand why you should probably leave your book in the car or in the locker room when you visit the sauna or steam room next time.

The Steam Room and Sauna Environment Explained

Steam rooms and saunas are relaxation spots with an interesting twist. They use heat to help you relax and burn calories. Sauna and steam room therapy can also remove toxins from the skin, promote healthy blood flow, and also help you reduce blood sugar.

A sauna is typically dryer than a steam room, as the latter relies a lot on water. However, the result is the same: your body will be exposed to temperatures as high as 95°F (90°C).

Why Read a Book in a Sauna or Steam Room?

People consider taking a book into a steam room or sauna for many reasons:

  • Boredom – A typical sauna or steam room session will last for 15-20 minutes. Some people will find it really difficult to stay in such an environment that long without reading a book or getting on their smartphone.
  • Loneliness – If you visit a sauna or steam room next to a busy gym or any such place where people are likely to congregate, it’s easy to strike conversations and burn the time chatting to other people. It’s even better if you’re always at the sauna with a friend or colleague. When the sauna is almost always empty, however, it’s easy to try and avoid loneliness by getting immersed in a book.
  • Lack of time – If you’re very busy, the only time you probably have to yourself is when on the commute or during “downtimes,” such as when you’re in the sauna or steam room. It may look reasonable to use the time and quickly burn through a few pages.

Regardless of the reasons, however, it’s not a good idea to bring your book along.

Why Bringing a Book to a Sauna or Steam Room Is a Bad Idea

Before you pack that gripping book into your bag while heading to the sauna or steam room, you should pay attention to the reasons why you’ll most likely regret that decision.

Heat and Moisture Can Damage the Book

As we’ve mentioned above, saunas and steam rooms get VERY hot. Think about the hottest days of the year in your locality and double the typical average temperatures on those days, and you may still not be close to just how hot it can get in a proper gym.

That heat is enough to melt the binds holding some books. The pages will also not be spared as the moisture in the atmosphere will soak the book in minutes. If you’re in a dry sauna without a lot of moisture in the air, you’ll still sweat heavily. Do you want the sweat streaming down your body to be pouring onto the pages of that book? How about your very wet palms and fingers?

You Won’t Be Able to Concentrate

Have you ever tried reading anything under the sun? The long text messages from your friends and loved ones can become very confusing when you are trying to read them while walking under the sun.

Now, think about how hard it will be to really read and assimilate a book in temperatures hotter than you’ve ever walked under, even on the sunniest days. You’ll be too worried about “surviving” the heat to understand any line you’re reading.

Many sauna and steam room therapy enthusiasts will agree that if you’re able to concentrate in a steam room or sauna, you’re in a poorly built facility that is just warming up your skin. In that case, you might as well get some more firewood and stay home next to the fireplace in your living room.

The Steam Won’t Allow You to Keep Your Eyes Open for Long

In a proper steam room, most people typically shut their eyes in meditation. However, this habit may be borne out of necessity as the steam can irritate the eyes and get you teary-eyed. So, even if you are going with a picture magazine that doesn’t require concentration, you’ll still be uncomfortable trying to view the images in it.

The Inadequate Lighting Can Be Uncomfortable

The lighting in most saunas and steam rooms are only good enough to help you find your way around. Reading under such conditions can be very uncomfortable. A quick search on whether reading in low light can damage your eyes, in the long run, will show you that it’s a myth you shouldn’t worry about.

However, we haven’t seen enough research on the subject for you to be absolutely sure that it can’t contribute to eye problems like myopia.

Granted, you probably won’t visit the sauna every day, so the 15-minute sessions per week most likely won’t damage your eyesight even if you visit every single week for the next five years.

How about the pain from keeping your neck in an uncomfortable position while trying to read? The migraine from that alone can follow you out of the sauna and make it harder for you to function effectively the following day.

You May Annoy Other People

Many saunas and steam room enthusiasts are very particular about the culture. Some of them stick religiously to the Northern European (mostly Finnish) roots of the sauna experience. In the culture, people either relax in quiet or chat with their loved ones when they are in the sauna or steam room. Reading a book while around such people may attract some contemptuous looks.

In saunas that enforce the culture, you most likely won’t be allowed to get into the sauna with a book in the first place. You may also be thrown out or banned if you somehow manage to smuggle in a book.

What to Do to Pass the Time?

If 15-20 minute sessions feel like a long time to stay completely detached, you’re probably better off not signing up at a sauna or steam room. However, if the benefits are too much for you to pass up and you go in, you should relax and actively try to stay detached.

Chat to other people in the room if they are responsive or take the time to meditate and reflect on the happenings in your life. Let your thoughts drift or take a nap; you’ll feel a lot better at the end of the session compared to one where you struggled to read a book.

If you have headphones or earbuds capable of being used inside a sauna then you might also be able to listen to an audiobook instead which eliminates the issue of bringing a physical book into the room.


If you’re thinking about bringing a book to the sauna or steam room because it’s your first time, you’ll quickly learn why most people walk in with just their towels a few minutes into the session. Apart from the fact that reading in such an environment is uncomfortable, you risk damaging the book.

So, to properly enjoy the sauna or steam room experience, you should leave your book outside and look for other times to read it. Focus on the experience to reap the full benefits of a typical sauna or steam room session.