Do you prefer a morning sweat or an evening sweat? The answer might depend on your physical activity and sleeping habits. But is there a best time of day for everyone to use the sauna?
The best time to use a traditional sauna is in the morning because high temperature, non-infrared heat promotes wakefulness. However, the best time to use an infrared sauna is at night because the infrared rays encourage melatonin production, promoting sleep. Start with short sessions and work up to 20-30 minutes in the morning or at night.
Your brain and body respond differently to different types of light and temperatures. As a result, there are optimal times to use different types of saunas. Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl in the sauna (or both!), read on to find out which time of day best suits your needs.
Should you sauna in the morning or night?
The best time of day to use a sauna depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. If you’re a get-up-and-go, drink your coffee and seize the day type of person, then the best time of day to sauna would be in the morning.
However, it’s not just any type of sauna that is best for early birds. If you’re hoping to promote wakefulness with a sauna session, the best way to do this would be to use one with a high-heat environment and no infrared light.
The reason for this is because infrared light promotes the secretion of melatonin in the brain. If you’re unfamiliar with melatonin, it’s a hormone released by the pineal gland which resides in the brain.
When melatonin is released, it sends a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Because of this, using an infrared sauna in the morning will probably not be quite as beneficial as a classic sauna and instead should be used at night, closer to bedtime.
On the other hand, a high-temperature environment has the opposite effect, especially without the sedating effects of infrared. The body’s response to high or low temperatures like this is called thermoregulation, and it is strongly connected to sleep. Multiple studies have shown that exposure to high ambient heat before, during, and after sleep increases wakefulness.
As a result, a steam sauna may be just what you need for a morning pick-me-up! Studies have shown that thermoregulation with sleep is especially pronounced during exposure to humid heat, specifically within proximity to the later sleep stages.
In theory, this could mean that the stimulating effects of using a steam sauna would be especially beneficial soon after waking up (which would be close to your last sleep cycle).
If this doesn’t sound appealing to you and you prefer to associate saunas only with rest and relaxation, then you may benefit most from using an infrared sauna at night. Not only will it help you relax, but it will also help you fall asleep, improve the quality of your sleep, and help you feel your best the next day.
All of this is because of melatonin, which helps promote sleep and is also a strong regulator of the circadian rhythm. Any light that falls between 600-900 nm in wavelength size has a pronounced effect on melatonin production, and at 700 nm, infrared light is near the sweet spot for those sweet melatonin dreams.
Although the exact mechanism of the effect infrared light has on melatonin is unclear, study after study demonstrates the positive effects of infrared light therapy on sleep, sleep quality, circadian rhythm, and melatonin production.
The health benefits of infrared light are so widespread and established that are even several different types of infrared lights that you can use for light therapy in the comfort of your home. Now, imagine how well you’ll be sleeping after bathing in the infrared glow of a proper infrared sauna!
Can you sauna twice a day?
If you’re like me, then you’ll have a tough time choosing between that sweet daily pick-me-up from a hot morning sauna session and a relaxing bedtime routine with an infrared sauna. After all, who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it, too?
The good news is, it’s perfectly okay to sauna twice a day! It’s important to approach your sauna sessions healthfully and listen to your body, but it’s perfectly safe as long as you do it right.
Here are some recommendations for a safe sauna experience:
- If you’re a beginner, keep your sessions to no longer than five to ten minutes
- Wait at least ten minutes after exercise
- Stick to a maximum of 15 minutes per session
- Take at least a ten-minute break and allow your body to cool between sessions.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
Sauna in the morning
If you’re on the fence about whether or not it would be worth it to wake up a little earlier for a morning sauna session, here is a pros and cons list to consider:
- Start the day refreshed and with relaxed yet wakeful energy
- A good opportunity to meditate and start the day with a fresh mind
- Feel fully awake and prepared for the day faster
- Who doesn’t want to begin their day with a little pampering?
- It can throw off circadian rhythm and leave you groggy if the morning session is in an infrared sauna
- You might lose some sleep if you need to get up earlier to squeeze in a session
Can you sauna right after waking up?
Of course! As previously mentioned, wakefulness is promoted when the body is exposed to humid heat around the time of the last sleep cycle. The sooner upon waking, you use the sauna, the closer the session is to your most recent sleep cycle, and theoretically, the more beneficial it will be.
Another benefit to using the sauna immediately upon waking is a reduction in sleep inertia or the feeling of grogginess that lingers after you wake up. When you are sleeping, your core body temperature drops. By offsetting the decrease in body temperature, you throw off your body’s thermoregulatory cues for sleep. This helps the body to enter a more alert mode of function more quickly.
On the other hand, although it’s not uncommon to use infrared saunas in the morning, if you’re looking for the absolute maximum benefits, you should avoid this type of sauna if you’re looking for some extra pep in the morning your step.
If you’re a morning infrared person or just not a fan of steam or dry saunas, don’t fret. It’s not going to ruin your entire day if you do the thing you enjoy most!
Sauna in the evening
Trying to weigh a cost-benefit analysis of a late-night membership to a gym or spa that offers an infrared sauna? Consider these pros and cons:
- Promotes sleep
- Improves sleep quality
- Regulates the circadian rhythm
- A good opportunity to clear your mind before bed
- May cause difficulty sleeping if a hot sauna is chosen over infrared
- You may need to move your bedtime back a little and lose some sleep if your schedule doesn’t allow for a nighttime sauna session
Is it OK to use a sauna before bed?
After all, we have well established the benefits that infrared light offers regarding sleep quality. Because infrared light has such beneficial regulatory effects on our circadian rhythm, it would be handy if you’re trying to restore your bedtime routine after jet lag or another sleep disruption.
Another perk of using an infrared sauna at night is how you feel upon waking as well. Infrared light therapy has been shown to reduce sleep inertia, so when you wake up, you’ll feel even better than you would have you not used an infrared sauna before bed.
Now, if you love a good steam sauna session and the only time you can make it is at night, or you’re just not a fan of infrared saunas, it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. People use steam saunas at night all the time, and they’re fine.
Nighttime infrared sauna therapy is simply a recommendation for maximum benefits, not the end-all, be-all of sauna usage.
After all, the most important thing is that you feel good and enjoy yourself.