While taking part in a sauna session, one can expect to leave the unit with the feeling of rejuvenation, relaxation, and a sense of well being.
However, in some cases, we may end up feeling the complete opposite.
How could this be?
Feeling worse is not due to the sauna itself, but rather from what we’re not doing for ourselves to prepare for the sauna, and our body is suffering because of it.
How The Sauna Affects Our Bodies
One question that gets asked around the sauna community is “why do I feel worse after an infrared sauna session?”
There may be a number of reasons why one might not feel 100%. This could be that a new sauna user stays in the sauna far past their limitations, someone has just eaten a large meal and then immediately enters the sauna, or the temperature setting is too high.
Additionally, there are a number of infrared sauna contraindications that may be present for someone with certain medical conditions.
However, the main reason why someone might feel worse after being in the sauna is that they are dehydrated.
When it comes to regulating heat, our body works hard at achieving it.
Even though an infrared sauna uses lower temperatures of 110-140°F compared to other saunas that exceed 200°F, our average body temperature is only 97-99°F.
The 13° difference may not seem like much but it can make a big difference when our body is working to adjust to higher temperatures.
The human body is constantly regulating in order to maintain homeostasis. With any type of deviation, including body temperature, the body works quickly in order to get things to where they need to be.
When things are out of balance for too long, that’s when adverse reactions and complications can occur.
This is especially the case for someone who is dehydrated. When a sauna is being used, dehydration is amped up to a higher level because one is already sweating due to the increased heat. Incorporating a lack of water in the body to boot is a recipe for disaster.
Here’s how heat affects our bodies, and what we can do about it.
Effects of Heat on the Body
1. Heat Makes Us Sweat
Sweating is our natural cooling system. When our average body temperature rises, it sweats to help keep our internal temperature around 98.6 °F. Sweat is mostly water but it also contains sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. We are not only losing water from our bodies but also essential nutrients.
When our bodies lose the necessary amount of nutrients it can lead to a variety of health problems:
- digestion problems
- skin disorders
- bone growth
Additionally, heat exhaustion may occur when our bodies can’t get cool enough and sweat out too much water and sodium. This can lead to:
These problems can be concerning, yet easily prevented by intake of adequate vitamins and maintaining a nutritious diet. Also, if you feel any symptoms of heat exhaustion, try lying down and drink something with salt and sugar to replenish your body.
2. Heat Makes Us Dehydrated
Depending on how long your sauna session is, you can shed up to 4.5-5 cups of sweat. Seeing that our bodies are made of up to 60% water, that’s a lot of liquid!
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Medicine determined that an adequate daily water intake is:
- Men: about 15.5 cups of water a day
- Women: about 11.5 cups of water a day
So if you started your sauna session early in the morning (have had only 1-2 cups of water), you may be in a water deficit after your session (have lost up to 4 cups of water) making you feel dehydrated.
Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more water than you take in.
Symptoms of Dehydration:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
- Dark-colored urine
Our heart and brain are 73% water, our lungs are 83% water, our skin contains 64% water, our muscles and kidneys are 79% water, and our bones are 31% water.
When our vital organs don’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions, it can lead to serious problems.
- Heat Injury
- Urinary and Kidney Problems
- Low blood volume shock or Hypovolemic shock
Dehydration can be prevented by drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, plan out your water intake around the time you will partake in a sauna session. For example, if you are a woman your average water intake is 11 cups, if you are going to use the sauna at 4 pm for 15 minutes you are expected to lose about 4 cups of water. From 12 pm-4 pm drink 1 cup of water per hour.
Stay on top of your hydration goals by investing in a genuine, high quality insulated water bottle.
Our heart beats faster to pump more blood to our skin and alleviate extra heat. As this is happening, other parts of our body may not get enough blood.
As a result, this could make you feel tired.
If you notice your body can’t handle longer increments of heat, set shorter time limits for your sauna session. Start with 3-5 minutes, to 5-7 minutes, to 7-10 minutes, and so on. This may help build your heat tolerance.
4. Heat Lowers Blood Pressure
Heat not only makes us sweat but it makes our blood vessels dilate to increase sweating. Also, we know that we lose a lot of water by sweating which leads to dehydration. Increases in sweat and dehydration can drop our blood pressure which is why we may feel dizzy or, in severe cases, some may even faint.
Drink adequate amounts of water.
Typically, individuals feel worse after an infrared sauna session due to being dehydrated. When the body is dehydrated, one issue when using the sauna is a lack of proper sweat production.
Being dehydrated can cause many problems in general, and incorporating additional heat can only expedite things. It’s important to take personal accountability and be mindful of how one feels before taking part in sauna sessions, so it can be enjoyed, and not something to dread.
When taking part in an infrared sauna, the importance of staying hydrated is paramount. Additionally, eating a well-balanced diet of vegetables and fruit that are rich in water content can further keep you hydrated and avoid feeling worse after a sauna session.
Health Mate Saunas is the leading manufacturer of infrared saunas for the home for over 40 years. Our infrared saunas are made with 100% PEFC Western Red Cedar, an antimicrobial, and one of the only woods known as a sustainable and renewable resource. For more information on our line of infrared saunas for sale, contact us today to see how you can improve your health and your life.