Exactly How Hot Is A Sauna? Finding Your Ideal Heat for Wellness

Exactly How Hot Is A Sauna? Finding Your Ideal Heat for Wellness

Wondering how hot is a sauna? It’s common to find saunas ranging from 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, striking a balance between intense warmth and comfort. 

In this article, we’ll examine the temperatures characteristic of different sauna types, and provide guidance on how to choose a heat level that aligns with your comfort and health objectives.

Key Takeaways

  • Sauna use mimics the health benefits of moderate physical exercise, activating similar physiological responses and contributing to overall wellness with recommended temperatures ranging between 140-200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • There are various types of saunas, each with its own temperature and humidity levels, such as traditional Finnish saunas (160-194°F), infrared saunas (100-150°F), and steam rooms (90-120°F) with near-total humidity.
  • Practicing sauna safety is crucial, including gradual temperature increases, recognizing discomfort, staying hydrated, respecting session duration, and employing proper sauna etiquette to ensure an enjoyable and secure experience.

The Science Behind Sauna Temperatures

There’s an art to finding the perfect sauna temperature, but it’s rooted in science. When you step into a sauna, your skin and core body temperature elevate, triggering thermoregulatory pathways. This increase in core body temperature results in:

  • heart rate
  • skin blood flow
  • cardiac output
  • sweating

leading to significant physiological effects. And guess what? These changes at the cellular level, such as the production of heat shock proteins and increased nitric oxide bioavailability, are similar to those activated by physical exercise. So yes, a sauna session can be as good as hitting the gym!

To relax and stimulate a healthy bodily response, it’s important to find your ideal sauna temperature. And the benefits are plenty - reduced stress, alleviated pain, enhanced circulation, and much more. But how exactly does the heat transfer work in a sauna?

It’s time to explore.

Heat Transfer Methods

The heat inside a sauna is transferred in two main ways - convection and radiation. Convection is all about the hot air in the sauna. As the sauna heater warms the air, the hot air circulates within the sauna room, creating a toasty atmosphere perfect for your relaxation.

Radiation, on the other hand, is a bit more direct. It occurs when the heat from the sauna walls, benches, and heater warms your body without necessarily heating the air in between. This method is particularly effective in low-humidity environments, giving you a unique sauna experience.

But what exactly is your body’s reaction to this heat?

Body's Response to Heat

Once you step into a sauna, your body gears up for the heat. The sympathetic nervous system, hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal hormonal axis, and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system are activated, affecting your cardiovascular functions. 

As you start to sweat, your body uses this primary cooling mechanism to maintain internal temperature balance. What’s fascinating is that the physiological changes from sauna use, such as increased heart rate and circulation, mimic the effects of moderate physical exercise.

So, in essence, a sauna session is like a workout, without the strenuous movements! Your heart rate increases, boosting blood flow and circulation throughout the body. Having explored the science behind sauna temperatures, it’s time to discuss the various types of saunas.

Comparing Different Types of Saunas

Saunas come in different types, each offering a unique temperature range and experience. From traditional Finnish saunas to infrared saunas and steam rooms, you’ve got options galore! But understanding the differences among these types is key to making the right choice.

Whether you’re a sauna novice or a seasoned enthusiast, understanding the unique features of each type of sauna can enhance your sauna experience. It’s time to explore the distinctive features of traditional Finnish saunas, infrared saunas, and steam rooms.

Traditional Finnish Saunas

Traditional Finnish Saunas

Traditional Finnish saunas are a cornerstone of Finland’s culture. They operate at high temperatures, providing a deeply cleansing sweat experience. The temperature range for a traditional Finnish sauna typically lies between 160 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit in North America.

However, European sauna enthusiasts may enjoy them at temperatures ranging from 160 to a whopping 220 degrees Fahrenheit! The Finnish Sauna Society suggests that an ideal sauna temperature should range between 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit and should not exceed 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, let’s shift our attention from the traditional to the contemporary, and explore the world of infrared saunas.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas bring a modern twist to the traditional sauna experience. They use infrared light to directly heat the body, bypassing the need to heat the air around it. Operating at lower temperatures between 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, infrared saunas offer a unique benefit — they allow for longer sessions.

This enhanced comfort level potentially increases the health benefits from prolonged exposure to sweat-inducing heat in an infrared sauna. While traditional Finnish saunas and infrared saunas offer dry heat, steam rooms provide a wet heat experience. 

Next, we’ll explore the humid world of steam rooms.

Steam Rooms

Steam Rooms

Finding Your Ideal Sauna Temperature

Steam rooms offer a different kind of sauna experience by utilizing high humidity and lower temperatures. The temperature in a steam room is usually kept between 90 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly lower than traditional Finnish saunas.

What sets steam rooms apart is their near 100% humidity level. The high humidity is facilitated by maintaining lower temperatures, creating a steamy environment that offers a unique sauna experience.

Now that we’ve examined the various types of saunas, how do we determine the perfect temperature?

Finding your ideal sauna temperature isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. It depends on your personal comfort, your health goals, and a bit of trial and error within safe temperature ranges.

For traditional saunas, the recommended temperature range is 140-200 degrees Fahrenheit, and beginners are suggested to start with shorter sessions of 5-10 minutes to build up heat tolerance.

Your desired sauna temperature should align with your goals and how you react to heat to ensure the best experience. For instance, you might prefer a higher temperature for a post-workout relaxation or a lower one for a warming sensation on a chilly day. 

Let’s explore these factors that influence your perfect sauna temperature.

Personal Comfort and Tolerance

The concept of comfort in a sauna is highly subjective and can significantly vary between individuals. Some like it hot, while others prefer a milder temperature. Your personal comfort level and heat tolerance play a significant role in determining your ideal sauna temperature.

Remember, the goal is to enjoy the sauna, not to endure it. Don’t push yourself to tolerate higher temperatures if it doesn’t feel comfortable. After all, a sauna session is about relaxation and rejuvenation, not a test of endurance!

Personal Comfort and Tolerance

Health Goals and Benefits

Your health goals can considerably influence your preferred sauna temperature. Regular sauna use can substantially decrease stress-related diseases, including cardio-metabolic diseases.

If you’re in a high-stress occupation, you might find more frequent or longer sauna sessions beneficial in reducing stress and its adverse effects. Remember, sauna use isn’t just about physical health. It’s equally beneficial for your mental wellbeing. 

So whether you’re aiming for pain relief, improved circulation, or simply a stress-free mind, your health goals can guide your sauna temperature preference.

Trial and Error

Finding your ideal sauna temperature isn’t an exact science. It’s more about understanding your body’s comfort zone and playing around within safe temperature ranges. Beginners should start with shorter sessions and gradually build up their heat tolerance across multiple sessions.

The perfect balance for sauna enjoyment is personalized and found through trial and error. So don’t hesitate to experiment with different temperature settings, keeping in mind your comfort and safety.

Now, equipped with the knowledge of your ideal sauna temperature, let’s move on to some key safety tips for enjoying saunas.

Safety Tips for Enjoying Saunas

Ensuring safety during sauna sessions is paramount. It involves gradual temperature increases, recognizing discomfort signs, and maintaining proper hydration and duration. Following these safety tips can make your sauna sessions more enjoyable and beneficial.

Remember, while saunas are generally safe for most people, individuals who are pregnant, elderly, or have pre-existing health conditions should consult their GP before using a sauna. We’ll further discuss these safety guidelines.

Gradual Temperature Increases

Gradual Temperature Increases

Increasing sauna temperature gradually is a key safety tip. Excessive sauna temperatures can cause harm, even fatal, as shown by an incident during the World Sauna Championships where a competitor died in 230°F heat.

To enhance safety and enjoyment, you should start your sauna session at a lower setting and gradually increase the heat. This allows your body to adjust better to the heat and provides a more enjoyable sauna experience.

Recognizing Discomfort Signs

Recognizing and acting upon signs of discomfort is essential for a safe sauna experience. If you experience dizziness or nausea during a sauna session, it’s crucial to leave the sauna immediately.

Also, eating a large meal before entering a sauna can lead to discomfort, as it concentrates blood flow to the stomach, contrasting with the heat-induced increased circulation near the skin.

Always listen to your body and act promptly upon any discomfort signs to ensure a beneficial sauna experience.

Hydration and Duration

Proper hydration is crucial during sauna sessions. Here are some tips to stay hydrated:

  • Drink water before, during, and after your sauna session.
  • The average person can lose up to a pint of sweat even during shorter sessions, so it’s important to replenish the lost fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • After a sauna session, drink two to four glasses of cool water to rehydrate.
  • You can also replenish electrolytes with mineral water or juice.

Remember to listen to your body and drink water whenever you feel thirsty. Staying hydrated will help you get the most out of your sauna experience. As for duration, beginners should limit their sauna sessions to 5-10 minutes. Regular sauna bathers may stay for up to 15-20 minutes as long as safety is observed. 

For users accustomed to infrared saunas, the safe duration is up to 35 minutes, or possibly 40 minutes with medical advice. Having discussed safety precautions, let’s now turn our attention to the etiquette of sauna use.

Hydration and Duration

The Art of Sauna Etiquette

Practicing proper sauna etiquette ensures a pleasant experience for all users. This includes cleanliness, respecting others’ space, and wearing appropriate attire. After all, a sauna is a shared space and respecting this communal environment is crucial for everyone’s enjoyment.

Remember, your sauna experience isn’t just about you. It involves everyone in the sauna. Adhering to proper sauna etiquette not only enriches your own experience but also fosters a positive atmosphere for everyone.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in a sauna is paramount. Showering before entering a sauna is essential to remove sweat or dirt, ensuring a fresh and clean experience for oneself and others. 

Also, always sit on a towel while in the sauna to avoid direct skin contact with the benches. Sauna bathing, when done properly, can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Avoid wearing strong perfumes or colognes, as they can react with the heat and create an uncomfortable environment for others. Keeping the sauna space clean and fresh is a collective responsibility, and every user should contribute to it.

Respecting Others' Space

Respecting others’ space in a sauna is key to a pleasant sauna experience. Choose a spot that maximizes personal space for all occupants. If you’re in a group, you may need to compromise on temperature settings to accommodate everyone’s comfort levels.

Keep conversations to a minimum or speak softly to avoid disturbing others. In crowded public saunas, be conscious of the space you occupy and make room for new arrivals to sit comfortably. Remember, a peaceful and respectful environment enhances the sauna experience for everyone.

Appropriate Attire

When it comes to sauna attire, comfort and hygiene are key. It’s recommended to wear a towel or robe in public saunas to respect the shared environment. Avoid wearing any type of footwear inside the sauna to maintain cleanliness and minimize bacteria growth.

If you prefer wearing clothes, choose loose-fitting garments made of natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, or linen for their breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities. Avoid clothing with metal fasteners or embellishments to prevent discomfort or potential burns.

Appropriate Attire


In conclusion, understanding the science behind sauna temperatures, their health benefits, and the nuances of different types of saunas can enhance your sauna experience. Finding your ideal sauna temperature is a personalized process that depends on your comfort, heat tolerance, and health goals. 

And by practicing safety tips and proper sauna etiquette, you can ensure a pleasant, relaxing, and beneficial sauna experience. So, step into the warmth, let the heat work its magic, and embark on a journey to wellness and relaxation!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of sauna use?

Using a sauna regularly can decrease stress-related diseases and mimic the effects of moderate exercise, leading to overall health benefits.

How do traditional Finnish saunas differ from infrared saunas?

Traditional Finnish saunas heat the air at higher temperatures, while infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body at lower temperatures. So, the main difference lies in how they heat the body.

How can I determine my ideal sauna temperature?

You can determine your ideal sauna temperature by starting with a lower temperature and gradually increasing it until you find your comfort zone, based on your personal comfort, heat tolerance, and health goals.

What safety tips should I follow during sauna sessions?

Make sure to increase sauna temperature gradually, pay attention to signs of discomfort, and stay properly hydrated during your sessions for safety.

What is proper sauna etiquette?

Proper sauna etiquette involves maintaining cleanliness, respecting others' space, and wearing appropriate attire to ensure a comfortable experience for everyone.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.