Wondering “how long should you stay in a sauna”? Safe and beneficial sauna sessions typically last between 5 to 20 minutes, though the ideal duration varies based on personal health, sauna type, and specific wellness goals. This guide will navigate you through the critical factors to consider and tips for recognising when it’s time to leave the warmth behind.

Key Takeaways

  • A safe sauna session typically lasts between 5 to 20 minutes but can vary with individual health and experience. Beginners should start with shorter sessions while seasoned users may safely extend beyond this range.
  • The physiological response to heat during sauna use can improve cardiovascular function and induce detoxification, with varying effects based on sauna type (traditional Finnish vs. infrared) and intended health benefits.
  • Prioritising safety through hydration, recognising personal health limits, and adhering to proper cool-down procedures post-sauna are essential for preventing adverse effects like dehydration or heatstroke.

Optimal Sauna Session Length

Man in Sauna
Person enjoying a sauna session

Venturing into sauna bathing, a common question that arises is the ideal length of indulgence in this steamy retreat. The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s a delicate balance that hinges on several factors, such as the type of sauna, individual health, and personal comfort.

Generally, a sauna session can range from 5 to 20 minutes. This duration is considered safe for most people, including those with stable cardiovascular disease. It is enough to:

  • Trigger detoxification
  • Induce relaxation
  • Reduce stress
  • Provide respiratory relief.

Starting Off: Sauna Duration for Beginners

For sauna novices, the journey into the heat should begin gently. Initiating brief sessions of 5 to 10 minutes enables the body to adapt to the elevated temperatures, preventing system overload. As one becomes more accustomed to the sauna, the duration can gradually increase, with an upper cap of 30 minutes as a safe threshold.

Seasoned Heat Enthusiasts: Duration for Experienced Sauna Users

Conversely, experienced sauna users can endure longer heat exposure, with some sessions extending beyond 45 minutes. These experienced users tailor the duration to their health and wellness goals, leveraging the traditional heat therapy to its fullest extent.

The Science Behind Sauna Timing

Infrared vs Traditional Saunas
Comparison of Infrared and Traditional Finnish Saunas

The effectiveness of sauna timing is rooted in our body’s physiological response to heat. As we soak in the sauna’s warmth, our skin blood flow can reach up to 7–8 litres per minute1 and sweat up to one and a half litres of water per hour, all in the name of maintaining our core body temperature. This exposure not only reduces our blood pressure but also kicks our heart rate up a notch, akin to the effects of a moderate-intensity workout, while ensuring our stroke volume remains steady.

Infrared vs. Traditional Finnish Sauna

While the traditional Finnish sauna warms the air around you to a steamy 70-80 °C, infrared saunas take a gentler approach, heating your body directly with temperatures ranging from 46 to 57 °C. This direct touch of heat allows those basking in an infrared sauna to potentially extend their sessions beyond the confines of the traditional sauna’s typical 15-20 minutes.

Furthermore, infrared saunas shine in their ability to deliver a deep, therapeutic heat that may unlock additional health benefits at the cellular level2, making them a popular choice for those seeking a hot sauna experience.

Health Goals and Sauna Time

Synchronising sauna duration with health objectives can result in a focused and rewarding experience. Here are some recommended session durations based on specific health goals:

  • Cardiovascular health: 20-minute sauna sessions conducted 4 to 7 times a week
  • Joint pain relief: Tailored session durations that address individual needs
  • Respiratory conditions (e.g. asthma): Tailored session durations that address individual needs

By aligning your sauna sessions with your health objectives, you can optimise the benefits of sauna therapy.

Safety First: Recognising Your Limits

While pursuing the benefits of sauna bathing, it’s important to heed the body’s responses and constraints. Sensations of dizziness or nausea are red flags that demand an immediate exit to a cooler refuge. Overstaying in the sauna beyond the typical 20-minute mark can lead to dehydration and more serious conditions like heatstroke.

Hydration Is Key

Hydration forms the fundamental basis of any safe sauna session. Before stepping into the sauna, a ritual of drinking at least 1-2 glasses of water prepares your body for the upcoming perspiration. Keeping water at hand during the session is not just advisable—it’s to counter the significant fluid loss and the accompanying risks of overheating.

Conditions That Require Caution

Certain health conditions warrant a cautious approach to sauna use. High blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are health conditions that amplify the risks in a sauna environment, making medical advice a prerequisite for those affected. Kidney disease, in particular, poses an additional dehydration risk, necessitating a careful balancing act of sauna duration and frequency.

Sauna Etiquette and Best Practices

Sauna Best Practices
Sauna etiquette and best practices

The serenity of a sauna experience is equally dependent on the ambience and the heat. Maintaining cleanliness, practising good hygiene, and respecting personal space are integral parts of sauna etiquette. These unwritten rules ensure a serene and comfortable atmosphere for all, whether it’s in a public sauna or your home sanctuary.

Dress Code: Towel vs. Clothing

In terms of sauna clothing, minimalism prevails. While some cultures embrace nudity, a general rule is to wear minimal clothing to allow for maximum heat exposure. A towel is not just a modesty shield but a hygiene hero, preventing direct contact between skin and bench.

Post-Sauna Cool Down

Emerging from the sauna’s embrace, the body needs a gradual return to its normal state. A cold shower or a step into cooler air is not just refreshing but necessary to stabilise body temperature and reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. Skipping this step can lead to discomfort, making it an essential part of the sauna ritual.

Customising Your Sauna Experience

Sauna Experience
Customising a sauna experience

The allure of sauna bathing resides in its adaptability. Whether it’s the dry heat of a Finnish sauna, the gentle warmth of an infrared sauna, or the soothing humidity of a steam room, the session can be moulded to fit personal preferences and comfort levels, transforming the space into a personal haven of tranquillity.

Personal Preference and Comfort

Personal comfort serves as the primary guide for tailoring sauna sessions and steam room experiences. Beginners might find shorter stints more palatable, while veterans may enjoy longer durations. The room for personalisation extends not just to time but also to the sauna’s temperature and humidity settings, especially in the comfort of one’s home.

Home Sauna vs. Public Sauna

Opting between a home sauna and a public sauna can influence the nature of your sessions. The privacy of a home sauna offers the freedom to extend sessions at will, while the communal aspect of a public sauna may introduce constraints, along with the opportunity to partake in cultural traditions.

The Frequency of Sauna Use

The frequency of sauna sessions can spark as much debate as the heat within the sauna. Some might prefer the occasional escape, while others embrace the sauna as a daily ritual.

In Finland, frequent sauna use is a way of life, with a thrice-weekly routine linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Daily Sauna Sessions: Pros and Cons

Daily sauna sessions present a multitude of advantages, including muscle relaxation and joint pain alleviation. However, they come with their share of risks, such as dehydration and temporarily reduced fertility levels in men due to the high temperatures3. Studies found that this temporary effect is reversible.

Long-Term Sauna Benefits

The benefits of the sauna, offering multiple health benefits, could outlast the session, with enduring use correlated with a lower risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular diseases. A study conducted over 39 years confirms that frequent sauna bathing reduces the risk of dementia4.

This seminal evidence hints at the profound impact that regular sauna bathing, also known as taking a sauna bath, can have on one’s health and longevity, with the use of sauna rocks playing a role in the experience, making saunas healthy. The benefits of a stay in a sauna are becoming increasingly clear.

When to Avoid Sauna Bathing

Situations to avoid sauna
Situations to avoid sauna bathing

Although the sauna’s warmth is typically inviting, certain situations necessitate avoidance of the heat. People with conditions such as unstable heart diseases, recent myocardial infarction, and severe aortic stenosis should not use sauna5.


Sauna bathing is an art that, when practised with knowledge and respect for one’s body, can offer a sanctuary for health and relaxation. From the initial dip of a beginner to the prolonged sessions of an experienced user, understanding the optimal duration, recognising personal limits, and adhering to proper etiquette form the pillars of a safe and enjoyable sauna experience. May this article serve as a guide for sauna bathing, empowering you to embrace the heat in a way that is both healing and harmonious with your well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to stay in the sauna to detox?

For detoxification benefits, sauna bathers should stay in the sauna for at least 15-25 minutes at a temperature of 50-60°C and repeat this 2-3 times per week. This duration and frequency will help support your body’s natural detoxification pathways.

Does sauna burn fat?

Sitting in a sauna can help you burn calories, but it’s less effective at burning excess fat compared to other methods. Keep this in mind when considering sauna as part of your weight loss routine.

Can I use a sauna every day?

Yes, you can use a sauna every day, but it’s essential to be cautious of potential risks like dehydration and heat stress. Make sure to stay hydrated and pay attention to your body’s signals. Daily sauna sessions can offer health benefits, but it’s important to exercise in moderation and consider your individual health needs.

How long should my first sauna session be?

Start with a shorter sauna session of 5-10 minutes if it’s your first time to allow your body to adjust to the heat, then gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.

What should I wear in the sauna?

Wear as little as possible in the sauna to maximise exposure to the heat, and consider using a towel for hygiene purposes. Loose, breathable clothing is also an option if preferred.