How To Use A Sauna (Guidelines, Etiquette, And More)

New sauna users: Welcome!

We’re glad to hear that you are interested in making your life better by inquiring about the traditional sauna.

Whether you just bought your first barrel sauna, or you want to use your local gym’s sauna…

It’s not a hard thing to do, at all.

However, there are some guidelines and etiquette to follow to ensure you get maximum benefits and allow other people to enjoy it as well. 

Here’s a guide on how to use a sauna to properly enjoy it!

General Guidelines

  • Shower before entering a sauna (and enter dry)
  • Hydrate by drinking one or two glasses of water before entering
  • Bring towels with you in there to wipe off excess sweat and prevent your skin from coming in contact with the wood
  • Stay from 5 to 30 minutes in the sauna (19 is the best time) 👉Why?
  • Take breaks for up to 5 minutes
  • Wear little to no clothes in there, and wrap yourself in towels 👉Why?
  • Exit Quickly
  • Shower or cold plunge for cooldown after the sauna session

The Three Stages Of How To Use A Sauna Properly

Before The Sauna

Before entering the sauna hydrate yourself. Drink 1 to 2 glasses of water, or take electrolytes.

That’s important because, in the sauna, you will sweat a lot, relax too much, and burn some calories

Being dehydrated in there can cause you to pass out, which is extremely dangerous.

How to use a sauna: dehydration

1. Shower before a sauna session…odors intensify in hotter conditions. This is not fun for you, but especially not for other people in the sauna.

Take a quick shower before to wash out any odors or dirt that might make the sauna dirtier, and dry off before entering.

2. Bring towels to wipe the sweat off, and to sit on. It’s no surprise that sauna bathing makes you sweat. It’s important to wipe off that sweat to not create a pool of it on the floor, which is not ideal.

It is also common practice to sit on a towel to not let your skin come in contact with the wood since it’s too hot for that. It’s also a way to keep the sauna cleaner.

During the Sauna Session

1. While you use the sauna, stay in there between 5 to 30 minutes, depending on how long you can handle it

See How Long To Stay In The Sauna to fully understand your personal time in a sauna.

The general rule is this: Listen to your body! If you feel light-headed or start to feel dizzy, then step out.

spectrum of sauna times

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Take breaks while using the sauna. It is a common practice to leave the sauna and cool down for as long as 5 minutes before re-entering. 

Cooling off can be simply staying out and hydrating, taking a cold shower, or even immersing in a cold plunge.

sauna protocol

3. Wear little to no clothes in the sauna…it might help boost health benefits. Most people wonder what to wear in a sauna, but forget that the fewer clothes you wear, the better.

Especially if you’re in an infrared sauna, which heats up your body with IR light that hits your skin…but we will see more about that later on.

You can wrap towels around you to cover up if you’d like, which is fine. But know this: In Europe, and especially in Finnish saunas, it is expected to be naked.

4. While in there, you can sit, lie down, stand still, or even stretch. If there are lots of people, then it is better to sit to make space.

If you want to lie down, then make sure you are upright for the last minute or two so that blood circulates normally again. Don’t fall asleep in the sauna, please.

Here’s a quick guide on how temperature works in the sauna: The higher you are, the hotter it is. That’s because hot air is less dense than cold dense, which brings it upwards (especially steam).

visual representation of how air travels in a sauna

After The Sauna

When you are done with sauna use, exit quickly. When you open the door, you are letting hot air out, and conversely, cold air in, which makes the sauna cold. The less time the door is open, the better.

Take a shower after the sauna. Now this isn’t a guideline or an etiquette, this is common sense. You have sweated extensively in there…

Hydrate, again. It is never a bad idea to hydrate, whether it is before or after you use a sauna.

Finally, you can practice contrast therapy (heat, cold, heat, cold, etc.) by taking a cold shower or entering an ice bath. It’s important to understand that if you wish to do this, always end on cold therapy to counter any inflammation.

steps to practice contrast therapy
Image From Best Time To Cold Plunge

How To Use A Public Sauna

When using a public sauna, there is an etiquette to follow since you share a very intimate and small space with others.

Here’s some sauna etiquette for you:

  • Don’t talk too loud or too much. The sauna was created initially as a place to relax, and people still expect it to be that way.
  • Before raising the temperature or adding water to the rocks, ask the people in there if it’s okay. Not all people handle the heat and humidity the same way as you.
  • Hygiene is important, especially during a sauna session. Bring some towels to wipe off excess sweat, and for the love of mankind, SHOWER before entering.
  • Don’t groom yourself in the sauna. No nail cutting, shaving, or anything of that sort.
  • Respect the privacy of others. If there are many people, sit upright to leave space. Don’t stretch if there is a full sauna. Don’t play music (phones are not recommended to bring in the sauna anyway)

Some Tips For Beginners

Here are some sauna tips for you:

1. Start at a low time, and increase it over time. 19 minutes is the best time for benefits.

2. Bring a water bottle with you to either drink or pour water on your face (it helps me).

3. As mentioned before, take a cold shower after the sauna. It wakes you up!

4. A regular sauna is not a bad thing, and the recommendations are from 3 to 7 times a week.

Here are Dr. Huberman’s protocols that I have shared in a previous article:

Dr. Huberman’s protocols

FAQs

What are the health benefits of using a sauna?

Using a sauna has numerous health benefits, including improved circulation, stress relief, relaxation of muscles, improved cardiovascular health, increased lifespan, recovery, and many more.

How long should you sit in a sauna?

A typical sauna session ranges from 10 to 30 minutes, but beginners should start with shorter sessions to acclimate their bodies to the heat. The best time is 19 minutes.

Should I drink water during a sauna session?

It is important to stay hydrated during a sauna session by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after to prevent dehydration.

What is the sauna etiquette I should follow?

Sauna etiquette includes showering before entering, sitting or lying on a towel, refraining from loud conversations, and respecting others’ space and privacy.

How often should I go to the sauna per week?

It is generally recommended to visit the sauna 3 to 7 times a week, depending on your schedule and how much you can handle.

How do you use a sauna effectively?

Shower before and after, stay long enough to get the benefits, wear little to no clothes to expose your skin to the heat, stay hydrated, and use it regularly, especially after a workout.

Do you go in a sauna wet or dry?

Go in the sauna dry to keep the wood as fry as possible for other users.

Do I wear clothes in a sauna?

The fewer clothes you wear the better. Wrap towels around you to cover yourself, and refrain from wearing polyester or nylon clothes since they retain heat and may cause your body to overheat.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the how-to for a greater sauna experience. I may not have mentioned this in the article, but don’t drink alcohol before entering in the sauna.

When you learn to use a sauna safely and do it regularly, your life will improve.

This practice is praised a lot in the wellness world at the moment, and I personally think everyone should use the sauna as much as they can.

Other than medical conditions preventing you from a sauna routine, you should go as much as you can!

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