Sitting in a sauna or steam room is not only a blissful, relaxing experience, it can also have a variety of positive effects on your health. Essentially one and the same – although saunas can use either dry or wet heat – saunas and steam rooms both may improve circulation, detoxify the body and decrease stress significantly. However, there are a few things you need to know before heading into your first sauna experience, including how long you should stay in.

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Check Your Sauna Time

Beware that staying too long in a sauna could lead to fainting or heat stroke. Because of the health risks, experts generally recommend staying in for no longer than 12 to 20 minutes. After that, you should leave the sauna and let your body cool down for at least 20 minutes. If the spa has a cold plunge pool, great – dunk yourself in it. Otherwise, you can just sit at room temperature. Then if you feel like your body can handle another session, you can return to the sauna for another 12 to 20 minutes. Depending on how you feel after another break, you may be able to go back in a third time.

Follow These Best Practices

For the safest and most pleasant sauna experience, know how to make yourself comfortable, and always, always hydrate afterwards. To find your sweet spot in a sauna, note that heat rises; the top bench provides a hotter atmosphere than the bottom bench. If you're new to the sauna experience, you should sit on the lower bench until your body builds up a tolerance to the heat. Every time you leave the sauna, take in some fresh air, shower and then dry off. Drink at least eight ounces of water right away to make up for the amount of sweat you lost.

Listen to Your Body

Although the 12- to 20-minute time limit is a general rule, it's extremely important to be conscious of your own body while sitting in a sauna. For some people, even 12 minutes may be too long. If you begin to feel overly tired, nauseous, dizzy or uncomfortable in any way, you should leave the steam room immediately. Sit in an area with fresh air, and drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate and bring your body back to a normal temperature. If you have any health conditions, you should speak with your physician before hitting the sauna.

About the Author

Krista Sheehan

Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.