Since time immemorial, most cultures around the world have used heat, in one way or the other, for relaxation, rituals, or therapy. As far back as 900 B.C, the Mayans had their own sweat houses for both religious ceremonies and for fostering good health.
The Romans had their bathhouses, the Persians had steam lodges, and many ancient European cultures and others around the world developed their distinct traditions.
However, since the development and improvement of the now ubiquitous Finnish sauna, a lot more science have entered the foray. With modern saunas, you get access to an often higher quality construction complete with reliable fittings and posh interiors.
These units also give you the ability to tweak the experience to match your exact needs.
With modern saunas, you can regulate lighting, tweak the humidity with an automatic steamer, or adjust the temperature to match your comfort level.
However, with options comes unsureness, hence the longstanding debate of what the best sauna temperature is.
Is There a Right Sauna Temperature?
Preferred sauna temperature varies from user to user, especially by how often they sauna and their country of residence. While most America saunas rarely exceed the 176°F mark, figures as high as 215°F are usually considered normal in Scandinavian and Russian Saunas.
Furthermore, the temperature you are comfortable with can vary greatly depending on how experienced you are. Seasoned sauna enthusiasts often opt for higher temperatures.
So, is there a right sauna temperature?
The U.S and Canadian governments seem to think so.
So, it will be tough to get a sauna that gets hotter, even if you have the tolerance and desire for it.
Furthermore, this regulation stipulates that all saunas must have a timer maximum of one hour for safety reasons. Also, each unit must feature a limit switch that automatically shuts down the heater in cases of abnormal operations that result in temperature hikes.
However, in Europe and the rest of the world, you can get saunas that go significantly higher with some reaching as high as 280°F.
Best Temperature for Traditional Saunas
Traditional saunas are those that use a heater to heat stones that warm up the chamber — dousing these stones with water results in the release of hot steam that rapidly increases the temperature in the sauna.
For these types, when considering the ideal temperature, you must account for the humidity from the water vapor as well.
The North American Sauna Society and many others address this well with a “Rule of 200” that recommends the temperature and the humidity add up to 200. With these guidelines, at a humidity of 40%, you should be working with a temperature in the range of 165°F.
We find the rule of 200 is a practical guide to follow to get a comfortable setting on your sauna, especially for beginners. The rule matches the optimal comfort setting for most people.
If you are opting for a portable or outdoor sauna, you should pick one with a thermometer and humidity sensor to help you calibrate the chamber to match your needs.
Furthermore, for newbie users, you are better off getting a model with an electric heater as opposed to wood-fuel and other steam saunas types. For the latter, the heat systems are significantly harder to adjust.
Best Temperature for Infrared and Other Dry Saunas
Infrared saunas are a different ball game. These models, also known as dry saunas, use electromagnetic heaters that use long or shortwave infrared to send heat to your body.
These heaters heat the water molecules in your body directly without heating the surrounding air. Hence, they are a lot more efficient at using heat than traditional steam saunas. Consequently, with an infrared sauna, you will reach your optimal warmth at a significantly lower temperature than with a steam model.
Also, in a dry sauna, the humidity of the chamber stays relatively constant at near zero. Hence, the rule of 200 does not apply here. The low humidity is also another reason why a more moderate temperature feels hotter in an infrared sauna.
As a result of their heat efficiency, most infrared saunas have a low-temperature max limit that rarely exceeds 140°F. These units also often sport temperature dials that let you adjust the hotness of the chamber with pinpoint accuracy.
A good, comfortable range for most people with an infrared sauna is 80°-125°F.
How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna
The longer you stay in the chamber, the more you risk suffering dehydration or more adverse complications like heatstroke. Hence you should take caution when saunaing and keep the length of your sessions minimal.
For first time users and newbies, it is best to keep your first session no more than 5 minutes. With more experience, you can ramp it up to 10-minute sessions. However, most users should take a break at most after 15 minutes, and even seasoned veterans should not exceed the 20-minute mark for safety reasons.
Irrespective of how long you have been in the chamber, you should stay aware of your body and leave the sauna if you feel any abnormal discomfort.
Furthermore, pregnant women, people on prescriptions, children, older people, and people with any health impairments should stay in the sauna for considerably shorter periods and at lower temperatures.