Ten Scientifically Proven Reasons I Am Addicted To A Daily Sauna.

I have a confession to make: I'm an addict.

Every morning I wipe the crust out of the corner of my eyes, suck down a giant cup of coffee, and then wander to my basement gym, where I commence to flip the power on my sauna. I then step inside, and sweat hard and heavy for fifteen to thirty minutes.

Sometimes I do yoga, sometimes I do kettlebell swings, sometimes I simply stare at the wall and meditate, but always I feel pangs of guilt, desire and an intense urge to go sweat if I ever miss my daily sauna session.

On the rare morning that I can’t find time to sauna, I carve out time in the afternoon or evening (usually after my workout, for reasons you’re about to read). As a matter of fact, aside from when I'm traveling to speak at conferences or attending events, it’s been nearly forty-five days since I’ve missed a single sauna session.

So yes, there, I admit it: I am a sauna addict. Knowing that I can venture downstairs and enter into a private chamber that gives my body a myriad of benefits simply makes a sauna sit a daily must for me.

Why the sauna? Am I a heat masochist? Addicted to sweating? An introverted loner who thrives on staring at wooden wall slats as my heart races faster and faster to rapidly pump blood through my body in desperate attempts to keep me cool?

Frankly, there are many reasons I “sauna”. Ten scientifically proven reasons, in fact (yes, I promise not to throw out a bunch of unverified, woo-woo reasons). In no particular order of importance here they are.


  1. Heart Health & Longevity

A new report in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep the heart healthy and extend life. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland tracked 2,300 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years. They found that the more sessions per week men spent in the sauna, the lower their risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease. The sauna also extended the life of participants with other illnesses, including cancer.

According to the study, participants who had two or three sauna sessions a week had a 22% reduced chance of suffering sudden cardiac death. Men who had four to seven sauna sessions of at least 20 minutes each, had the greatest benefits. Compared with those who had just one sauna session a week, they had a 63% lower risk of sudden cardiac death, 50% lower risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) death, 48% lower risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) death and were 40% less likely to die from all causes.

Researchers reported that the benefit to cardiovascular health was likely due to the decrease in blood pressure and an increase in blood vessel diameter that both infrared exposure and heat exposure can provide.

Having spent time last month in Finland sitting buck-naked in a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, surrounded by old guys who definitely seemed more ripped and vibrant than their fat Western counterparts, I can certainly attest to the fact that there’s something special going on with this Finnish tradition.


  1. Detoxification Of Chemicals And Heavy Metals

The skin is a major detox organ, and sweating through the skin is a critical human detox function, yet most people don’t sweat regularly or enough.  Think detoxing is a woo-woo, airy-fairy, pushing-giant-shopping-carts-full-of-kale-through-Whole-Foods myth? Think again. You may want to read this.

As you’ll see if you read that article above, the body is very effective at eliminating toxins via the skin (and the liver, and the poo), but the skin side of things only really works if you make your body sweat. But many of us sit in air-conditioned indoor environments all day, and even gyms with temperature control can be a tough place to work up a serious sweat. So in these type of situations, you completely miss out on a major source of toxin elimination: the skin.

To combat these effects, a sauna can purify the body from the inside out, eliminating compounds such as PCB’s, metals and toxins that are stored in fat cells, which can undergo lipolysis and release toxins upon exposure to infrared-based heat. Yep, you read that right: you are going to battle against and killing little screaming fat cells to death when you sweat in a sauna. They don’t shrink: they die (especially when combined with niacin, which research has some interesting findings on and which I talk about in more detail here).


  1. Athletic Recovery

Growth hormone is crucial for repair and recovery of muscles, and research has shown that two 20-minute sauna sessions separated by a 30-minute cooling period elevated growth hormone levels two-fold over baseline. Two 15-minute sauna sessions at an even warmer temperature separated by a 30-minute cooling period resulted in a five-fold increase in growth hormone.

Perhaps even more nifty is that repeated exposure to whole-body, intermittent hyperthermia through sauna use boosts growth hormone immediately afterward, and two one-hour sauna sessions for 7 days has been shown to increase growth hormone by 16-fold. Yeah, that’s right: you don’t need to go buy fancy supplements or creams to increase growth hormone. You can just make your body hot instead and get a growth hormone increase

It is also important to note that when hyperthermia and exercise are combined, they induce a synergistic increase in growth hormone, which is why I do yoga, push-ups and squats in my infrared sauna. For an additional recovery benefit, sauna also increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, which helps to keep them fueled with glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and oxygen, while removing by-products of metabolic processes such as lactic acid and calcium ions.


  1. Arthritic & Muscular Pain Relief

In a report in The Annals of Clinical Research Volume 20, Dr. H. Isomäki discusses research results that show benefits of sauna for relief of pain and increased mobility. In the study, the pain relief induced by a sauna was attributed to an increase in the release of anti-inflammatory compounds such as noradrenaline, adrenaline, cortisol and growth hormones, as well as an increase in positive stress on the body, causing it to releases natural pain-killing endorphins. More than 50% of participants reported temporary relief of pain and an increase in mobility, most likely due to the fact that tissues comprised of collagen, such as tendons, fascia, and joint articular capsules, become more flexible when exposed to increased temperatures.

Now here’s the deal: I don’t actually have arthritis. But I do have some pretty freaking gnarly joint pain the day after I’ve finished a typical workout of heavy squats, sandbag carries, kettlebell swings, hill sprints and tire flips. After my morning sauna session, things seem to melt away (caveat: I have not yet used myself as a N=1 control study by sitting and staring at a wooden wall in normal, non-sauna temperatures, but I’m hazarding a guess it wouldn’t work as well as a sauna, so I’ll skip that study, because it sounds boring).


  1. Muscle Gain & Fat Loss

Bigger biceps or a more toned butt by reading a magazine while sweating profusely? It could happen. Sauna conditioning can lend itself to promoting muscle growth and fat loss by improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing muscle protein catabolism. Intermittent hyperthermia has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in obese mice, and in this case insulin resistant diabetic mice were subjected to 30 minutes of heat treatment, three times a week for twelve weeks. The results were a 31% decrease in insulin levels and a significant reduction in blood glucose levels, both of which can contribute to an increase in muscle growth and an increase in weight control and fat loss.

It has also been shown that a 30-minute intermittent hyperthermic treatment can cause a significant expression of something called heat shock proteins in muscle, which is correlated with 30% more muscle regrowth than a control group during seven days subsequent to a week of immobilization. In other words, let’s say you can’t weight train, you’ve got a recovery day or you want to maintain muscle but you’re injured. Based on the research cited above, via the use of a sauna instead, you can still maintain muscle.


  1. Immune System Boost

Sure, you may get snot in your sauna if you step in there when you’re sick, but you also may get better faster. The Journal of Human Kinetics recently investigated the effect of sauna use on the immune system, specifically white blood cell profile, cortisol levels and selected physiological indices in athletes and non-athletes. The subjects from both a sauna group and a control group participated in 15-minute sauna sessions until their core temperature rose by 1.2°C.

After the sauna session, an increased number of white blood cells, lymphocyte, neutrophil and basophil counts were reported in the white blood cell profile, showing that sauna use stimulates the immune system (and interestingly, a greater benefit to the immune system was shown in the athletes vs. the untrained subjects, indicating that an excellent one-two combo for your immune system is exercise and sauna use). German sauna medical research also shows that saunas are able to significantly reduce the incidences of colds and influenza and both Finnish and German studies show that regular sauna bathing leads to a 30% less chance of getting a cold and influenza. 


  1. Skin Rejuvenation

While exposing yourself to ungodly amounts of time in the sun can make your skin look like Benjamin Button as a baby, the old lady in “Something About Mary”, or an elephant who spent too much time a bathtub, spending time in a sauna doesn’t submit you to the same kind of UVA and UVB rays as you get from the sun. When your body begins to produce sweat via the type deep sweating you experience in an infrared sauna, the rate at which dead skin cells are replaced an be increased. At the same time, heavy sweating helps to remove bacteria out of the epidermal layer of the skin and the sweat ducts.

This cleansing of the pores also causes increased capillary circulation, which can give the skin a softer-looking, younger appearance. When you sweat, the movement of fluid to the skin delivers more nutrient and mineral-rich fluids and also helps to fill spaces around the cells, increasing firmness and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. So by continually flushing waste through skin cells via the use of hyperthermia, you can increase skin health, tone and color, and more effectively cleanse your pores.

Not only does research show this skin rejuvenation effect to be the case, but I’ll admit that I'm quite frequently mistaken as Justin Bieber when I take a stroll down the street after my morning sauna session. So it must be working.


  1. Better Sleep

Next time you find yourself struggling with a bout of insomnia, try this trick: about two to three hours before bed, hunt down a gym sauna and get your sweat on for about fifteen to thirty minutes. Next, hop in a lukewarm or cool shower for five to ten minutes to bring your body temp down. If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, you can do this two to three times through. Anytime I do this kind of hot-cold contrast in the evening, I sleep like a baby.

Researchers have found that a sauna can help provide a deeper, more relaxed sleep, and also relief of chronic tension, and relief of chronic fatigue issues, most likely due to a release of endorphins from the sauna. As endorphins are released into your body, they create a soothing, nearly tranquilizing effect that can not only help to minimize chronic pain caused by arthritis and other muscle soreness, but can also help with relaxation and sleep. For an even more enhanced effect, try deep nasal breathing while you're in there.


  1. Increased Cardiovascular Performance

You probably know of EPO as the illegal performance-enhancing drug made famous by professional cyclists in Tour De France, but research has shown 30 minutes of sauna treatment after exercise can cause an increase in oxygen consumption and red blood cell production that parallels the use of EPO. That’s right: no needles in the right butt cheek or illegal performance enhancing drugs required. In the high temperatures of an infrared sauna, your skin heats up and core body temperature rises. Then, in response to these increased heat levels, the blood vessels near your skin dilate and cause an increase in cardiac output. This causes your heart rate to shoot up from 60-70bpm (beats per minute) to as high as over 150bpm in the sauna. So with regular sauna use, you not only train your heart muscles and improve your cardiac output, but you also help the body's regulatory system move blood around the body to areas that need cooling.

Similar to the pre-sleep protocol mentioned earlier, you can enhance this cardiovascular conditioning even more when your sauna is combined with alternating sessions into a cool shower, a quick dip into a cold pool or lake, or if you’re lazy like me, a step into your backyard to shower yourself down with a garden hose. Each time you rapidly change temperature (from hot to cool or vice-versa), your heart rate increases by as much as 60%, which is very comparable to the heart rate increase experienced during moderate exercise. And in case you’ve heard the rumors: yes, many folks find this to be a potent treatment for hangovers too.


  1. Increased Stress Resilience

There’s a good reason that best-selling author Nassim Taleb recommends environmental stressors as a way to become more “Antifragile”. As mentioned earlier, multiple research studies have shown that hyperthermia conditioning via the use of a sauna can prevent protein degradation and muscle loss by triggering the production of heat shock proteins (HSPs), which are then used by your cells to counteract potentially harmful stimulus, including environmental stress from pollutants, toxins, heat, cold, exercise stress and more.

Whenever a cell is exposed to an unfriendly environment, your DNA “separates” in specific regions and begins to read the genetic code to produce new stress proteins, including these HSPs. What this means is that exposure to sauna heat can induce a hormetic response (a protective stress response), which promotes the production of HSPs that are crucial to stress resistance, prevention of free radical damage, support of cellular antioxidant capacity and repair of damaged proteins. Dr. Rhonda Patrick talks about these HSPs quite a bit in our podcast episode on heat therapy and saunas.



So, can you blame me? I'm addicted to my sauna, and knowing everything you’ve just read, I feel quite good about myself when I walk out of my daily sauna session. Nah, I'll go beyond that: once I follow up the sauna with a cold shower, I feel freaking unstoppable the rest of the day.

If you have no clue about the difference between wet saunas/steam rooms, dry sauna, infrared sauna, niacin detox, how long to spend in the sauna, etc., etc., then I'd highly recommend you read my article “Three Ways To Biohack A Sauna For More Heat, A Better Detox & Enhanced Fitness“.

Finally Clearlight Saunas (the sauna I personally use is their “Sanctuary Y” yoga model) wrote to me this week and has offered, if you click here to order a sauna and use code BEN or call 800.317.5070 and mention code BEN, to throw in a matching backrest or aromatherapy holder with a bottle of essential oil (value $70 ea.) along with their lowest sale price and free shipping in the USA. That's a slammin' deal.

If you are in the UK, you can also use the code BEN here, and get free shipping. Or use the same code in Germany when you go here. You can also visit either of those websites, call UK Clearlight or UK Germany, mention the name Ben Greenfield, and get the same perks: free shipping and a complementary backrest.


So, if you’re up for the challenge, I’d recommend that for the next thirty days, you try subjecting yourself to a sauna four to five times a week for twenty to thirty minutes. Let me know how this works out for you, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below.

38 thoughts on “Ten Scientifically Proven Reasons I Am Addicted To A Daily Sauna.

  1. hey Ben fantastic article… I noticed your comment on sunlighten full spectrum .. any experience or expanded comments on their 3 in 1 line? seem to find conflicting reviews on their mpulse model and whether the high cost is justified in terms of health benefits compared to other companies…

    1. The Sunlighten mPulse sauna has a very small, single, near infrared heater in the back wall that's designed for topical use, ranging between 10 to 40 watts (depending on the sauna model.) The front wall of my Clearlight Sanctuary sauna has (2) 500 watt Full Spectrum heaters emitting near, mid and far infrared, designed for whole body therapy. There's no comparison in the power of these heaters. Also, Clearlight has ultra low EMF and ELF exposure, and the Sunlighten mPulse has considerably higher EMF and ELF. I like Clearlight's lifetime warranty – the sauna's 100% covered as long as you own it. Sunlighten has a "limited" lifetime warranty – if you check Sunlighten's fine print, it says lifetime is "defined as 7 years." Listen to my latest sauna podcast <a href="http:// (” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( for more info.

      1. Yet a previous guest, alex Tarris recommends Sunlighten pretty adamantly over clearlight. I believe Dr Mercola also has discussed Sunlighten by name. Stinks I purchased a sunlighten based off your previous guests that you present as the “experts” then you have company reps from competition that swear theirs is the best. Very confusing.

  2. I’ve been spending 20-25 hours a week in saunas for the last 4 years, I know about the topic more than anybody I know, and I’ve never heard about any advantages of infra red light vs heat.

  3. hi,

    I have been trying (3 times in 6 days) saunas – old school style dry heat, not infra red, for about 30 mins after noticing the impact on my sleep. (great impact) I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I’ve noticed the 2 times i did 30 mins, my general pain levels have gone through the roof. – do you have any thoughts or insight? I’m looking at getting an infra red sauna, as i know this is better than the ones i’m using (gym and pool) I wonder I’ve gone too long too quickly…

  4. Hi Ben. Just wondering on whether you think binding agents are necessary in order to help prevent re-absorption of toxins and if so, which type and when to take?

    I have read some conflicting online views and thought I’d ask you!

    1. Does FIR sauna PWO inhibit the detox pathway? Best to delay for an hour or two?

    2. Drinking plenty of water/sole both before and after is pretty clear but what about during your sauna? I have come across some which suggest it lessens the detox effect? Personally, I would prefer to drink water whilst in the sauna!

    3. Morning or before bed…. or both?! I do daily IF (19:5) and finish my eating window at 9pm, after consuming a hefty amount of calories! Would you suggest waiting an hour or even longer before taking the sauna before bed?

    4. Finally, I have read some reports of some people ‘bruising’ after IR saunas. Any ideas?

    Your views would be appreciated as you’re the man to trust! Respect.

      1. Hi! I went searching the internet for any info on the bruising-sauna correlation, and this was all I found. I joined a new gym this week and have been taking advantage of the sauna, have gone 3 days, with 3x10min sessions with cold showers in between. Today I noticed the backs of my legs covered in small bruises. Some are really small, so I don’t think they could be from getting hit with something, and there are just too many to be explained by anything else… That is of course unless I have some horrible disease… : / Sounds like more research is needed on this topic

  5. For those without access to a sauna (like when I’m deployed), how many/how much of these benefits could come with simply overdressing?

    1. If you can get pretty darn hot while exercising, then you can definitely reap the benefits of heat shock protein production, blood flow, nitric oxide production, etc., but here's the issue (and why I choose the sauna): that can be far more stressful and conducive to overtraining than a relaxing (albeit hot) sauna session.

  6. Relative to the question about whether a hot sauna should be taken BEFORE or AFTER a workout, I believe that a published study done in Poland in 1990 provides some guidance for anyone trying to burn more calories to lose weight. The study- entitled "Effect of physical exercise and heat on energy expenditure in obesity". The study concluded that the results (in terms of energy expenditure/calorie burning) are significantly better when you take the sauna FIRST. The test subjects burned TRIPLE the number of calories during the test when they preceded their cardio workout with a 30-minute sauna.We would love to know WHY this is the case. Rhonda?

  7. Hey Ben,

    Have you noticed an increase in your energy bill with daily sauna use? Just curious as to how much energy these use. Thanks!

  8. Awesome to find scientific explanations and references – thanks!

    Question: How can a sauna NOT be infrared?

    Another question: what temperature (range?) are you using with these facts and figures? The barely warm public sauna and the piping hot neighborhood one must have different effectiveness. And what about steam vs (dry) sauna, or dry vs moist sauna?

  9. I am looking at the curve sauna clear light produce . What is your take on it. ? Is it as effective as the other models.

    Thanks for all your good work you do .

  10. Since you're detoxing not just through sweat and the skin but also through liposis do you have any insights into what kind of beverage (or food) to drink after a sauna session? What helps the body facilitate waste removal from the liposis? As always, thanks!

  11. I don’t use a sauna but do attend hot yoga classes about 3+ times a week. Would doing this produce the same benefits as using the sauna? I definitely sweat profusely and usually enjoy a cold shower afterwards!

  12. I’ve been using a traditional dry heat sauna after lifting workouts for a few weeks and enjoy it. The only disadvantages of safely using a sauna I suppose (which for some might be an advantage) is that I imagine this might reduce sperm count. Only an issue for those looking to become parents.

  13. I'm sorry, Ben, but on behalf of whole of Finland trust me when I say that that infrared crap can barely be called sauna. Make a trip to Finland and experience a real sauna. The difference is massive!

  14. I attended a certain bio hacking conference this weekend and even more controversial than people putting butter in their coffee ;) was the far vs near infrared debate. One guy was extolling the virtues of his NEAR infrared set up (claiming NEAR penetrates deeper), then across the hall the guy selling the FAR infrared sauna said FAR penetrates deeper. I thought about trying to get these guys to meet in the back of the room to throw down but then I decided "Naw, I'll just ask Ben." …So which is it?

    1. Near infrared heat penetrates the deepest.

      This being said, there are numerous research studies that have been published over the years proving the many benefits of far infrared heat. The answer is that both will give therapeutic results that will make you healthier. The best of both worlds is to have a sauna with Full Spectrum heaters such as our Sanctuary series which has (2) 500 watt Full Spectrum emitters in each sauna. (Beware of companies like Sunlighten who market their saunas based on having Full Spectrum heaters, yet their Full Spectrum saunas have only a single 10 watt full spectrum heater, hardly strong enough to have any effect.)

      Although near infrared is the one that penetrates the deepest, far infrared heat is the more tested of the two if you're interested in science to validate the boatloads of anecdotal evidence for increased heart health, detoxing heavy metals and chemicals, immune boosting, and muscle and joint pain relief.

  15. I just got a Biomat (through your affiliate link ;)), and was wondering if one can derive some of the same benefits from the mat as one can through a sauna? I just didn't have room for a sauna so a Biomat seemed like the next best thing, plus thirty pounds of amethyst crystal's pretty nifty. Thx!

    1. I am able to sweat bucket on the biomat by doing this: Turn your biomat on the highest setting, put a layer of towels down you will lay on, put another layer of towels that you will lay under, put a space blanket on top of the towels you lay under (google it, it is cheap), then put the thickest blanket you own on top of the space blanket. Let the biomat heat up for 45 min. Slip under the towels on your back set your timer for 30 min. After 30 min flip onto your stomach and set your timer for another 30 min (I had mine on a massage table so it was easy to be on my stomach). My face would be beet red and I would be drenched.

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