6 Reasons to try saunas for depression relief

Saunas have been praised for their numerous health benefits, particularly in relieving symptoms of depression.

Here are six compelling reasons to consider incorporating sauna sessions into your wellness routine [1]:

Boosts mood and reduces depression: Saunas can significantly improve mood by increasing the production of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These euphoric hormones help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety, providing a natural way to enhance mental well-being.

Regular sauna sessions have been shown to help maintain these positive effects over time, making it an effective complementary treatment for mood disorders​ [2].

Reduces chronic fatigue: Chronic fatigue, a common symptom of depression, can severely impact daily life. Sauna therapy has been found to reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome by improving sleep quality, reducing pain and enhancing overall energy levels.

The heat from the sauna induces the release of heat shock proteins, which help reduce fatigue and boost muscle function​.

Increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): BDNF is a protein that supports the growth and survival of neurons, playing a crucial role in brain health [3]. Saunas have been shown to increase BDNF levels, which can help protect against mental health disorders and improve cognitive functions such as memory and learning.

This makes sauna therapy a promising non-pharmacological approach to managing depression and enhancing brain health​.

Improves sleep quality: Good sleep is essential for mental health and saunas can help enhance sleep quality. The relaxation induced by sauna sessions helps the body transition into a state conducive to deep sleep.

Better sleep leads to improved mood, memory and overall mental health, making it a critical component in managing depression​.

Promotes detoxification: Saunas encourage sweating, which helps detoxify the body by eliminating heavy metals and other toxins. This detoxification process can alleviate symptoms such as fatigue, irritability and mental confusion, all of which can contribute to depression.

Regularly using a sauna can help your body rid itself of harmful substances, thereby supporting better mental health​.

Enhances stress resilience: Regular exposure to the heat of a sauna acts as a form of thermal stress conditioning, which helps the body adapt and become more resilient to stress. This adaptation reduces the body’s production of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, lowering stress levels and improving overall mental health.

A sauna’s calming and meditative environment also promotes relaxation and mental clarity​.

Incorporating sauna sessions into your routine can be a beneficial and enjoyable way to support mental health and alleviate symptoms of depression. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

per Wired, Ashley Mason, a clinical psychologist at the UC San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Health says “A mind and body treatment with that kind of outcome is surely worthy of further study,“ she says. “I hope that grant reviewers and funding agencies will agree.”

Her long-term goal is to amass enough convincing evidence for insurance companies to cover practices like sauna, “so that when a person with depression is considering a menu of treatment options, this is on the menu.”

[1] https://www.wired.com/story/sauna-heat-therapy-depression-cbt-mental-health-trial/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10681252/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4697050/#

Photograph: micens/Envato
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