Do you believe everything you read on Google?
That’s it. Case closed.
No need to account for the type of sauna.
Sauna temperature? That doesn’t matter either.
What about a persons cardiovascular ability? And how used-to the heat they are?
Everyone is the same, with simple answers like this.
Maybe there is scientific research behind this claim. Let’s do some digging.
The article refers to a Harvard Health article.1
It’s Harvard. It must be true!
Not so fast.
The very first sentence says a sauna’s heat can “get as high as 185° F”. That’s not even the limit for sauna heaters sold in the US.
In fact, many Finnish sauna users, and Joe Rogan, crank their saunas up over 200° F.
Everyone who uses saunas regularly knows that.
Then comes general precautions. It says “Stay in no more than 15–20 minutes.”
There is no link to scientific research for that claim.
In fact, it directly contrasts the actual scientific data available.
The next line states “cool down gradually afterward.” If this nameless author knew anything about saunas, they’d know the importance, and tradition of a cold plunge immediately after.
So the article that is the basis for that first google search result is totally wrong.
How long to sauna
Frequency, duration, and temperature are the key factors in maximizing the benefits.
If you ask Google how long to stay in a sauna, it’ll tell you no more than 20 minutes.
If you ask science, it says to use a sauna for 20+ minutes, at 175° F or higher. 2
There was a study tracking 2315 men from Finland, over the course of 20 years. The men who used the sauna for longer than 19 minutes were dramatically less likely to die from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
This is in comparison to those who stayed in the sauna 11-19 minutes.
How long to sit in an infrared sauna
Infrared saunas are at a lower temperature, generally 120-150° F. You can sit in an infrared sauna for longer because of that lower temperature.
The typical time is between 30-45 minutes. Some spas offer 60 minute infrared sauna sessions, so you can use it for longer than that 45 minutes.
You probably do not want to use it longer because you will be putting your body under stress and sweating a lot.
There is no actual scientific study on how long to sit in an infrared sauna like there is for traditional ones.
Listen to your body
The key is to listen to your body, and not the clock.
There is definitely benefit to pushing yourself, to some extent. However, there is a fine balance between overdoing it and not challenging yourself.
Below are a couple of strategies for those who want to maximize their experience in a safe way.
A traditional experience is to go back-and-forth between hot and cold.
An example protocol is to sit in a sauna for somewhere between 15-30 minutes, get out and cool off for 1-5 minutes, then re-enter.
Some people go back-and-forth for hours.
Others simply stay in the sauna for 20-30 minutes, then are done for the day.
When you get out, this is where you generally do a cold plunge or a cold shower. You may just want to stand outside the sauna for a minute, cool off from the air, drink some water, then hop right back in.
Just remember to always finish your session with a cold plunge or shower.