Can a Sauna Help You Get Better Sleep?

Sleep doctors weigh in on the benefits of sauna usage before bed for improved relaxation and sleep.

A young black woman is sitting on the bench in the sauna wearing her bathrobe.
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Spending time in a sauna has long been a favorite practice for those looking to unwind and get better sleep. And for good reason!

Saunas impact body temperature, which plays an important role in sleep. “Our body temperatures typically follow a pretty predictable pattern over 24 hours,” says neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Chris Winter. For someone who follows a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. sleep schedule, body temperatures could peak around 4 p.m. and bottom out around 4 a.m.

While saunas increase body temperature, once you emerge from the sauna, the falling body temperature is what actually supports falling asleep.

“When our body temperatures start to rapidly fall, it's sort of a natural trigger to fall asleep,” says Winter. “So, by increasing your body temperature in and around the time that you go to bed, there's a natural decline in the body temperature after you get out of the sauna, and that can be a trigger to help you fall asleep a little bit faster, sort of like the hot shower or hot bath.”

Some even theorize that the drop in body temperature can help boost melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, which can result in better sleep quality and duration. "Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle,” says Dr. Paul Daidone, medical director of Arkansas-based treatment center True Self Recovery. “It is often referred to as the sleep hormone because it is essential for restful sleep.”

However, the relaxation properties of a sauna go beyond the temperature change.

“The sauna first relaxes the body, reducing pain and stress through vasodilation of the blood vessels,” says Raleigh Duncan, a doctor of chiropractic and founder and CEO of Clearlight, which supplies infrared saunas as well as health and wellness solutions.

Vasodilation, when blood vessels in your body widen, also impacts hormone production, which can have further sleep-boosting benefits. “When exposed to sauna heat, the body's core temperature rises, causing blood vessels in the skin to dilate,” says Daidone. “This increase in blood flow can stimulate the production of endorphins, which are hormones that act as natural pain relievers and promote relaxation and well-being.”

That can create a cascading hormonal effect. “Sauna use has also been linked to increased levels of serotonin, the happy hormone, which regulates mood, sleep, and appetite,” says Daidone. Saunas may also lower cortisol (AKA the stress hormone), which can help promote a more relaxed, restful state.

The vasodilation of saunas can also affect fatigue. A small study found that fatigue, depression, and anxiety symptoms improved after therapy using infrared saunas.

Another consideration for the benefit of sauna use for sleep preparation is the forced quiet time. Many people choose to spend their sauna time meditating, relaxing, and taking a forced pause from social media and doomscrolling, which, in turn, can help them calm and quiet the mind, making it easier to fall asleep.

Given the many factors listed above, it’s reasonable to hope that a sauna could help with sleep. In fact, in one study, 83.5% of people who regularly use saunas reported sleep benefits after sauna use.

Sauna safety

If you choose to try a sauna for better sleep, here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind:


Spending time in a sauna will make you sweat, leading to a loss of both fluids and electrolytes. After your session, make sure to drink water (to rehydrate the body) and a drink to replenish electrolytes (like a sports drink).

Start small

If you’re new to the sauna, it’s important to give your body time to acclimate. Start with shorter sessions (for example, five minutes) — and once you know how your body responds, you can work your way up to longer sessions as desired.

Set a timer

The sauna experience can be extremely relaxing. And as you become more relaxed, it can be easy to lose track of time — or even fall asleep. Before you start your session, set a timer to alert you when your sauna time is over.

Let someone know where and when you’re hitting the sauna

Before you head into the sauna, it’s important to let someone know where you are and how long you’re planning on staying in the sauna; that way, if anything happens (for example, you experience a medical emergency or there’s a malfunction with the sauna that prevents you from exiting at the end of your session), someone will know to come looking for you — and get you help as needed.

While saunas are not a substitute for good sleep hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, regulated use of a sauna with the approval of your doctor could help you sleep better, which is an idea worth warming up to.