7 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Your Sauna Sessions

Heather Dessinger

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Infrared Sauna Tips

Mayans had the Temazcal – which roughly translates as sweat lodge – while the Japanese have the mushi-buro, Russians have the Banya, and Finns have the sauna. Heat has long been used therapeutically in many cultures, and for good reason. 

Since posting about the science-backed health benefits of sauna bathing and a review of the sauna I chose, I’ve received a lot of questions about how to get the most out of sauna sessions. 

Below are my top tips, plus answers to other frequently asked questions about sauna bathing for kids, while breastfeeding, and more.

As always, this is not medical advice and you should always talk to your healthcare provider about any questions you have. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive in.

Since posting about the benefits of infrared saunas last week, I've received quite a few questions about how long one should stay in a sauna and whether or not it’s safe while breastfeeding, etc. Here's a beginner's guide that should answer some of those question. If you have one not covered, please let me know!

Tip #1 – Make Sure You Have The Essentials

At the beginning of every sauna session you’re going to want to have a couple of essentials on hand:

  • Water or an electrolyte drink
  • Cotton towel

I also usually have a book with me, and these cotton wristbands that keep me from sweating all over it. Sometimes I also add a few drops of essential oil to a washcloth and bring it in with me to add an aromatherapy component. 

diy electrolyte drink fb

Water Vs. Electrolyte Drinks

As I mentioned earlier, sweating helps our bodies eliminate heavy metals, PCB’s, BPA and other toxins. However, it also depletes our bodies of water and minerals, so we need to replenish both. 

I already consume a lot of electrolytes daily through food and liquid minerals, so in general during a sauna session I usually just sip on a big glass jar of water during a sauna session. However, sometimes I add a pinch of unrefined sea salt or make one of these electrolyte drink recipes if I do an intense workout before my sauna session. There’s a pretty good pre-made powdered option available, too. 

Other ways to replenish electrolytes include adding kale to a smoothie (it’s rich in calcium and magnesium) that also contains avocado for potassium, phosphorus and additional magnesium. 

Bottom line: Drink a lot, but stick to water and make sure you’ve got a strategy for replenishing electrolytes. I love Dry Farm Wines, but saunas and alcohol should never mix. (1) 

Tip #2 – Take It Slow

Most sources recommend starting with a 10-15 minute session, increasing the time spent as you feel comfortable. The suggested session time for the infrared sauna I use is between 20-45 minutes. 

Some types of saunas run hotter or cooler, so always check with your manufacturer for recommended session times. 

Tip #3 – Wear Cotton

Breathable, washable natural fibers like cotton shirts/shorts are ideal for sauna bathing. 

I also place cotton towels on the bench and the floor to keep the sauna clean. Once I finish a session, I toss everything in my laundry hamper so that all the stuff I sweated out can be washed away.

Tip #4 – Don’t Eat A Large Meal Before A Session

Saunas increase the flow of nutrients (glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and oxygen) via the circulatory system. While it may seem like the perfect time to add in some more nutrients with a healthy meal, the reality is that the digestive process gets put on the back burner while the circulatory system focuses on nutrient delivery to the muscles and skin. 

For that reason, it’s best not to eat a large meal right before stepping into a sauna. If I’m really hungry I opt for a light snack, then eat when my session is over.

Tip #5 – Listen To Your Body

If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, queasy or off in any way, end your session. 

Heather sitting in sauna

Tip #6 – Red Light At Night

If you’re using a sauna that has a chromotherapy (light therapy) mode, stick with using just red light at night. Blue light (and possibly other wavelengths on the spectrum) can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Tip #7 – Rinse And Repeat

Take a warm or cold shower after your session to rinse away any toxins eliminated via sweat. By now you should be feeling amazing and looking forward to your next session, so go ahead decide when that will be. 

Safety Info & Frequently Asked Questions

Individuals who are:

  • Taking Medications
  • Under 12 years old
  • Elderly

. . . . or who have: 

  • Cardiovascular Conditions*
  • Chronic Conditions

. . . should talk to a doctor before starting sauna therapy. Also, we’ve already touched on a few of these, but here are some general guidelines to follow: 

  • Avoid sauna therapy if you have hemophiila
  • Don’t fall asleep in the sauna
  • Don’t get in a sauna if you have a fever
  • Don’t use the sauna if you’re under the influence of alcohol or any other substance
  • Stay hydrated
  • Leave the sauna if you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous, or ill. 

* According to this study, contraindications for sauna use “include unstable angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, and severe aortic stenosis. Sauna bathing is safe, however, for most people with coronary heart disease with stable angina pectoris or old myocardial infarction.”

Is sauna bathing safe for kids?

When my husband spent time in Finland, he found that children in most families sauna regularly. Plus, as mentioned above, this study says that sauna bathing “is well tolerated by most healthy adults and children.”

However, there are no formally established guidelines regarding the use of saunas with children, and it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting sauna therapy and educate yourself on safe practices. 

Here’s why: This study found that Finnish parents are “guided by an empirically acquired parental understanding” of safety based on a long history of use in their culture. 

Those of us who are fairly new to sauna therapy don’t have the same knowledge level, so we need to take extra care. 

Here are some potential guidelines to discuss with your healthcare provider:

  • Children should ALWAYS be supervised. (They are in Finland, and this study published in the Journal Pediatrics also recommends supervision.)
  • Children should spend less time than adults in a sauna, and the sauna should be set to lower temps (90º-110ºF). That’s because children can’t regulate their core body temperature as efficiently as adults, which means it rises faster. Regarding the “right” amount of time, many sources say the maximum amount should be 15 minutes. Others say that a general rule of thumb is one minute of sauna use per year of age for the child. 
  • Pay attention to hydration. This is just as important with kids as adults. 

Is sauna bathing safe for breastfeeding women?

For breastfeeding, this study concluded that “Far-infrared sauna use is safe and effective for increasing lactation in breastfeeding mothers.”

On the flipside, some practitioners recommend avoiding saunas entirely during breastfeeding due to concerns about toxins being excreted via breast milk. 

Recently I asked a practitioner who recommends avoiding saunas during pregnancy/breastfeeding if he would make the same recommendation for a mama who had been living a healthy lifestyle for awhile (eating clean, avoiding toxic household cleaners, etc.) as a mama who was just starting her wellness journey. 

His reply was that he’d be comfortable with the mama living a holistic lifestyle using a sauna, but felt it would be too intense for a mama who was just starting out and therefore had a higher toxic burden.

Please always talk to your healthcare practitioner when deciding what is right for you.

Is sauna bathing safe for pregnant women?

The short answer here is that unless you get the go-ahead from your doctor, I recommend against sauna bathing while pregnant. 

The elevation of a woman’s core temperature, especially during the first trimester, “may lead to birth defects or decreased oxygen and nutrition to the baby.” (2) 

The American College of Gynecologists says that women might “reasonably be advised to remain in saunas for no more than 15 minutes and in hot tubs for no more than 10 minutes” to avoid increasing one’s core temperature too high, but that advice doesn’t necessarily take into account the fact that some saunas get hotter than others. (2) Most doctors recommend against using them completely.

jacuzzi clearlight sauna

How To Get Special Pricing On The Sauna I Use

Here’s the sauna I use now. Find out why I chose it in this post along with how to get hundreds of dollars off your order, plus a free ergonomic backrest and aromatherapy cup.

Also, because a several of you have asked:

  • They do offer an option that allow you to spread payments over 12 months. There’s no interest, and you can pay it off early if you want with no penalty.
  • We got the Sanctuary 2. It’s perfect for two people and comes with a sound system and ergonomic bench that is super comfy.

Click here to get pricing

Got a question?

Leave it in the comments below!


  1. Ylikahri, R et. al. (1988) The Sauna And Alcohol
  2. CNN (2010) Is it OK to sauna, steam if I’m pregnant?

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding Mommypotamus.com in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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27 thoughts on “7 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Your Sauna Sessions”

  1. Thank you for all of the information! Until you posted, I had never heard of infrared sauna. Here in northern(ish) Canada we have a lot of saunas (wood and electric) – usually at the cottage/cabin – and normally one jumps in the lake or snow afterwards. Interestingly, the town I live in now (Thunder Bay, ON) has a large Finnish population so saunas are everywhere! There’s even a burger restaurant/sauna……! 🙂

    • Lol! My first sauna experience was actually in the Banff/Lake Louise area of Alberta – we jumped in an ice cold stream afterwards. We have a small, clear pond on our property that is spring-fed (aka cold) and I’ve thought about jumping in during the winter. It’s a bit of a hike, though, so the long, cold walk back has deterred me. 🙂

  2. Hi!
    I was curious about near vs far infrared sauna. I cannot do the far because of the intense heat, but I can do the near – which some people say is safer to do. I was curious what you thought about near vs far sauna.

    thank you!

  3. I’m curious if my breastfeeding wife is good to go for our new full spectrum infrared sauna, I’ve done lots of research which states it’s not ok for breastfeeding women to use sauna for the simple fact that it releases toxins into the breast milk. I’ve read the study on your page and was shocked I haven’t found that anywhere else in my searches. Does anyone have any experience with breast feeding while using an infrared sauna? Anyone have any info on safety or protocol for breastfeeding women and use of sauna? Any info would help!! She was so excited to start using the sauna

    • It’s so hard to find any info on this. I’m breastfeeding (very infrequently at this point – kiddo is almost 2), but I take binders like coconut charcoal and chlorella when I use the sauna to help soak up any toxins. I also try to space it out from a feeding session. I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing the sauna if I was still breastfeeding often, but everyone is different.

  4. I bought the mPulse sauna on Black Friday with the Chromotherapy and ART upgrades, thanks to your recommendation. I absolutely LOVE my sauna! However, I am very confused still about the colors and when to use them. You say to use the red at night and avoid blue to prevent disrupting your sleep cycle. From what I’ve read, red increases circulation and energizes, and blue calms and relaxes. When I use the “Relaxing program” and red lighting before bed, I’m wired and cannot sleep for several hours afterwards. Am I doing something wrong? Please help me understand.

    I also had a question about my hair. Should I be doing something to protect it from drying out while in my sauna?

    Thank you

    • Hi April, the mPulse is actually made by a different company than the one I purchased from so I can’t speak to specific settings, but I can touch on the light issue in general.

      Our circadian rhythms – which control when we feel alert and when we feel sleepy – are tied to light and darkness. Biologically, we’re hardwired to see blue light in the morning (think sunny, clear morning light) and reddish light in the evening (like firelight). When we see what our bodies interpret as daylight (blue light) in the evening it confuses our circadian rhythm and disrupts sleep.

      In esthetician settings, blue light is more often used to “calm” inflamed, acne-prone skin, while red light is used to encourage collagen production by inducing hormetic stress – a good kind of stress that encourages the body to generate new collagen, etc.

      I find that red light at night helps me achieve a calm focus followed by restful sleep, but some people fine that sauna therapy is very energizing. I’m not sure why this is, but if that’s the case for you it might be best to do sauna sessions earlier in the day when possible.

      I haven’t done anything in particular with my hair and have not noticed any negative effects 🙂

  5. We love our sauna. My husband made it after being inspired on our family trip to Sweden…. when we got back he ordered a bunch of logs and set to work with my sons! One thing we love to do ( and find very useful) is to wear a sauna hat… it stops the heady feeling but brings out a better sweat! I also love to munch on sauerkraut after a session!

  6. Any advice on timing workout with sauna? I am thinking to only have one shower, I would do them both and then shower. Busy gal, I want to be healthy but time is a factor.

  7. Intersted in a infared sauna for our home. We are doing a home reno and will be back in may.. can u send me pricing? And and sizes & anything else plz!

  8. Hi Heather! I see the Mpulse sauna mentioned in some previous comments here. I’m getting emails from reps from both Clearlight and Sunlighten, and I have to make a decision quickly to take advantage of the cyber week sales. At first I was leaning towards the Clearlight Sanctuary that you chose, but Sunlighten sent me some compelling claims, as well…if you happen to have time to help me compare them I’d be so very grateful!

  9. Your post should say that you are talking about an infrared sauna right at the beginning. I have a Finnish hot stone sauna and the use of that one is different. The temperatures are so different! Mine reaches up to 80°C. You should not stay longer than 15-20 min in there. After the sweat you shower cold. Some use even ice baths. It pushes your immune system.

  10. You once used a portable, tent looking sauna, I believe? Which one did you use and why did you stop using it? We’re looking into purchasing a sauna but financially, we can likely only afford the portable type, for now. Thank you in advance!

  11. We purchased a full spectrum infrared sauna and love it. However, neither of us can break a sweat! We have a cardiovascular program setting which hovers at around 130 degrees for 40 minutes, yet neither of us are sweating. Is that usual? What can we do to actually sweat out the toxins?

  12. This is a timely topic for me. I’ve been dreaming about a sauna for a few years and finally for Christmas, my hubby and son are building me (us) an outdoor, wood heated sauna. I am so excited! Thanks for the good ideas!

    • It depends on who you ask. Most research has been done with traditional saunas which tend to run hotter than infrared saunas, but proponents of infrared heat say it penetrates and heats the body’s core more efficiently.

  13. Hi,
    My sauna takes quite a while (often an hour) to really heat up since it is in our cool temp basement. With time as a factor what is the best temperature to start my sauna session and for how long do you recommend I spend in there. I’m looking for the least amount of time to gain the benefits. Thank you!

  14. What is the name of the portable sauna in your “silly picture “😊? And what wavelength should I look for? We would like to implement sauna time but need to start small and in budget.😊 Thank you for all your work. I have followed you for years and have shared your information with many. Blessings, Misty Potter

  15. Do you have any knowledge on how the infa red sauna is for rosacea? To be safe I am placing a cool pack on my face but wondering if this is good enough so I don’t trigger with heat. Or is there an optimal temperature and time if have rosacea?

    Appreciate your advice that we don’t have to have special electrolyte mixes.