How Saunas Can Improve Memory and Reduce Alzheimer's & Dementia Risks

How Saunas Can Improve Memory and Reduce Alzheimer's & Dementia Risks

Did you know that taking regular sauna sessions can do more than just relax your muscles? Recent studies have shown that saunas can also improve memory and may even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. The heat from the sauna increases blood flow to the brain, promoting the growth of new neurons, while the stress-reducing effects can help actually prevent cognitive decline.

This article will explore the fascinating connection between saunas and cognitive function, providing you with everything you need to know, from brain fog to dementia. If you're looking for a natural and enjoyable way to boost your brain health, keep reading to discover the brain health benefits of adding regular sauna sessions into your routine.

The Science of How Saunas Affect the Brain

Saunas have long been enjoyed for relaxation. However, their impact on brain health goes far beyond simple stress relief. Recent science has uncovered just how saunas affect the brain through heat exposure, neurochemical release, and physiological responses. Below are more details and scientific evidence about the science behind a sauna session.

1. Activates Heat Shock Proteins

Heat shock proteins (HSPs) play a crucial role in cellular repair and protection against stressors. The heat stress encountered in saunas will trigger the production of HSPs, contributing to cellular resilience and mitigating neurodegenerative processes. Current experimental and clinical studies with HSPs have shown a promising new opportunity for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (and possibly even cancer).

2. Increases Blood Flow to the Brain

One of the primary ways saunas influence cognitive health is by increasing blood flow to the brain. As the body responds to the increased temperatures within a sauna, blood vessels dilate to dissipate heat. This enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cerebral regions.

3. Releases Neurochemicals, Such as Endorphins

The heat-induced environment of a sauna prompts the body to release a variety of neurochemicals — most notably endorphins. Endorphins, often referred to as the body's natural painkillers, alleviate stress and induce a sense of well-being. This neurochemical release contributes to sauna sessions providing both mental and emotional rejuvenation.

sweat more, stress less

Brain Health Benefits of Saunas

There are several brain health benefits of regular sauna use. Many of these are now backed up with studies, research, and data showing sauna’s positive impact on cognitive function and the aging brain. First, it’s important to note that cognitive decline is a natural part of the aging process and that not everyone experiences it to the same degree. Though it is a normal part of aging, the rate and extent of decline can widely vary among individuals. 

It's also crucial to differentiate between normal age-related cognitive decline and pathological conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. These conditions involve more significant and progressive deterioration of cognitive function, impacting daily life and independence. But still, sauna use is proving to be another way to reduce the risk of these diseases and improve overall brain health. 

Clearing Up Brain Fog Through Sauna Use

If you feel a sense of confusion, forgetfulness, or a lack of mental clarity, you might be suffering from brain fog. Individuals experiencing this also describe feeling fatigued, unfocused, and just generally slowed down. While not an official medical diagnosis, it’s often associated with stress, lack of sleep, deficiencies in nutrition, or underlying health conditions.

One of the most commonly suggested ways to clear up brain fog is through detoxification. With this method, you rid the body of potentially harmful substances, providing support for overall health. Sweating in a sauna is an effective way to detox the body naturally and flush out toxins. In fact, a study published in 2012 showed that regular sauna sessions could lead to a significant reduction in the levels of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, in the body. 

Improving Memory Function with Saunas

Memory loss refers to the inability to recall information or experiences, and it can occur at various stages in life. It is often a normal part of aging, with mild forgetfulness and brain fog being common. Yet, you can still improve your memory function through a brain-healthy lifestyle.

Memory function is influenced by brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs), proteins that support the growth, development, and maintenance of brain cells. Engaging in activities that promote the release of BDNFs, such as aerobic exercise, a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and sufficient sleep, can enhance memory and cognitive function. To maximize the growth of new cells, researchers have found sauna use post-workout helped to increase the expression of BDNF in the brains of subjects beyond exercise alone.

Long-term Sauna Use Could Protect Against Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of cognitive disorders characterized by memory loss, impaired reasoning, and reduced daily functioning. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, but other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Common risk factors include advanced age, family history, and genetic predisposition. 

While age is a significant factor, lifestyle modifications (including regular exercise and a balanced diet) can mitigate risks. Early detection and management of risk factors play a crucial role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. One study has found that regular sauna use could be a significant method to reduce the risk of dementia. 

Furthermore, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland followed more than 2,300 middle-aged men for twenty years as part of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Study. One of the biggest findings in the study was that “Men who reported taking a sauna 4-7 times per week were 66% less likely to receive a diagnosis of dementia than those who only sauna once a week.”

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Using Saunas to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects memory, cognitive function, and daily activities. It is the most common cause of dementia, primarily affecting older adults. The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors, such as the APOE gene, and certain lifestyle elements, such as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle. 

The same Finnish study mentioned earlier also found that participants who frequently bathed in the sauna were associated with lowered risks of Alzheimer's disease. While age is the most significant risk factor, addressing modifiable factors like maintaining cardiovascular health, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet may also help mitigate the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Precautions Before Using Saunas

Before sweating it out in the sauna, it’s important to take note of some precautions and safety guidelines to get the most out of your session. By following these tips, you can enjoy the healing benefits while also prioritizing safety and well-being:

  • Individuals with pre-existing health conditions should consult with their healthcare professional before starting a sauna routine.
  • For those new to sauna use, start with shorter sessions and lower temperatures, gradually increasing as you become better accustomed.
  • Stay hydrated and make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after sauna sessions to replenish fluids lost through sweating.
  • Pay attention to your body — if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or uncomfortable, exit the sauna immediately.

Enjoy the Brain Benefits of Sauna At-Home with Plunge

Sauna sessions can have a massive impact on brain and cognitive health by increasing blood flow, releasing mood-enhancing neurochemicals, and activating heat shock proteins. As studies are proving more and more, these responses can collectively contribute to improved brain function and reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Regular sauna use comes with a host of benefits beyond the brain, but saunas found at the gym are often cramped, dirty, and loud. Thankfully, Plunge Saunas allow you to access the health benefits of saunas from the convenience of your own home.

Our saunas allow you to reach your perfect level of heat — up to a max of 230°F — all conveniently adjustable via a mobile app. Easy to assemble, available in two sizes, and made with premium materials (high-quality incense cedar and warp-resistant hemlock), our durable saunas can be placed both indoors and outdoors, allowing you to choose exactly where you relax. With financing options available, your at-home sauna experience doesn’t have to break the bank, either!

Discover the ultimate in-home sauna luxury. Explore the Plunge Sauna today.

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions or before embarking on any new health or wellness routine, including saunas and cold plunging. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any cold plunging routine or other health or wellness program.