If you have ever thought of having a home sauna spa, a remodeling project provides the perfect opportunity for installing one.
|1: The sauna and remodeling|
|2: The benefits of saunas and steam showers|
|3: Sauna enhancements: aromatherapy and salt therapy|
|4: Saunas and safety|
|5: Saunas and seniors|
A full-on remodeling project is a perfect opportunity to add a sauna. This is to add personal luxury and the documented health benefits of a sauna. The trend towards the bathroom as a spa and personal oasis is strengthening. So it makes sense to use the remodeling project as a reason to include a sauna. It is both a lifestyle and real estate enhancement.
Here we take a look at the benefits of saunas for everyone. But in line with the philosophy of this site, we emphasize the context of remodeling for aging in place.
The Sauna & Remodeling
Sauna is the only Finnish word adopted by the English language. Saunas are sweat baths, originally using dry heat. They have been used in Finland for more than 2,000 years for their cleansing, relaxing and therapeutic value. Other cultures have used heat in various ways for the same reasons. These include hot water immersion (hot tub), infrared sauna, Waon therapy, and Turkish bath. The Mayans and Aztecs used sweat houses too.
Are saunas suited for remodeling?
There is a practical context to a remodeling project. This means we take a sauna to be an electric sauna, an infrared sauna, or a steam shower. We are discussing an indoor rather than an outdoor application.
The differences between saunas and steam showers are in how they deal with moisture. A sauna in a home setting is typically a wood-lined room with an electric heater or infrared lamps. A steam shower is either an existing shower with a steam capability added or a standalone unit.
The electric heater sauna is versatile. It can produce dry heat. Or, if you sprinkle water on its electrically heated rocks, it will produce bursts of wet heat in the form of steam.
The air within the electric sauna is heated to between 150 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit with 10 to 20% humidity. The low humidity and wooden interior of the sauna prevent skin discomfort at these temperatures.
A sauna with infrared lamps will only produce dry heat. It does not have an added steam capability.
The temperature in the infrared sauna is generally between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much cooler than in the electric heater sauna. This is because the infrared (IR) effect is to heat the body itself, not its surroundings. This causes sweating but at a much lower ambient temperature.
A steam shower is sometimes called a Turkish sauna. It uses a steam generator to produce steam. This is at a high level of humidity compared to the electric heater Finnish-type sauna. The electric heater sauna produces steam when water is poured over hot rocks.
The steam shower looks pretty much like a regular shower but is sealed to keep the steam inside. The steam generator produces steam. This maintains the temperature in the shower at around 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit with about 110% humidity.
A big advantage of the steam shower is that it does not require additional floor space beyond the shower itself. All you need to add is a steam generator, which can be installed in a nearby cabinet. So you get a twofer – shower plus steam room.
The Benefits of Saunas and Steam Showers
The benefits of using a sauna or steam shower include:
- Increasing perspiration and the release of toxins from the body
- Improving sleep
- Muscle and joint pain relief
- Helping relaxation and reducing stress and tension
- Increasing deep tissue blood circulation
- Physical cleansing
- Boosting the immune system
- Helping lymphatic circulation
- A steam shower can have the added benefit of clearing sinus passages and helping with allergies
Saunas for Whatever Ails You
Our own take is this. Both types of sauna and steam showers make you feel good. And that is enough of a benefit for us to justify the investment. So on this site, we offer all of them with no special recommendation for one over the others. It is totally a matter of personal preference. In our experience, this comes down to how one wants the heat delivered and in what ambiance.
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Sauna Enhancements: Aromatherapy & Salt Therapy
Aromatherapy and salt therapy are perfect enhancements to the sauna experience.
The steam of a sauna spa provides the perfect opportunity to add aromatherapy to your enjoyment. Aromatherapy has been enjoyed by people since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Greek cultures all enjoyed the benefits of essential oils.
Aromatherapy in saunas uses many types of essential oils. These include birch, cinnamon, citrus, eucalyptus, frankincense, peppermint, pine, rose, jasmine, and lavender.
What are the health benefits of aromatherapy?
There are legitimate mainstream writings supporting the health benefits of aromatherapy. See this piece on the Mayo Clinic site.
Research is limited but there are indications from some studies that health benefits might include:
- Relief from depression and anxiety
- Improved quality of life for people with chronic health conditions
- Improved sleep
Studies of aromatherapy with lavender oil suggest it helps with:
- Reduced pain from osteoarthritis of the knee
- Improved quality of life for dementia patients
- The reduction of pain from kidney stones
Aromatherapy works by stimulating smell receptors in the nose. These send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions.
Is aromatherapy safe?
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the essential oils used in aromatherapy. However, they mostly seem to be safe as directed. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Salt therapy is also known as halotherapy. “Halo” is Greek for salt. It is simply breathing in salty air. A sauna is a perfect place to enjoy it because it is a convenient, enclosed space.
It is true that medical science is pretty quiet on the health benefits of salt therapy. However, salt is certainly known to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. And there is anecdotal evidence of its benefits in, for example, people with respiratory problems.
Salt contains negatively charged ions and the theory is that this can induce positive, stress-free feelings of invigoration. A halotherapy generator delivers salt into the air in microparticles.
Saunas & Safety
Are saunas and steam showers safe? The basic answer is: “Yes, but be sensible about it.” There are safety precautions everyone should take when using a sauna:
- Don’t stay in the sauna or steam shower longer than 15 to 20 minutes
- Leave immediately if you feel dizzy or nauseous
- Avoid alcohol before, during, and immediately after your sauna
- Cool down gradually after your sauna (the cold plunge advocated by many produces circulatory stress)
- Drink three or four glasses of cold water after your sauna
- Pregnant women and children should not use it
- It has been associated with infertility in men
Saunas & Seniors
Clearly, saunas are good for people in general but what about seniors in particular?
- Related post: How to Remodel for Aging in Place
Aging in place is an underlying theme of this site. So we decided to dig deeper into the subject of saunas as benefiting seniors as a group. This is what we found:
Relief of rheumatoid arthritis
Seniors are particularly prone to and disproportionately affected by RA and other joint pain. So, from that viewpoint alone, a sauna can benefit seniors more than any other group. There seem to be indications that FIR (Far Infra Red) therapy is particularly beneficial. This is delivered by an FIR (Far Infra Red) sauna. See this piece published by the National Institutes of Health.
Reduced Risk of Stroke
Frequent sauna baths seem to reduce the risk of new-onset stroke in middle-aged and elderly men and women. This is according to findings published in the Neurology medical journal. The research did not show direct cause and effect between taking saunas and the prevention of stroke but the research indicates a strong associative link.
Reduced Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s
According to research at the University of Eastern Finland, frequent sauna use throughout the week is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The findings were published in the journal Age and Ageing. See also this piece in the Oxford Academic, December 2016.
See also this Mayo Clinic report. See also, the Finnish study of a population of older men discussed by the Mayo Clinic here.
Saunas a Substitute for Workouts?
OK, “substitute” is too strong a word for it. But taking a sauna does increase the heart rate, which is what aerobic exercise does. There is a known connection between moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and improved mood, lower anxiety reduced risk of depression, and improved cognition,
So a sauna is at least a complement to your regular exercise and, perhaps, may let you ease back on it, if your aches and pains get in the way.
The Sauna in a Remodeling Project
The right way to install a sauna will vary from one type of sauna to another and from one manufacturer to another. It will also vary from room to room, depending on where you want it and where it is feasible to put it. Considerations of available space and the availability of any necessary plumbing and electrical all come into play.
However, what is certain is that the occasion of a remodel is the perfect time to install a sauna or steam shower because space is being re-planned and all relevant trades are on site.
- Related components: Saunas and Remodeling
- Related components: Steam Showers and Remodeling