Australian race car driver Daniel Ricciardo has attributed sauna use to a positive change in his mood after a power issue cost him four places in the Styrian Grand Prix. “I think I am very passionate and therefore I do get very emotional so Sunday I was … can I say pissed,” he said. He ended up going out for a morning sauna the next day and he attributes his change in outlook to the sauna use.
“Ultimately I woke up Monday morning, I sweated all the whatever you want to call it – anger and toxins – out of my body.” He continued; “I was in the sauna for a while and then I felt pretty good and then it was all eyes ahead for this weekend.”
While many people believe that saunas are useful to flush toxins from our bodies science has shown that the true benefits of the sauna come from other sources. In terms of relieving bad moods and depression and anxiety there has been a good deal of research to back up sauna benefits.
Thyroid function– Studies have demonstrated that sauna use helps thyroid functions which is a key factor in managing anxiety.
Sleep– Getting a deep and prolonged sleep is essential to our mental health. Sauna has been shown to improve our sleep in published studies.
Myelin production– In times of high stress our myelin sheath can become damaged leaving us even more vulnerable to feeling easily stressed out. Sauna use produces prolactin which can be converted by our bodies into myelin.
Brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF)– BDNF modulates neuronal plasticity as well as anxiety levels resulting from events in our long term memory. Heat stress from sauna has been shown to increase the expression of BDNF, especially in conjunction with exercise (which also increases BDNF).
Beta Endorphins– These are the feel good chemicals we get from running, sauna use produced more than standard running alone. Beta-endorphins interact with dynorphin produced through sauna or exercise. It has been proven that dry sauna use produces more beta endorphins than exercise alone. Beta Endorphins help us feel happy, increase our feelings of well being, and make us less anxious.
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