Cognitive and Mental Health Benefits of Saunas
While the efforts of exercise are generally rewarded with physical changes, most active adults will also sing the praises of intense activity on their mental well-being. Whether it is a boost in their mood or time to think, exercise gives their brain a chance to recharge and reboot for the day.
As we’ve said before, sauna bathing (or hyperthermia) produces similar responses from our bodies as low to moderate intensity exercise. So alongside activity, sauna use also boasts the ability to initiate a physiological response to increase and promote cognitive health.
A protein found in our brains called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) is responsible for promoting the creation of new neurons. Heat stress increases the expression of these proteins both in the brain and in muscle tissue, aiding in muscle recovery. BNDF can also be considered an anti-depressant as it reduces anxiety and depression.
The ability of sauna bathing to improve cardiac function is among one of its greatest benefits; however, commonly cognitive decline is associated with many cardiac diseases. For example, hypertension can alter blood flow to the brain and increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A study in Finland found that men who used the sauna four to seven times a week decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s by 65% in comparison with those who used a sauna only once a week.
Studies have also shown that sauna bathing promotes the release of the hormone norepinephrine which is commonly associated with focus and attention span. Some have said that saunas could be a natural therapy for ADHD. Additionally, the hormone prolactin is released which stimulates nerve repair and speeds up brain function.
Conclusively, it has been proven that regular sauna use is beneficial to your cognitive health. Even if it is as mild as an improved mood, your mental state of being can be elevated by sauna use.