Why Do I Have a Sauna Headache? Causes, Prevention & Relief

There’s nothing I look forward to more than a good sauna session after a long, hectic day.  It quite literally helps melt the stress way. But what happens if all of a sudden… WHAM! My little escape from reality was interrupted by an ear-splitting headache.

I have experienced this firsthand and can confirm, it’s the worst. THE WORST.

So in this article, we’ll identify the causes, prevention, and management of sauna headaches, ensuring your next sauna experience is nothing short of therapeutic.

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Why does sauna give me a headache?

A sauna headache can occur due to several physiological factors at play when you expose your body to the sauna’s intense heat.

We’ll dive into the causes in a minute, but often dehydration, overexposure to heat, pre-existing conditions or even your blood sugar levels could be potential culprits behind your discomfort.

Understanding the physiology

Your body is a finely tuned machine that works tirelessly to maintain a delicate balance of its internal environment. When you’re in a sauna, this balance is challenged. The heat from the sauna can cause blood vessels in your head and neck to expand, a condition known as vasodilation.

This expansion can lead to a headache. Moreover, the sauna environment can also lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes, exacerbating the headache.

6 common causes of sauna headaches

As we mentioned above, there are many contributing factors to why you may be experiencing a headache after your session.

Sauna headaches can be attributed to various factors:

  1. Dehydration: Saunas, by their nature, induce sweating, which leads to loss of fluids & electrolytes.
  2. Electrolyte imbalance: When we sweat, it removes salt and other minerals from our bodies. Without adequate replenishment of these minerals, it can cause an imbalance.
  3. Overexposure to heat: Staying too long in the sauna can cause heat stress, triggering headaches due to increased production of antidiuretic hormone, leading to higher blood pressure.
  4. Pre-existing conditions: Certain underlying health conditions like migraines, high blood pressure, or heart diseases can be triggered by the sauna’s heat, which can cause your head to hurt.
  5. Hypoglycemia: Sauna use can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, especially if you haven’t eaten before your session. This can lead to dizziness and lethargy.
  6. Sauna type: Traditional dry saunas heat the air and require higher temperatures than infrared models. This extreme heat could be the culprit of that pesky head pain.
A middle age man and woman with towels around necks enjoying a sauna with wood panelling

6 tips for prevention

Fortunately, sauna headaches can often be prevented with a few simple strategies:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your sauna session.
  2. Replenish electrolytes: Consider rehydrating with an electrolyte-rich drink to replenish lost minerals. Magnesium citrate and iron supplements can also be helpful.
  3. Monitor sauna time: Limit your sessions to 15-30 minutes and avoid consecutive sessions without sufficient rest in between.
  4. Eat beforehand: Have a light snack an hour before your session to maintain your blood sugar levels.
  5. Choose suitable clothing: Wear loose, breathable clothing or wrap yourself in a cotton towel.
  6. Rest after exercise: If you’re hitting the sauna post-workout, ensure you cool down and rest for at least 10 minutes beforehand to avoid further vasodilation.

How do I find relief from the headache I have now?

You may be thinking to yourself “these tips on the causes and prevention of sauna headaches are great and all but I’m in pain now! I need some relief.”

Fair point.

Here are 5 tips to help relieve that annoying pain you’re experiencing now:

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: If you’ve developed a headache after a sauna session, it’s vital to hydrate immediately. Drink water or a rehydration solution with electrolytes to replenish what you lost through sweating.
  2. Cool down: If you’re feeling overheated, gradually cool down by sitting in a cooler area, wrapping your head in a cold towel or taking a cool shower. This can help normalize your body temperature and alleviate the headache.
  3. Rest: Try to relax in a quiet, dark room and get some rest. This can help your body recover from the stress of the high temperature.
  4. Essential oil roller: A natural way to reduce your pain is to use an essential oil roller (we recommend a blend of peppermint and eucalyptus). Use the roller on your temples and across the base of your neck for best results.
  5. Over-the-Counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen may help as a last resort. We generally recommend against this method due to the adverse effects on your gut microbiome but they can be used if needed.
Woman using essential oil roller after sauna headache

When to seek medical attention

Remember, these tips are for relief from occasional, mild sauna-induced headaches. If you’re experiencing severe or frequent headaches after using a sauna, it’s imperative that you consult with a healthcare provider because something ain’t right.

Life pro tip: Sauna is meant to enhance your health, not detract from it.

Conclusion & wrap up

In conclusion, while sauna-induced headaches can be discomforting, with the right precautions and awareness, you can enjoy your sauna sessions without the fear of a looming headache.

As with all health and wellness practices, moderation and proper self-care are key to reaping the benefits while minimizing the risks.

Please note that while I strive to provide accurate and current information, this article should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new wellness routine.

A message from Sauna Squad

We hope we’ve provided some value in your research. But if you have any questions or concerns, hit us up on Instagram @thesaunasquad or feel free to fire us a message on our contact page.

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