The world of wellness is vast and varied, with countless practices and products promising to improve our health and wellbeing. One practice that has been gaining attention recently is the use of saunas, particularly as advocated by renowned neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. But what exactly is the science behind this, and how can we incorporate it into our own routines? Let's dive in.
Before we delve into the sauna, let's first get to know the man behind the science.
Andrew Huberman is a distinguished neuroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has made significant contributions to the fields of brain development, brain plasticity, and neural regeneration and repair.
Huberman's work primarily focuses on the brain's ability to change and adapt, a concept known as neuroplasticity. His research has provided valuable insights into how we can harness our brain's plasticity to improve our cognitive and physical performance, manage stress, and enhance our overall wellbeing.
Now, let's turn our attention to the sauna, a centuries-old practice that has been a staple in many cultures around the world.
A sauna is a small room or building designed to induce sweating and increase heart rate through the use of heat. This can be achieved through various means, such as wood-burning stoves, electric heaters, or infrared lamps.
Regular sauna use has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced immune function, and reduced stress and anxiety. Some studies even suggest that it can increase longevity.
As a neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman looks at saunas through a unique lens, focusing on their impact on our brain and nervous system.
Huberman is a regular sauna user himself, incorporating it into his daily routine. He typically spends 20-30 minutes in the sauna, followed by a cold plunge to stimulate his nervous system and promote recovery.
According to Huberman, the heat stress from sauna use triggers a series of physiological responses that can enhance brain function, improve mood, and even promote neuroplasticity. This includes the release of heat shock proteins, endorphins, and norepinephrine, all of which have beneficial effects on our brain and body.
Inspired to give saunas a try? Here's how you can get started.
The first step is to find a sauna that suits your needs and preferences. This could be a traditional Finnish sauna warmed by a wood-fire, an infrared sauna powered by new technology, or even a convenient portable sauna for home use. Ideally the temperature of the sauna would fall between 80°C-100°C, however it's crucial to listen to your body. If these temperatures are overwhelming then don't be afraid to alter temperatures and determine what temperature is most comfortable and effective for you.
Start slow and gradually increase your sauna time as your body adapts to the heat. While it is recommended that you start by staying in the sauna for 5-20 minutes, don't feel pressured to meet this target straight away. Remember to stay hydrated and listen to your body. It's not a competition, but a practice of self-care.
Expect to sweat an awful lot in a sauna session, which means you will lose not only a significant amount of water, but also a number of important electrolytes. This is why it's extremely important to be well hydrated before heading into the sauna, as well as replenishing the water deficit afterwards. Dr. Huberman recommendations are to drink at least 16oz (around 500ml) of water for every 10 minutes spent inside the sauna.
Despite their benefits, saunas are often misunderstood. Let's clear up some common misconceptions.
One common myth is that saunas are dangerous for people with heart conditions. While it's always important to consult with a doctor before starting any new health practice, research has shown that saunas can actually improve cardiovascular health.
The key is understanding the body's response to heat stress and ensuring that you're using the sauna safely and effectively. Remember, it's about wellness, not endurance.
Andrew Huberman's insights into the neuroscience of saunas provide a fascinating perspective on this ancient practice. Whether you're a seasoned sauna-goer or a curious newcomer, there's much to gain from incorporating this practice into your wellness routine.
Andrew Huberman typically spends 20-30 minutes in the sauna, followed by a cold plunge.
Saunas have been linked to improved cardiovascular health, enhanced immune function, reduced stress and anxiety, and increased longevity.
While it's always important to consult with a doctor, research has shown that saunas can improve cardiovascular health.
Start slow, stay hydrated, and gradually increase your sauna time as your body adapts to the heat.
According to Huberman, saunas trigger a series of physiological responses that can enhance brain function, improve mood, and promote neuroplasticity.