Sauna vs. Steam Room Benefits

Comparing sauna vs. steam room benefits for your well-being. Next Health guides you toward the best choice to achieving optimum relaxation. Read more.

Sauna vs. Steam Room Benefits
Next Health Staff
February 13, 2024

Medically reviewed by Next Health Clinical Director, Jessica Brewer

Sometimes there’s nothing better than soaking up a little sun – basking in its warm rays can do wonders for our physical and mental health. But when it’s cloudy out or simply too cold to go sunbathing, you have two different options: saunas and steam rooms.

While both saunas and steam rooms warm your body and can be enjoyed as solo or social experiences, they have several distinct differences and benefits. Let’s examine the benefits you can expect from saunas vs. steam rooms in

What’s a Sauna?

Saunas are traditional heating rooms (and they are dry rooms vs. steam rooms being wet). Saunas go back hundreds of years and have been used in countless cultures and nations to relieve pain or irritation, relax, and socialize.

Most saunas reach temperatures of between 180° and 200°F. Occupants can spend about 20 minutes in a traditional dry sauna, although the entire length of time you can enjoy a sauna session is dependent on the sauna type.

Types of Saunas

There are a few different types of saunas. The most basic type, called a "dry sauna,” uses a stove or wood fire to heat rocks. The rocks give off ambient heat, creating a low humidity and dry environment inside the sauna space.

Infrared saunas are modern inventions that use infrared light to warm occupants. Some of the smallest infrared saunas, like Next Health’s infrared sauna capsules, are designed to hold only one person at a time, leveraging directed infrared LED lights for maximum benefits.

Infrared light is beneficial because it penetrates the skin and muscles and warms deeper bodily tissues than traditional saunas. Traditional saunas require the ambient air to be warmed sufficiently before that heat can transfer to the tissues of their occupants.

In infrared saunas, a user’s body can heat relatively low air temperature, usually between 135° and 150°F. As a result, occupants can spend more time in infrared saunas without risking dehydration or other issues. Some infrared sauna sessions can last up to 45 minutes or more.

Benefits of Saunas

Saunas – both traditional and infrared – may provide their occupants with several major physiological benefits. These include:

  • Boosted circulation. As your body heats up within a sauna room or sauna capsule, its blood vessels dilate. In addition, your heart rate increases. These factors combined mean that your circulation overall improves.

    This may lead to ancillary benefits as nutrient-rich blood moves from the court organs to the extremities or vice versa. Circulating blood more frequently throughout the body is always a good thing.
  • Improved recovery for athletes or exercisers. Infrared saunas specifically may provide extra benefits for those who exercise frequently or intensely. That's because infrared saunas use infrared light, which can penetrate deep muscle tissues and may help to stimulate cellular recovery or muscular regeneration.

    Therefore, an infrared sauna could be just the ticket after an intense session at the gym when your body is sore all over.
  • Long relaxation sessions. Since infrared saunas are safer than steam rooms, you can soak in the heat they provide for longer compared to the 15 minute limit for steam rooms. The extra heat and soothing sensations can be very pleasing and calming for individuals.

    In this way, saunas may provide mental health benefits in conjunction with their physical boosts mentioned above. Saunas may be especially great for guided meditation or solo meditation.
  • Sweat detoxification. Due to their low humidity, Saunas may induce a detoxifying sweat that cleanses the pores and removes toxins in the body.

What’s a Steam Room?

Steam rooms also warm up their occupants, but they are different from saunas in that they use wet heat through steam instead of dry heat.

In a traditional steam room, a generator boils water, creating steam. This changes the steam room space into a hot, humid environment. Alternatively, some steam rooms involve pouring boiling water over heated stones, creating a steamy environment with a unique fragrance.

Regardless, most steam rooms achieve an ambient air temperature between 100° and 115° Fahrenheit.

However, because these rooms are filled with steam, they have close to 100% humidity levels. Thus, the human body can't cool itself off using sweat, so occupants should only spend about 15 minutes in a steam room on average.

Benefits of Steam Rooms

While providing many of the same relaxation and comfort-related benefits as saunas, Steam rooms do different things to those who soak in them for 15 minutes or so. These benefits include:

  • Congestion alleviation. If you have a stuffy nose, a steam room is more likely to alleviate this condition or its symptoms than a sauna (which may actually exacerbate the symptoms). As you inhale steam, your upper respiratory tract is lubricated, and your sinuses are vasodilated.

    In a nutshell, this just means that your nasal passages are cleared, and you may experience congestion relief. This is doubly true since some steam rooms add eucalyptus oil or other essential oils to their steam for an improved, comforting experience.
  • Steam rooms also promote both mental and muscular relaxation. The heat, naturally, helps to relax your muscles and widen your blood vessels. Combined with the essential oils used by many steam rooms, some occupants find steam rooms to be relaxing experiences they look forward to every week.

  • Boosted circulation. The moist heat provided by steam rooms may also help to increase circulation throughout the body. As noted in the benefits for infrared saunas, this could provide ancillary benefits by spreading nutrient-rich blood to the vital organs or to the extremities.

Which Is Better – A Sauna Session or Soak in a Steam Room?

Both saunas and steam rooms may offer physiological benefits to their occupants. However, saunas are usually preferred by most individuals due to their distinct advantages and the fact that you can enjoy a sauna session for longer than you can enjoy a soak in a steam room.

That said, there’s no true “better” heating room experience. It all depends on your preferences and what benefits you want from your sauna or steam room session.

If you aren’t sure what you hope to gain from experiencing a sauna soak or spending some time in a steam room, it might be helpful to contact a spa or wellness specialist like Next Health’s staff members.

Which Should You Choose – a Sauna or Steam Room?


Of course, both of these warming rooms have different physiological benefits and promote different experiences.

For example, steam rooms are usually communal. Unless you rent out the entire steam room, odds are you’ll have to share the room with other people enjoying the same appointment time at a spa. You can also purchase a dedicated steam room to have in your home, although this can be quite expensive!

Infrared saunas can be either private or shared, depending on your spot location. Other facilities, like Next Health, offer private infrared sauna sessions. You may also find traditional saunas at gyms or other fitness facilities to serve as post-workout amenities for attendees.

Regardless, consider what you want to get out of the experience before choosing a sauna or steam room.

A sauna is best for:

  • Promoting longer-term relaxation
  • Soothing the body
  • Boosting blood flow
  • Alleviating long-term discomfort
  • Inducing a detoxifying sweat

Meanwhile, you might enjoy a steam room more if you want:

  • To clear up congestion in the sinuses
  • To sweat up a storm and cool off immediately after with a shower or pool
  • To warm the body intensely for a few minutes

How Next Health’s Infrared Sauna Capsules Help You Relax and Recover

If you’ve never tried infrared sauna therapy before and want to give it a shot, good news: Next Health offers a one-of-a-kind infrared sauna therapy at each of our luxurious, fully staffed locations.

Unlike a social sauna experience, Next Health offers infrared sauna therapy through dedicated, personal capsules. Using Next Health infrared light beds, you'll lie down in a private capsule while your body is saturated with over 13,000 infrared LEDs. These LEDs are positioned close to your skin to maximize their beneficial effects.

For example, our infrared beds’ LED lights can activate ATP within your bodily tissues, helping to stimulate white blood cell activity and increase collagen production in the skin. These infrared light beds are perfect choices for those who want a warm, soothing infrared sauna experience sealed off from the world.

Alternatively, you might be interested in a more traditional infrared sauna experience. Next Health’s infrared sauna therapy is ideal for promoting a detoxifying sweat. Like traditional saunas, this sweat will remove certain impurities or toxins from your skin and may help alleviate stress and improve energy.

This therapy is excellent given the sheer number of toxins we come into contact with every day or that we may ingest due to our diets.

These infrared sauna capsules leverage special infrared light technology and other implements like jade stones for powerful, noticeable health benefits. If you want to try both of these treatments simultaneously, we can accommodate you with an all-in-one appointment.


All in all, saunas and steam rooms alike are relaxing, regenerating places where you can meditate or warm your body for several physiological benefits. If you’ve never tried infrared saunas before, you should contact Next Health for more information about our infrared sauna appointments.

Each appointment is scheduled at a time that’s perfect for your busy lifestyle. Once you arrive, you’ll be guided through the infrared sauna appointment by one of our trained staff members. At Next Health, your comfort and wellness are our top priorities. Speak to a representative today and check out our locations to find a Next Health facility near you!

Interested in speaking to a knowledgeable wellness expert about our offerings?

Request a Complimentary Consult


Sauna Experience | The North American Sauna Society

Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review | NCBI

Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors | NCBI

Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review | NCBI

Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis | NCBI

The Medical Risks and Benefits of Sauna, Steam Bath, and Whirlpool Use | NCBI

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