Sauna and Alcohol – Contraindications and Risks


The sauna – a place often associated with relaxation and unwinding, often becomes a place where alcohol is consumed. However, is such a combination safe? What could be the consequences of this behavior for our health?

Considerations on these topics, as well as answers to these questions, require an understanding of scientific facts, debunking myths, and a careful look at alcohol and the sauna as separate elements. The aim is to raise awareness and educate readers about the effects of alcohol on the body during sauna use.

Myths about Alcohol in the Sauna

Among sauna enthusiasts, alcohol consumption is often considered an integral part of the experience. Some of these beliefs stem from long-standing traditions that associate the sauna with certain alcohol consumption rituals.

On the one hand, there is a common belief that alcohol intensifies the sensations associated with the sauna, enhances relaxation, and helps enjoy the warmth. Some believe that alcohol can even accelerate the body’s detoxification process through increased sweating.

On the other hand, there is often the belief that alcohol can serve as a “warming up” agent before using the sauna or a “cooling down” agent after its use. It is commonly thought that these actions can enhance the benefits of the sauna or assist in faster thermal balance recovery.

In addition, some cultures claim that moderate consumption of alcohol, especially beer or wine, can aid in hydrating the body while using the sauna.

But do these beliefs have a solid scientific basis? Is consuming alcohol in the sauna truly safe, or is it just a myth perpetuated by traditions and a lack of full knowledge about the potential consequences of such a combination?

The reality may prove to be more complex, and what is taken for a fact may turn out to be not entirely true. Science has much to say about alcohol consumption in the sauna, which will be discussed in detail in the following sections.

Why can alcohol and sauna be dangerous?

  1. Impact on the circulatory system: The sauna leads to a significant dilation of the blood vessels, which increases blood flow. Alcohol also dilates the blood vessels, and its consumption additionally accelerates the heartbeat. As a result, the simultaneous action of the sauna and alcohol can lead to overloading of the circulatory system.
  2. Dehydration: The sauna, through sweating, leads to the loss of body fluids, which can result in dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urine output and accelerates fluid loss, further increasing the risk of dehydration.
  3. Internal organs: Alcohol burdens the liver and kidneys, which must metabolize it and remove it from the body. The additional heat stress from the sauna can accelerate these processes and lead to overloading of these organs.
  4. Thermal balance disorders: The sauna causes an increase in body temperature, similar to alcohol. Simultaneous consumption of alcohol and use of the sauna can lead to hyperthermia, a state in which the body temperature is dangerously high.
  5. Perception disorders: Alcohol affects the central nervous system, disrupting perception and coordination. Combined with the high temperature in the sauna, this can increase the risk of falls and injuries.

These are just some of the potential hazards that the combination of alcohol and sauna can bring. Safety should always be the top priority, so it is worth understanding these risks well.

Sauna After Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol directly before using a sauna can be harmful to health, so it should always be avoided. If you’ve had alcohol, it is recommended to wait until your body fully metabolizes it before going to the sauna. In practice, we usually talk about approximately 1 hour for each standard drink (12 g of pure alcohol) that has been consumed. For instance, if you’ve had 3 beers, it’s advisable to wait at least 3 hours before entering the sauna. However, all of this is very individual and depends on many factors such as body weight, gender, health status, and alcohol tolerance. However, the safest course is to avoid alcohol before the sauna.

Alcohol or Beer After Sauna

After a sauna session, the body is dehydrated, and you should first focus on replenishing fluids before deciding to consume alcohol. Strong alcoholic beverages, such as whisky or vodka, can contribute to further dehydration of the body, which is certainly not recommended after an intense sauna session. However, if you decide to have a drink, it’s safest to wait at least a few hours after the sauna session until your body fully recovers. On the other hand, lighter alcoholic beverages, like beer, can be consumed in moderation after exiting the sauna. Beer is often consumed in Nordic countries as part of the traditional sauna routine. However, this is only possible after properly hydrating the body with clean water and waiting a certain amount of time after leaving the sauna. Before consuming beer, it’s recommended to wait at least 1-2 hours, and after each alcoholic drink, you should replenish fluids by drinking an equivalent amount of water.

Please remember that each body reacts differently, and alcohol tolerance is individual. It’s always safer to consult a doctor or another health specialist if you have any doubts. The principle of moderation always applies, both in using the sauna and in consuming alcohol.

Safe Use of the Sauna

To use the sauna safely and reap all its benefits, it’s worth adhering to a few basic rules.

  1. Avoid Alcohol: As mentioned earlier, consuming alcohol before or during the sauna can increase the risk of dehydration and overloading the circulatory system. It’s safest to avoid alcohol during sauna sessions.
  2. Hydrate: The sauna can lead to a significant loss of fluids through sweating. Always remember to drink water before, during, and after a sauna session to prevent dehydration.
  3. Rest: Don’t forget to rest between sauna sessions. This allows your body to regulate its temperature and restore balance.
  4. Listen to Your Body: If you experience any uncomfortable symptoms, such as dizziness, feelings of weakness, or chest pain, immediately leave the sauna. Your health and safety are paramount.
  5. Alternatives to Alcohol: If you’re looking for alternatives to alcohol, consider consuming non-alcoholic beverages that can contribute to hydration. This could be water with a splash of lemon, herbal teas, or fruit juices.

Adhering to these rules will enable safe and beneficial use of the sauna. Remember, the sauna is not only a place of relaxation but also an important aspect of health care.

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Since 2011 I have had my own business selling sauna building materials, sauna cookers and sauna accessories. I know all about building a quality sauna!