Health: true or false?

Will a sauna cure your hangover? No, it could make you really ill – what you need is rest and hydration

Sweating it out in the sauna is positively dangerous after a big night out, but a regular steam bath while sober could head off heart problems and reduce the risk of dementia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 11:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 5:10pm

Question: Can a sauna cure my hangover from a big night out?

The straight answer: no

The facts: Some people swear by the sauna for detoxing through a good sweating session after a big night of drinking. But experts warn sauna bathing during a hangover could pose real health risks.

Sauna bathing while intoxicated may affect the body’s ability to maintain blood pressure.

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In particular, the risk of an orthostatic hypotensive reaction – or in layman’s terms a head rush, whereby a person’s blood pressure falls when suddenly standing up from a lying or sitting position – is increased and associated with fainting and accidents. Further, during a hangover a person’s risk of cardiac arrhythmia – or irregular heartbeat – is raised, and the sauna may further increase this risk.

With alcohol being dehydrating, the last thing you need is to lose even more water through sweating. Drinking lots of water and keeping cool will do more favours for your hangover than a sauna.

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When you’re finally sober, however, a sauna could do wonders for your brain. According to a new study by the University of Eastern Finland, frequent sauna bathing can reduce the risk of dementia.

Tracking more than 2,000 middle-aged men living in the eastern part of Finland for 20 years, researchers found that men using a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 65 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than those taking a sauna once a week. The findings were published in the Age and Ageing journal.

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Previous results from the 20-year study have shown that frequent sauna bathing also significantly reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality.

According to Professor Jari Laukkanen, the study leader, sauna bathing may protect both the heart and memory to some extent via similar, still poorly known mechanisms.

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“However, it is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well. The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role.”

Just not after a big night out.