Can You Drink Alcohol in Sauna?
For some people sauna associates with soothing scents, small candles, and all-embracing peace. They go to sauna to relax their body, to clean their mind and relieve from the stress they had gained during the week. However, another type of sauna visitors exists: for them, sauna is an inseparable part of a social gathering, let it be a simple party or an annual family meeting. No secret that together with the latest gossips, jokes and fooling around that happens inside and outside of a sauna, alcohol is another commodity there. Drinking and eating are considered natural – and essential – components of a party, however, it remains up to everyone‘s responsibility when and how to consume alcohol when going to sauna. Many people believe so but can you actually drink alcohol in sauna?
A number of researches and scientific works have proved that combining sauna with alcohol is a bad choice for a number of reasons. Not only does it increase the probability of injuries in sauna such as spraining an ankle or severely hitting the head but it also can cause heart failure if a person overstays in sauna. A number of injuries and deaths in sauna are reported every year in the countries where this activity is extensively popular, for example, in Finland.
Another popular belief that sauna can help to detoxify the body from the alcohol that you have been drinking also appears to be a myth. In fact, going to sauna after drinking increases the risk of heart problems and extends the hangover phase. All these aspects are carefully described below so start reading!
What Happens When You Drink Alcohol in sauna?
When we intake alcohol to our bodies, it starts to work as a depressant. First of all, it affects the work of the brain and the communication paths among the neurons. That as probably many of us have experienced, leads to dizziness, lack of concentration, decreased ability to focus and evaluate the environment adequately.
Depending on the amount of alcohol one drinks, a person loses coordination and the ability to think clearly, it becomes hard to move and to balance one‘s body. Needless to say, it is not the best condition when you go to a room heated to a temperature, extreme for a human being. Slipping and falling, overstaying in the heat or burning oneself are the most common accidents that happen in sauna when alcohol has been consumed.
Moreover, alcohol affects the heart work by slowing down the heart rate and so the circulation of the blood. However, it is notable that naturally the heart is “programmed” to behave differently in the extreme heat: normally, with the rising temperature, it starts beating faster to increase the circulation of the blood, the same way as if you were working out in a gym. That is the heart’s reaction to overheating and dehydration.
In fact, it has been measured that the heart rate can increase up to 50-70 percent during only a 10-20 minute stay in sauna. As you can imagine, the combination of sauna where the heart rate normally increases, and alcohol which suppresses the rate of the heart, simply cannot go together.
Alcohol and Unfortunate Accidents in Sauna
Alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of various injuries and even deadly accidents reported in sauna. Sprains and burns are common but more serious cases leading to death are to be blamed to alcohol: head contusions, fainting in sauna and getting a heart stroke or drowning while swimming if there is a lake or a swimming pool.
There are not many precise statistics on the number of accidents that were caused by alcohol in sauna. However, it is estimated that for example, in Finland where sauna is extremely popular, dozens of deaths are caused every year by alcohol consumption, many of them leading to death either immediately or in hospital.
With decreased ability to think clearly and coordinate yourself in the environment, it is easy to slip on the floor where the water is constantly dripping because of the humidity or to burn oneself with the hot rocks or other accessories in sauna.
However, one of the most common reasons for fatalities in sauna is falling asleep or fainting and not being able to leave the room. Needless to say that a tiny closed area where the temperature is usually more than 70 °C and can hit 100 °C is not the best choice for sleeping.
One is lucky if he manages to wake up after 15-20 minutes as this is a normal session in sauna which our bodies can handle with. However, it is common to fall into a deep sleep which is another effect of alcohol. Some people pass out because of the unbearable heat which they may not yet perceive but their heart does.
Extreme heat and combination of the suppressing effect of the alcohol cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart exhaustion – that is why people unexpectedly faint. If there is no one to help – which is a case with the drinking buddies who have been doing the same – a heart stroke can happen. That, unfortunately, in many cases leads to death. That is particularly common for people with heart and blood pressure problems, and those who are older. In any case, the end of the party might be very sad.
Feeling Thirsty and Drinking Alcohol
Staying in heat, sometimes twice higher than normal to human and sweating, inevitably leads to you feeling thirsty. Constant drinking of water or herbal teas is one of the most recommended practices while staying in sauna (which also was mentioned numerous times in our articles).
However, it is very easy to make a big mistake by replacing it with alcohol, especially at sauna parties where it is freely offered to everyone. In fact, alcohol creates the opposite effect – it adds to dehydration. Naturally, alcohol prevents the body from producing an antidiuretic hormone which is responsible for managing fluids in your body.
Drinking alcohol can make you want to urinate more often and you will lose more liquids than usually – however, not the toxins. After drinking for a while, you can start to feel dehydration symptoms such as dry mouth, tiredness or headaches. If you go to sauna at the same time, the risk of severe dehydration increases. It is vitally important to drink water to maintain or at least to rebuild the balance of fluids in your body.
Sauna as a remedy for hangover?
Another quite popular idea about sauna and alcohol is that going to heat and sweating can detoxify your body from alcohol and so to cure you of a hangover after a big night out. While it might sound rational for those who don‘t know much about physiology, in fact, they would impose their health to risk by doing it.
As we have written above, alcohol causes more frequent need to urinate and disbalances body‘s liquid system. Dehydration is one of the main causes of the unpleasant symptoms of hangover, such as nausea or dizziness. When you go to sauna while coping with hangover, instead of sweating the alcohol “out”, sweating only helps you to lose the so-needed water from your body.
The best a late night drinker can do to help himself is first to rebuild its liquid balance, and only then consider going to sauna – preferably, in the late afternoon the next day after drinking.
Another reason why sauna should not be considered as a remedy for hangover is a risk of cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular beating of the heart. It is worth knowing that even if you feel more or less ok the next morning after drinking and consider going to sauna to finally “clean” the alcohol up, the effects of the toxins in your body remain much longer than you can feel them. Therefore, cardiac arrhythmia is quite common among those who enjoyed drinking at night and then decided to go to sauna the next morning. When combined with increased blood pressure which you naturally experience at the extreme heat, it can lead to more serious heart work disruption.
What is more, it has been proved that going to sauna only extends the hangover phase rather than curing it faster!
Conclusion: alcohol in sauna is dangerous!
Including sauna to your party activities sounds like a good idea as long as you take the necessary precautions. Alcohol can be a part of your evening, however, it is important to inform all your guest that it must be consumed only after going to sauna. Those who disagree and drink before going or in the sauna, take a risk of injuries or even more fatal accidents, such as experiencing a heart stroke. Considering sauna as a remedy for drinking is also a false belief that you and your guests shouldn‘t practice. All in all, sauna and alcohol don‘t match in any case.