The sauna vs steam room debate has raged hot and heavy for years in professional relaxation circles. To the casual observer simply looking for a place to relax, the sauna vs steam room debate can look like a bunch of nonsense. To the untrained eye, there might not seem to be much difference between saunas and steam rooms. The truth, however, is that saunas and steam rooms actually have very little in common.
One thing they do have in common is an incredible amount of heat. But where saunas heat up the room via dry coals producing a dry environment, steam rooms do exactly the opposite. So although both rooms end up producing a fierce sweat in their occupants, essentially the sauna vs steam room debate is actually a dry vs. wet debate.
When the issue is narrowed down to nothing more than a dry vs. wet debate, it’s a lot easier to see which kind of person might be better off using a sauna and which kind might prefer a steam room. Anyone with tender lungs or respiratory issues should probably avoid the drier atmosphere of the sauna and instead find their inner peace in a steam bath.
Both saunas and steam rooms are great at increasing your body’s blood circulation especially near your skin’s surface. Both will also make you sweat like a work horse. Your body’s relaxation response to being heated is actually the main source of the benefits of both rooms.
Because of the incredibly high temperatures featured in both rooms, they cannot be constructed or furnished using metal or any products with metal parts. Saunas are most commonly constructed out of wood. Wood is perfect for saunas, as its ability to absorb moisture both keeps the air in the sauna as dry as possible and keeps the surface of the wood as cool as possible. Steam rooms usually feature surfaces that are either tiled or covered with some other kind of non-porous substance. It is important that the surfaces in a steam bath be able to stand plenty of exposure to moisture without being damaged. The ceilings in a steam bath are most commonly sloped to ensure that the condensation doesn’t drip onto the bathers.
- One of the hidden sauna benefits is how clean and sterile the room itself tends to stay. Where steam baths must be regularly disinfected due to the warm moisture that tends to promote bacterial growth, the dry atmosphere of saunas allow for almost no bacterial growth.
- Another of the wonderful sauna benefits is the fact that your body is able to tolerate a sauna much longer than a steam room. After only ten or 15 minutes in a steam bath, your entire body will begin to overheat and you’ll be forced to leave and get some fresh air. Because the air in a steam bath is already completely packed with moisture, your body’s automatic cooling reflex, sweat, doesn’t work. Steam rooms almost always force you to go outside and get a breath of fresh air after only a short period of time relaxing in their warmth.
- Because of this, lengthy sweat detoxification protocols are usually done in saunas. Although it would technically be possible to perform a sweat detoxification in a steam room, the already lengthy process would be made even longer by the necessity of regular breaks. Another problem is that in a steam bath it is difficult to calculate how much your body is actually sweating.
- Because saunas are dry, they don’t require a complex drainage system. This means they can be installed practically anywhere.
Steam rooms or steam baths are large enclosed spaces in which steam generators create large quantities of sweltering steam in order to provide the occupants with an environment that is both moist and hot in which to relax. Steam rooms are most commonly found in health resorts and gyms, although many upper class apartment complexes and residential buildings now feature their own steam rooms for private use by residents. In recent years, even certain restaurants, bars, and cafes have jumped on the steam bath bandwagon and begun providing steam bath services to their clientele.
The temperature in a steam bath is carefully maintained at just over 115 degrees Fahrenheit in order to provide maximum health benefits without risk of injury. The humidity in a steam bath is usually as close to one hundred percent as possible, and this only helps to add to the pleasant, relaxing sensations.
Although the Finnish claim to have invented the steam bath, the Romans were the ones who first made it famous. Roman steam baths had practically all the modern creature comforts of the steam baths of today, and there was no risk of some Senator sitting on your iPod. Many Roman steam baths had multiple rooms and heating ducts installed under the floors. One of the most famous Roman steam baths, considered one of the ancestors of today’s steam rooms, is located, appropriately, in Bath, England. It can still be visited today.
Steam Room Benefits
• One of the major steam room benefits cited by steam bath enthusiasts is its positive effect on the respiratory system.
• Steam rooms have been known to help clear out any secretions that may be lurking inside the linings of your lungs, throat, or sinuses.
• If you have a cold, try visiting a steam bath. They are said to bring almost instant alleviation from cold symptoms.
• Congested nasal passages can be quickly opened up by spending just a few minutes in the warm, moist comforts of a steam bath.
• Both chronic and temporary dryness in the throat and nasal passages can be at least temporarily if not permanently alleviated by the moist air of a steam bath. Throat and nasal irritation is also quickly and effectively soothed by steam.
• Asthmatics will be pleasantly surprised to know that steam rooms are well-known for their part in alleviating and smoothing out the spasmodic breathing patterns suffered by those with asthma and croup.
• Long-term discomfort caused by sinusitis can be quickly stamped out by regular visits to a steam bath.
• For those who suffer from problems with insomnia, steam rooms have been known to shorten the process of falling asleep. Prolonged periods in a steam bath can also increase the amount of deep REM sleep your body gets while resting.
• Another of the most important steam room benefits is their effect on the skin. Steam rooms moisten the skin in a deep, long-lasting manner that helps to smooth out wrinkles and prevent cracking and chapping.