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A growing body of evidence demonstrates that whole-body hyperthermia improves mood and reduces symptoms of depression. The devices used in many hyperthermia studies have not received FDA approval for investigations conducted in the United States, hindering research progress. Findings from a recent study suggest that a commercially available infrared sauna device induces whole-body hyperthermia and improves aspects of mood.

Traditional saunas are typically wood-paneled rooms heated by infrared or conventional heaters. However, in recent years, single-person tent-like infrared saunas that spare the head from high temperatures have become popular due to their portability, ease of use, and relatively low cost.

The study involved 25 physically and mentally healthy males and females (average age, 31 years). Participants completed one whole-body hyperthermia session in a Clearlight Sauna Dome until they achieved a core body temperature of 101.3°F (38.5°C) and maintained that temperature for two consecutive minutes. They remained in the sauna for a 30-minute cool-down period, with the heat turned off. Research staff provided the participants with water and applied cool cloths and ice to their head and neck throughout the sessions. Participants completed questionnaires about their mood and affect before the session and one week later.

The investigators found that participants reported fewer depression symptoms and less negative affect one week after the sauna session, compared to prior to the session. None of the participants experienced any adverse effects from their session, and most reported only minor complaints related to feeling hot or thirsty.

These findings indicate that sauna use may reduce symptoms of depression and may be accessible via a widely available commercial sauna device. Learn more about this research in this episode featuring Dr. Ashley Mason.

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