By now you’ve probably seen a ton of ways to get smarter. But can something as simple as a sauna really increase intelligence? In short, yes, it absolutely can. Like many of the other benefits of sauna use discussed in Part I and Part II of this three part sauna series, raising core body temperature seems to be the catalyst for all the fun. If you haven’t tried the sauna after learning how it’ll help you build muscle and last longer, you got another reason to peak your head (and body) inside one of those hot wooden rooms heated to temperatures of 160 degrees and hotter: saunas will help you get smarter and feel euphoria.
BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is commonly shown to pop up under two conditions: heat stress (through sauna use!) and exercise. But what is BDNF anyway and why should you care about it? Well, it increases new brain cell growth (neurogenesis) and the robustness of existing nerve cells. More brain cells is commonly thought to increase learning (1), and BDNF also helps long term memory (2). So yes, you can learn new things better and remember them longer with regular sauna sessions.
Say it with me: nor-ep-i-neph-rine. This is a chemical produced in your body that has profound effects on your brain. It increases your alertness, attention, vigilance, brain functioning speed, and enhances memory formation and memory recall. It is released during high-intensity exercise and also during acute heat stress, like sauna use. One study demonstrated that men more than quadrupled their norepinephrine after a single sauna session to personal exhaustion (3) and women nearly doubled their norepinephrine after two brief sessions a week (4). So yes, you can literally become smarter with regular sauna sessions.
You know that feeling during a workout when you’re pushing hard as hell and it’s uncomfortable? Unbelievably uncomfortable to the point where you just want to give up...but you don’t. You keep going and push through that discomfort because you know it’s temporary. And you know on the other side of that temporary discomfort is a beautiful thing: euphoria. You’ve likely felt this if you’ve gotten a “runner’s high,” or been in a yoga class and felt calm as a clam in corpse pose, or done a high-intensity workout and felt like a million bucks, or...used the sauna to exhaustion!
The discomfort you feel during any activity that elevates your core body temperature (*ahem*, like sauna use!) comes from dynorphin, an opioid peptide that has a strong effect on the brain. This release of dynorphin and the accompanying crappy feeling indirectly upregulates beta-endorphins, which give you that feeling of euphoria. Beta-endorphins are a naturally occurring pain killer produced in your body that get you on cloud nine. The more intensely you feel discomfort, the more euphoria you’ll feel in turn. So yes, you can literally create the feeling of euphoria with regular sauna sessions.
So you want to learn new things? You want to improve long-term memory? Want to increase your intelligence? Want to feel euphoric? Then jump into the sauna for as little as 5 or 10 minutes. The only thing you have to lose is a little sweat.
In Excellent Health,
Garrett & Luc