Institute of Experimental Endocrinology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Vlárska 3, 833 06 Bratislava, Slovakia
Neuroendocrine response was investigated during and after a single 20 min bath in sauna (80 degrees C) in a group of 8 healthy men and 8 healthy women. In an additional group of 8 young men, the dynamics of plasma ACTH and cortisol levels were studied during a 30 min sauna exposure (90 degrees C). This dynamic study showed a biphasic response of plasma cortisol which decreased during the initial phase of sauna bath (15 min) and increased thereafter, reaching its maximum 15 min after the end of bathing. Maximal increase in plasma ACTH levels occurred 15 min earlier. In the first sauna exposed group the increase in body temperature was the same (about 2 degrees C) in both sexes. Nevertheless, the elevation in plasma ACTH concentration was significantly more pronounced in women than in men. In the plasma collected at the end of sauna bath inside the sauna room, a significant rise in both adrenaline and noradrenaline levels was found. Though the catecholamine responses were similar in both groups, the increase in heart rate during sauna bath was significantly higher in women. Sauna-induced prolactin release was also more pronounced in women compared with men. Thus hyperthermia induced by sauna exposure resulted in a more pronounced neuroendocrine activation in women compared with men. Moreover, it is evident that repeated blood sampling is necessary to reveal the sauna-induced activation of some hormonal systems.