Can Taking a Hot Bath Before Bed Improve Sleep?

Read about the new research on bathing and sleep, the results are a pleasant surprise.

By Loren Bullock

When it comes to self-care, nothing seems better than taking a hot, relaxing bath. According to a new study done by the University of Texas, that was published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, taking a hot shower or bath before bed might actually improve your sleep. We’ll explain the study and its findings, so you can start re-working your bedtime ritual.

Sleep Temperature and Sleep Cycle

Your body’s circadian rhythm regulates both your sleep and body temperature; naturally, the two are intertwined. As you fall asleep, your body temperature needs to drop about 2-3 degrees for your sleep to be good and for deep sleep to occur. This allows for our bodies to use less energy as we sleep and enact the healing and repairing it does while we slumber.

If your body feels too hot or too cold throughout the night, you will wake up. Waking up frequently will make your sleep quality suffer.

The Study

So, what does this have to do with baths? Shahab Haghayegh theorized that warm water could stimulate the body’s thermoregulatory system, and the team at UT in Austin put it to the test.

They used a process called systematic reviews protocol, which basically means researchers comb through thousands of other relevant studies and analyze their results to find commonalities and disparities. They went through studies about water-based passive heating, sleep onset latency, sleep and bathing, and bathing and water temperature.

By the end, they had analyzed 5,322 studies and gathered both qualitative and quantitative data.

The Results

As a result of the systematic reviews protocol, studies have shown that water-based passive heating improves quality of sleep. In other words, just like taking a cold shower would warm our bodies up, hot water actually helps cool down your body’s core temperature, which happens naturally anyway with your circadian rhythm. Doing this in tandem with your body’s natural cycle gives it an easier time winding down before sleep.

The optimal time to take your warm bath or shower is about 90 minutes before bed. This will help you fall asleep faster by an average of 10 minutes. If you bathe too close to hitting the hay, the opposite effect might happen.

How to Create the Perfect Bath for Sleep

If you are new to bathing at night, it might be hard to adjust your schedule accordingly. But the easiest choice to make should be whether you’d rather take a bath or a shower. Either way, the optimal water temperature for your dip is between 104 and 109 degrees.

Showers are good for a quick body scrub, but a hot bath is meant to be taken slowly. There isn’t a specific amount of time you have to soak, but do it until you feel relaxed. Not only will a bath lower your body’s core temperature, but it has the potential to relax your muscles as well.

Pimp out your bath! Throw in some bubbles. Researchers say that bubbles add insulation and keep you warmer longer. Throw in some essential oils! These can be great for being a natural sleep aid. Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, chamomile, and ylang ylang are great for helping you fall asleep.


Summary

Who knew that getting a good night’s sleep relied on something that we do anyway—bathing. A hot, calming bath not only sets the romantic mood or allows you to unwind, it also preps you for a great night’s rest. Whenever you want an easier time falling asleep, just take a hot bath 90 minutes before bed; you’ll be clean and well-rested.


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