12 Tips for Better Sleep: Part 9 – Take a Hot Bath Before Bed
When I think about the perfect way to get ready for bed, I think about flannel jammies, a warm fire, and a huge down comforter. This, of course, is all taking place in a winter cabin. But that’s actually not the best way to get ready for sleep.
In order to fall asleep and stay asleep, you need your body to cool down. I know, that doesn’t sound very comfortable. But you know what sounds even crazier? Taking a hot bath or shower in order to cool off your body.
Yep, it sounds nuts, but it works. Just believe me; it’s science.
Actually, you don’t have to believe me. But you should believe sleep scientists. So, let’s talk about what scientists say about body temperature and how it affects our sleep.
Why Does My Body Temperature Need to Decrease Before Sleep?
Did you know your core body temperature changes throughout the day? Thanks to our circadian rhythm, our bodies are the hottest in the late afternoon and the coolest when we sleep. So, in order for you to fall asleep and stay asleep, your core body temperature needs to decrease.
Here are the specifics:
"We know that your core body temperature needs to drop by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate good sleep and then maintain deep sleep," says Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep. "The way it works is this: For you to get your heat out of the core of your body, you actually need to release that core heat through the outer perimeter surfaces of your body, namely your hands and your feet.”
Have you ever wondered why you sometimes hang one foot outside of your covers? This is why. If you wake up too hot in the night, you automatically put one foot in the cooler air to remove the heat from your body.
How Do Hot Baths Decrease Body Temperature?
Now that we know our body temperature needs to decrease, let’s talk about how baths can do that, despite sounding totally counterintuitive.
"… Hot baths actually work ... for the opposite reason most people think," Walker adds. "You get into a hot bath, you get out, you think I'm nice and toasty, I get into bed and I fall asleep better because I'm warm. The opposite is true. What happens with a bath ... is you actually bring all of the blood to the surface. And your hands and your feet are wonderful radiators of that heat. So, you are essentially like a snake charmer — you are charming the heat out of the core of your body to the surface of your body."
So, you don’t use the hot bath to warm yourself up, you use it to get heat out of your body. Science!
The Best Bath for Sleep
While essentials oils, bubble bath, and candles make a great bathing experience, they’re not necessary for an effective bath. Based on studies, scientists have concluded that the ideal bath is 104 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will help you get the highest sleep quality and quantity.
Not a bath person? That’s ok. A hot shower will offer the same benefits. Just follow the same guidelines —104 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit.
The length of your bath doesn’t matter so much. You just want it to be long enough to warm up your skin and short enough that your bath water doesn’t get cold.
Scientists also suggest that you take your pre-sleep bath 1 to 2 hours before bed for optimal results.
4 Other Reasons to Take Baths
Sure, baths are good for your hygiene and sleep, but what else are they good for? Here’s just a small list of why you should be taking baths:
- Improves Mood - According to a survey of 80 people, bathing can diminish feelings of depression and pessimism because “baths give you … a wonderful combination of isolation, quiet, and comfort.” These feelings of comfort and easiness help you relax.
- Relieves Muscle Pain – Heat helps blood flow, which can help tight or sore muscles relax. Throw in some Epsom salt into your warm bath, and you can reduce inflammation in your joints caused by arthritis and other muscular diseases.
- Reduces Blood Pressure – Relaxing in a warm bath can help reduce blood pressure, which can prevent serious heart conditions, like heart attack and stroke.
- Burns Calories – No, taking a bath doesn’t burn as many calories as a 5-mile run, but sweating in a hot bath can burn as many calories as taking a walk, which is pretty good for just lying there.
There are few things better than a nice, relaxing bath or shower, and one of those things is a restful night’s sleep. So, treat yourself, and make a bath or shower part of your nighttime routine. Your nights will be more relaxing and your sleep will be better.
Looking for more ways to take full advantage of your Pillow Cube and get better sleep? Check out the other posts in our blog series about improving your sleep:
Part 2—Exercise at the Right Time
Part 3—Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine
Part 4—Avoid Drinking Alcohol
Part 7—Don’t Take Late NapPart 8—Relax Before Bed