Why a bath before bed is always a good idea
Posted by PR Neom
With the majority of us now spending our days (and night’s) at home, it may be that you’ve been struggling to sleep or switch off lately at bedtime, so we wanted to talk about the small steps (and easy things) we can do to help. And one is getting acquainted with having a bath before bed, and making it a ‘THING’, to help ease muscles, encourage you to unwind and force you into a more relaxed state of mind (put your phone away and stop reading the news during this time). What you might not know is that there is now scientific evidence to show that immersing yourself in warm water really can play a part in sending you off to slumber.
Last summer, sleep researcher and doctoral candidate Shahab Haghayegh at the University of Texas reviewed more than 5000 studies related to bathing and sleep and managed to pinpoint the optimal timing and temperature to have a bath to encourage sleep. The results found that bathing in water between 40° and 42° for as little as 10 minutes improved sleep efficacy – ie no tossing and turning or taking an age to drift off. As for when to take this magic bath? Between one and two hours before you slip in between the sheets is optimum with the research showing that participants fell asleep 36% quicker than usual too.
What’s the secret?
Our body temperature is rarely in a constant state and fluctuates between morning and afternoon, day and night. It’s higher in the morning and evening and at its lowest during the day and in order to get a good night’s kip it’s essential it does drop. While having a warm bath might sound counterproductive what actually happens is that when you’re immersed in the heat, the body gets warmer and in doing so brings a large amount of blood to the surface. When you get out, the excess heat is released into the atmosphere, cooling you down and triggering your body temperature to drop. This then gives a cue to your circadian rhythm (the internal body clock that controls your sleep/wake cycle) that it’s time to snooze. Clever right? Plus, a warm bath also signals the pineal gland in our brain to produce melatonin – the sleep hormone – which also aids a smoother sleep pattern.
It works the other way too – so your body temperature is at its lowest early morning at which point it begins to rise again prepping your body to rise and shine. That’s why some people opt for a cold shower first thing as working in the opposite way to a hot bath, the sudden freeze activates your nervous system and nudges your circadian rhythm into ‘go go go’ mode. Essentially you’re acting as a timekeeper for your own body – winding it up and slowing it down when you need to.
Boost your bath time
Warm water alone is enough to fill your bath with but add some essential oils like lavender, ylang ylang or chamomile and as well as the physical wins, the sensory side of things will give your mind the chance to slow down and re-set ready for sleep too. As more of us are spending our evenings at home, we recommend trying to turn the simplest of things into something that bit better to make them work harder in our wellbeing favour.