January 15, 2017
MOST OF US UNDERSTAND that sleep hygiene plays an important role in sleeping better. But did you know that the “hygiene” part actually extends to your physical hygiene – as in taking a bath? It’s true! Taking a hot bath before bed can help you to fall asleep faster and sleep better – and there are almost as many reasons as bubbles.
If you get into your bath about an hour and a half before you get into bed for the night, the hot water initially raises the temperature of your body. However, once you come out of the tub, after a few minutes, your body temperature will drop, and this will promote sleepiness.
When the temperature of your body is lower and your metabolic activity is decreased, you begin feeling drowsy and tired. The lower your body temperature, the slower your body performs important things like pump your blood. As your temperature drops, your body tells itself it’s time for lights out.
Your blood vessels get dilated by the warm bath water. This helps more blood and oxygen to flow into your stressed and tight muscles. Your body can relax better when muscle tension is released, which in turn tells your brain to wind down and prepare for sleep. If your bath is hot, you can equate it to a ‘hot pack’ that is used to provide pain relief to your muscles by blocking the pain sensors.
In addition to releasing muscle tension, a warm bath can also help with cold symptoms. When you get into a warm bath, it manages your cold symptoms in a couple ways. It helps with your overall body temperature and provides steam therapy.
Inhaling the steam from a hot bath helps to reduce your nasal inflammation and clear out the passages. This means you can breathe easier through your nose, enabling you to fall asleep more easily.
It also helps boost the function of your immune system by elevating your body temperature, according to a 2011 study. This helps your immune system to ward off infections and function more efficiently. And it should go without saying if you can breathe better, you’ll feel better and sleep better.
You can train your body and mind to sleep better by coaxing it into a pre-sleep, meditative and tranquil state. If you suffer with insomnia, you may benefit by combining ‘sleep mindfulness’ meditation with hot water therapy to signal your mind and body that it’s time for sleep.
Showers don’t necessarily have the same effect as warm baths. Although they can induce an increase and a decrease in body temperature, you won’t typically get the same relaxing state you would with a bath. This is because you are standing up and moving around in the shower, which keeps your body from resting.
So, the next time you say to yourself, “I need help falling asleep,” simply run yourself a hot bath before bed.