Does Hot Shower or Warm Bath Before Bed Help To Sleep Better?

Written by Chinmay Shankar

Last Updated June 13, 2024

In Japan, it is customary for most people to take a bath every night. Almost every Japanese home has a bathtub where people soak themselves in warm water at the end of a hectic day or evening. Not only that, but Japan also has a culture of Onsens and Sentos.

Onsens are natural hot springs that one can find all over the country due to the many volcanoes the country has across the range. And a Sento is a type of Japanese communal bathhouse. Sentos are usually available for common citizens and tourists for a few yen.

take a warm bath to get better sleep

All of it is because the Japanese do believe that late-night or late evening soaking in bathtubs is therapeutic. According to Japanese wisdom, a hot bath can reduce fatigue, relax muscles and improve metabolism. And that's why it is one important activity before they go to bed. But apart from being a Japanese tradition, the idea that a hot bath can improve sleep has appeared in many research studies across the globe.

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Is a hot bath before bed a good idea?

Yes. A hot bath of around 104 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes can improve your sleep quality. It can reduce the time that you often take for sleep, tossing and turning in the bed. It also pushes your body temperature down by 2 or 3 degrees and increases your sleep time.

Woman relaxing in a bathtub

So what is it about a hot bath or shower that relaxes you even in the summers? The answer lies in the circadian rhythm of your body temperature. The same circadian rhythm that regulates your internal body clock also controls your core body temperature.

As the body loses heat (our hands and feet radiate this heat), its core temperature goes down. When you take a hot bath, it brings out the heat from the core of your body to the surface. The mere channelizing of heat cools down your body, soothes your nerves and muscles, and helps you relax.

Is it okay to take a cold shower at night?

While cold showers might be good for immunity and for improving blood circulation, it tends to make you feel more awake and alert. It might be the best thing to get you out of your lethargy but not a good idea for a good night's sleep.

You might ask why? You see, a cold shower activates our sympathetic nervous system which, in turn releases cortisol. The increased level of Cortisol keeps you alert, which means poorer sleep for you.

Portrait of a young beautiful woman cleaning her face with fresh cold water

A cold shower can also help your sore muscles in the same way ice packs help athletes. It is good when you are starting the day. Especially when you are starting the day and would like to stay alert and active for the whole day. In such cases, a regular cold shower in the morning helps with your immunity and overall energy, but we are talking about a good sleep here which is also important for your body. And nothing beats a hot shower as a good home remedy when it comes to relaxation and sleep.

When's the best time to take a warm bath?

Now comes the million-dollar question - When? When's the perfect time to indulge in a hot bath or a warm shower? Usually, you should take a hot bath almost 1-2 hours before your sleep.

Two women enjoying Arabic baths

Why not right before sleeping? Because your body doesn’t have a constant temperature and it keeps on reducing its temperature as the day ends signaling itself to rest. When you take a hot shower, it makes your body warm and toasty for a brief time. Once that time passes, it starts cooling down, which takes almost 90 minutes. So you should give your body a window to settle down on a temperature that is conducive to your sleep.

Studies show that a warm bath also improves your odds of falling asleep by a significant percentage if taken at the right time that's natural for your body.

Why do we sleep better after a bath?

When you keep enough space between getting your hot shower and hitting the pillow, it helps your body cool off. And once the body is cool and dry, sleep comes naturally to you.

A young woman relaxing in a bath full of bubbles

When your body's temperature has cooled down, you will feel warmth in your hands and your feet. This means that the core temperature of your body has lowered due to that hot shower. And you will further know when you will be able to sleep within minutes. So time your shower at least an hour before you plan to sleep. Just try not to sleep in the bathtub itself.

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Does taking a bath at night lowers blood pressure?

Yes. And you should be cautious if you have low blood pressure. No doubt, being in a hot shower or a warm bath helps relax your muscles, especially in your neck, shoulder, and back area. But if you are in your 70s or have a heart condition, or your blood pressure keeps showing downwards compared to others, then you should consult your doctor before trying a long hot bath session.

Young man taking a shower

Still, a hot shower in moderation, say for 10-15 minutes, is always good for your skin, nerves, and heart. Just being in a warm bath makes your heart pump faster and burns more calories than a normal, lukewarm bath.  It also reduces your headache and anxiety. Consider a hot bath at night as your personal masseuse.

What can I put in my bath for a night of better sleep?

Do you know what is more satisfying than a hot bath? The booster dose of soothing, aromatic essential oils and mineral salts. You will know it when you try it.

1. Epsom Salt 

A mix of magnesium and sulfate, this mineral was discovered in Epsom, England, about 400 years ago. Since then, it has been well-known in the world for its healing properties.

If you want to use it for your bath, half a cup of Epsom salt should be enough. Get all-natural, unscented salt. Later you can add the essential oil of your choice.

Beautiful woman in the bathroom with rose petals

2. Chamomile

It is a herb that is made from dried flowers. Often soothing as a tea, Chamomile also helps reduce scars and marks on your skin. It is antibacterial and organic, so it comes across as an amazing cleansing product for your skin ailments. It reduces stress and gives you a youthful glow after you use it in a hot bath.

3-4 tea bags of Chamomile with 1 cup of Epsom salt is enough to boost your spirit and relax your mind. Go on, fill the bath, set the temperature, and just soak in the goodness.

woman bathrobe with hand water

3. Essential Oils

In case you don't like bath salts or being brewed in tea bags, then you can try essential oils. Avoid highly acidic essential oils if your skin is highly sensitive.

The best part about essential oils is the variety they come in. Lavender, Rose, Grapefruit (Citrus oil), Eucalyptus - choices are many, but it depends on what kind of feel or mood you want. Create your combination. It helps if you don't overdo it. 3 to 4 drops are enough. Let the hot water diffuse the scent. And let your mind wander away from the stress of life.

Hot or cold shower - Which is better and why?

A man’s hand in a spray of water in the sunlight against a dark background

While a cold shower is good for post-workout recovery and reducing inflammation, a hot shower can be a little tricky when it comes to people with skin conditions. Hot showers can remove natural oils from your skin, so it is advisable to take a warm bath with essential oils.

But apart from skin issues, hot baths or showers can also help you recover muscle damage after exercise. The steam from the hot shower helps clear your throat and respiratory tract.

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The way to get the best out of a warm bath is to keep the temperature from 99 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and duration for 5-10 minutes. Use essential oils if you have dry skin.

young woman reads a magazine in a bubble bath

Most important of all, enjoy it because this is for your good sleep.  And when you work hard all day, you should be the one deciding how it starts the next day.

The foundation of a great next-day lies in a good or better night’s sleep. So start preparing for your royal bath because you’re worth it!

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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.