Sleepless? There have been countless remedies passed down the generations like working out and keeping the good flow of oxygen to help with those sleepless nights but none had scientific backing behind them.
It is an understanding that avoidance of alcohol intake and a regular exercise regime helps in improving the overall quality of sleep. Showering just before bedtime is also among the most used techniques by those who seek a good night’s sleep.
But what exactly is the right time to shower? Showering in the day helps to rejuvenate body but showering at nights helps with sleeping?
A research team at the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin took up the task of investigating these claims and finding scientific backing for them.
The team, under the leadership of doctoral researcher Shahab Haghayegh, sought out studies related to the matter. The prior studies had been independent of each other and were sourced from different platforms and databases like PubMed, Medline, and Web of Science.
The findings from the analysis were published in the Sleep Medicine Reviews Journal.
The foremost question faced by the researchers was if sleep was better after a warm bath because we felt relaxed or because the body tends to be cooler (drops temperature) post-bath which can help with a more fulfilling sleep. After a long study and analysis, the researchers have concluded that it might be a combination of both.
To make the research more objective rather than a subjective opinion several sleep-quality indicators were involved and the effects of passive body heating were investigated.
The “sleep onset latency” or SOL is the best available measurement for a fulfilling sleep. Researchers investigated the effects that water-based body heating had on several indicators including the SOL and the results showed a pattern.
Baths were most effective when taken around 90 mins before getting into bed and the optimum water temperature was found to be between 104- and 109-degrees Fahrenheit. These combinations gave the best results across all the indicators used.
The research was thorough as they used SOL, slow-wave sleep, sleep quality (subjective), total sleep time and sleep efficiency among various other indicators.
The core highlight of the study was that the optimum time of bathing lies between 90 and 120 mins before bed. Hitting the shower in less than 90 would mean that the body is too warm to experience a good sleep. Bathing more than 2 hours before a bath would mean that the body temperature has enough time to fall and rise back again meaning the sleep benefits of a bath are lost.
While there might be an optimum time for a bath, the duration seems to not affect the overall sleep quality but a minimum of 10 minutes in the bath are required to reap the benefits.
The discussed bathing pattern improves the blood flow across the body and more blood flows to the limbs than before. This, in turn, cools the body and relaxes the muscles in the process.
“Taking a warm shower or bath at this time improves the “temperature circadian rhythm” helping people fall asleep more quickly and improving sleep quality”, explained Shahab, the lead researcher on the study.
“When we looked through all studies, we noticed significant disparities in terms of the approaches and findings. The only way to make an accurate determination of whether sleep can be improved was to combine all the past data and look at [them] through a new lens.”, he added.
“Yes, the data [proves] that a warm shower or bath before bed does make a huge difference in your overall sleep quality,” says Haghayegh, adding, “I shower every night before bed now.”
This research has paved the way for future studies to treat people facing insomnia and to offer an overall better living experience to everyone. The same team is said to be working on a “sleeping bed” that works with detecting and predicting the thermal patterns of the body and maintaining the best possible temperatures to offer the individual a satisfying sleep.