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Can a Bath Before Bed Help You to Sleep?

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

17th January, 2023

Photo showing a woman relaxing in bath

As the winter months draw in, darkness and the colder temperatures might tempt us at the end of the day to savour a hot bath, but is there real value in doing this? What's more, is there any scientific evidence that having a hot bath before bedtime can actually help you to sleep better?

Each of us has a unique relationship with sleep and one of the keys to getting a good night’s rest is in understanding your relationship with sleep. Unlocking this will help you to make the positive choices that enable you to get the deep rest that you need and deserve.

Woman sleeping in a bed with white bedding

One of the main sleep problems that people experience is difficulty getting to sleep or sleep initiation. This can happen when you are carrying the worries and demands of the day into your evening, making it difficult to let go and drift off to sleep.

For many people, having a bath before bed can help them fall asleep. The amount of time it takes to fall asleep is called sleep latency and ideally should be around 15 minutes. If it is less than 5 minutes, your sleep latency is too short and indicates exhaustion. This means that you may need to pay attention to other aspects of your lifestyle like nutrition, hydration, stress, exercise, alcohol intake and sleep to make sure you’re receiving adequate rest. If it takes you longer than 15 minutes to fall asleep, this is also not desirable. In this case, you may find that having a pre-bedtime hot bath as part of your wind-down ritual could be beneficial.

Bathing is scientifically proven to help

In 2019, a review of over 5000 scientific articles indicated that having a hot or warm bath can improve sleep efficiency, the amount of slow wave or deep sleep, and subjective sleep quality. The reason for this is that your ability to sleep well is dependent on your core temperature. When your core temperature is optimal, a message is sent to the circadian timer in the brain to initiate a series of physiological and biochemical changes that enable you to sleep. Notably one of these changes is an increase in the level of the sleep hormone melatonin.

The scientific data showed that bathing in water between 40 and 42 Centigrade (104 to 107.6 Fahrenheit) one or two hours before bed, for as little as 10 minutes can optimise your sleep. In studies, subjects who did this fell asleep 36% quicker than usual.

Create healthy sleep habits

Human beings thrive on routines and rituals to create healthy habits. The ritual of having a bath, other than being a pleasant and comforting thing to do, sends an important message to the brain and nervous system that it is time to slow down, decompress and release the anxieties of the day. According to the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi, water is seen as profoundly beneficial to our emotional and physical health. After all, our bodies are made up of 60-70% water!

Bathing and pain relief

Apart from the sleep-optimising effects of a hot bath, you can also use your bath to ease pain and discomfort in your body. Hydrotherapy is a form of therapy in which symptoms such as joint pain, inflammation and lack of mobility are alleviated in a water bath which leads to decreased swelling.

epsom salts with brushes to be used for a relaxing bath

Adding one or two cups full of Epsom Salts can help you take your therapeutic bath to the next level as the magnesium salts in Epsom Salts are known to ease and relax muscles and reduce pain. Add a few drops of pure lavender or ylang-ylang essential oil for even greater relaxation and pleasure.

Make bathing easy again

For even greater relaxation, an Oak Tree Mobility Bath Lift can help to support you with comfortable bathing giving you peace of mind with the added benefit of quicker and safer bathing transfers.

Finally, while I wholeheartedly recommend including a bath in your wind-down routine, don’t forget, each of us has a unique relationship with sleep. Some people may find a hot bath uncomfortable, which could hinder sleep due to overheating at night. In these cases, having a cooler bath or a warm shower may be a better solution. Always do what feels right for you and your unique relationship to sleep.

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