Does Your Bathtub Hold the Secret to a Great Night’s Rest?

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | June 7, 2016

For those who have difficulty catching the Midnight Express off to dreamland, it makes sense to have a nightly routine. Having a set of practices each night that prepares the body for sleep, is one of the best things that you can do to ensure that you attain a regular and reliable sleep each night. Some experts recommend including a soak in a nice warm bath or hot tub as part of that routine.

Why warm baths aid in sleeping

As night approaches, it is natural for the body to cool down, signalling that it is time to go to sleep. Those that battle with sleep deprivation frequently have trouble drifting off because their bodies do not cool down as much as they should.

Generally speaking, your body’s baseline temperature is approximately 98.6 degrees F. During the day, your temperature rises, peaking in the afternoon before starting to cool off again before bed.

By having a warm bath or soak in the hot tub before bed, it temporarily raises the body temperature. Then when you crawl into bed in a cool bedroom, your body temperature is able to drop off more quickly, ultimately helping you reach a state of deep and restful sleep.

A number of studies have confirmed the warm bath theory including one which showed that the practice helped individuals fall asleep more quickly. It stands to reason therefore, that a nice warm soak in the tub may be of special benefit to insomniacs.

Another benefit is that people who are experiencing muscle aches, can find some temporary relief from pain which could also help them in falling asleep.

But there are some drawbacks

Since taking warm baths does raise one’s core temperature, there is some concern that they could also have a negative impact on sleep. If it takes longer than normal for your body temperature to come back down, then having a bath too close to bedtime could actually mean lying awake longer.

The other concern, is that although warm baths seem to be effective for helping people reach a deeper sleep, the amount that they spend in REM sleep can be significantly reduced. This is an important finding because it is during REM sleep that the brain is able to make repairs to neurotransmitters and converts short term memories to the long term memory.

So what is the solution?

Part of developing your nightly routine is getting advice from the experts – but part of it is also discovering what works best for you. If a long relaxing soak in the tub helps you get your much-needed shut eye, then do it.

If you find however, that it is keeping you awake, then you need to do something different. Instead of bathing right before bed, try having a soak an hour or so beforehand. This will help give you more time to dry off and allow your body to cool down.

Warm baths have always been a favourite way for people to relax – and if they can also help you get a great night’s sleep, then all the better!