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How a Warm Bath Can Help You Sleep Tonight

Here's how a dip in the tub can help you fall asleep faster.

Deposit Photos
Source: Deposit Photos

Almost everyone asks me how to fall asleep more quickly. They aren't often surprised when I tell them a warm bath is a good option, but they are surprised by how it works—it’s not only for the reasons you may think.

I think it’s pretty clear that the shower reigns supreme as the preferred method of daily personal hygiene. According to a survey by Angie’s List, 90 percent of people choose the shower over the bath. It makes sense. We live in a fast-paced society, and we’re constantly on the go. So we’re bound to select the most convenient option.

What are the benefits of taking a bath?

I would argue that a warm bath is a better choice. You may even save more time overall.

Baths help you sleep, including helping to fall asleep faster.

And if you get more sleep, you’ll be more productive. If you’re more productive, you’ll get things done faster. I know for some of you it seems impossible, but it’s totally possible to incorporate warm baths into a busy life. Baths boast other benefits as well. Recently, I penned an article about the benefits of a hot bath before bedtime and how a hot bath can relieve knee pain.

Sure, a hot bath may take a little more time than a shower, but baths can also help you fall asleep faster and more consistently. The effect has been attributed to a drop in the body’s core temperature after the bath and the fact that warm baths are very relaxing. Certainly, both those factors play a role, but new research indicates that a warm bath at night signals the release of melatonin, a hormone that basically tells your body that it is time to sleep.

Baths are most effective as a sleep aid one to two hours before bedtime.

If you suffer from anxiety and it’s affecting your sleep, then a hot bath is a good way to relax. Stress makes muscles tense, and a hot bath will loosen that knotted tissue up. You can increase the relaxation effects of a bath by adding essential oils to the bathwater and by listening to music.

Studies show that music can slow breathing, lower heart rate, and blood pressure, decreasing cortisol production (a stress hormone) and relaxing the nervous system.

I love music. It’s a huge part of my life, and it’s also a wonderful therapeutic tool. The next time you’re in the bath, turn on some relaxing tunes. (Obviously, don’t bring a radio or computer anywhere near the bathtub. Instead, use your Google Home or Alexa to play it from afar.)

Try adding essential oils to your bath for added aromatherapy benefits.

Another great method for melting away the day’s stress is by adding essential oils to your bathwater. Choose an oil that has a nice, pleasing scent. The essential oils provide their benefits through aromatherapy. You don’t need to wash your hair with them or anything. Add several drops before you get in. Pick the scent that you like best, but if you’re having trouble deciding on one, research has found that both Jasmine and Lavender may have stress-relieving properties.

Ease pain.

If your sleep is often disturbed by knee or joint pain, then I also have some tips that can help you relieve pain.

  • Take a warm bath to reduce pressure on the joints and to relax your muscles. You may even try adding Epsom salts to your bath to soothe sore muscles.
  • Make sure you have a supportive mattress.
  • Take note of your sleep position. If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees. If you sleep on your back, put a pillow below your knee or knees.
  • Apply a hot or cold pack for 20 minutes to the sore knee 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Talk to your doctor about the dosage of your medications. They may be wearing off halfway through the night, causing you to wake up in pain.
  • Lose weight. If you have some extra weight that won’t be missed, losing it will reduce the strain on your joints.
  • Stretch regularly, especially before exercise.
  • Use proper form when working out.
  • Wear appropriate shoes and compression wraps.
  • Get more sleep. It’s healing!

There’s nothing wrong with showers. They’re great for getting clean, but for relaxation and pain relief, you can’t go wrong with a nice, hot bath.

Sweet Dreams,
Dr. Michael Breus

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