It’s a common routine: coming home from a long day at work to a relaxing soak in the tub. Add a few candles, perhaps some bubbles, and you have a recipe for a stress-free evening. But what do baths have to do with sleep? Does taking a bath at night really mean a better night’s sleep?
Baths and sleep: the science
A few studies have shown that taking a bath at night can help you sleep better at night—and it’s all about body temperature. A 1997 study by the Cornell University Medical College found that the body’s temperature naturally dips at night. It’s this sudden drop in temperature that helps your body fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper rest.
When you take a bath in a warm tub, your temperature naturally rises, and the cool-down period immediately after your bath is actually what relaxes you. A 1999 study by Gunma University in Japan measured the effects of a hot bath before bedtime on sleep in 60 people of varying ages. Participants who received a warm bath reported better, deeper sleep.
The timing of your bath is key
If you want to take a bath before bed, it’s recommended to do so an hour or two before sleep. Your body already naturally cools down, and it’s important not to interrupt that cycle. Instead, time your bath so that the cool down happens when you’re ready for bed.
“You don’t want to heat yourself up right before bed,” Dianne Augelli of the the Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells Time. “Cooling down is a signal that tells us we’re supposed to go to sleep. So interrupting this process can make it harder to fall asleep.”
As far as how long your bath should last, plan to stay in the tub for 20 minutes at a minimum for maximum sleep benefits. (That’s what we learned recently when reporting on nine surprising things to help you sleep, one of which was taking a nighttime bath.)
How to enhance your bath
If your goal of your bath is to get a more peaceful night’s sleep, there are a few things you can do to enhance the experience. Consider adding a natural bath bomb to your soak. Bath bombs are usually filled with natural sleep-inducing scents and herbs like lavender, chamomile, and magnesium.
Want to try your hand at creating your own bath bombs? It turns out they’re pretty easy to make.
The below recipe makes two large bath bombs, perfect for a relaxing evening at home.
Bath bomb recipe
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/4 cup citric Acid
- 1/4 cup Epsom salt
- 1 teaspoons water
- 1 teaspoon essential oil (we used lavender)
- 1.5 tablespoons oil
- 1 of witch hazel
Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, then stir together the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Slowly—a drop at a time—mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring the entire time. If you see your mixture start to foam, you’re adding liquids too quickly. Once you’re done mixing, it should feel like wet sand and pack together easily.
Transfer your mixture into your bath molds (a muffin tin can also work here), and mold them together to form a sphere. Let your molds sit overnight, and in the morning you’ll have your very own bath bombs.
Or, you could keep your bath routine super-simple. Just add a few scoops of bath salts or a few drops of a soothing essential oil to your next bath to promote a restful night’s sleep.
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