I'm typically someone who doesn't have trouble falling asleep, but when I do, my go-to method is listening to Spotify's Scorpio Today podcast or taking a hot shower. I've always liked the idea of physically washing off the day before climbing into bed. Plus, a shower is the most effective method I've found to help ease my anxiety. So, when I heard that there's science to support this theory — that a warm shower before bed can help you drift off to sleep — I was intrigued to learn more.
While the simple ritual of taking a bath or shower can help you wind down in the evening, that's not the only benefit. Meredith Broderick, MD, a triple board-certified doctor in neurology, sleep medicine, and behavioral medicine in Washington, pointed to a 2019 study that found that taking a warm 10-minute bath or shower an hour or two before bed can help reduce sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). Dr. Broderick explained that this is because the heat from the water helps increase blood flow to the hands and feet, lowering your core body temperature. If you've ever tried falling asleep on a hot, sticky summer night, then you know how important it is to feel cool and comfortable when climbing into bed.
However, the temperature of the water is key. "Core body temperature refers to the temperature of our internal organs," Valerie Cacho, MD, an integrative sleep specialist in Hawaii, told POPSUGAR. In order to lower your core body temperature, the water has to be hot enough to increase blood flow to the peripheries. Dr. Broderick said that your shower or bath water should be at least 98.6 degrees.
Obviously, it's tricky to get an accurate reading on water raining down from a showerhead. Dr. Cacho recommends turning the shower dial to the start of the red or warm marker, then increasing the temperature to comfort. Remember that you should feel soothed and relaxed. If the water is too hot, it can put stress on the body — or worse, cause a burn — which, as Dr. Broderick explained, would be "counterproductive." So, the next time you've hit a rut in your sleep habits, try adding a shower or bath to your nightly routine. You just might be surprised at how good you feel.