To shower or not to shower—and when? That is the question. Many people feel strongly about taking a morning shower to start the day feeling fresh and energized.
But did you know taking a shower before bed can help you sleep, too?
If you’re wondering whether you should shower before bed, read on. We break down the benefits of nighttime showers and how they can help your sleep.
How showering at night helps you sleep
Research shows that taking a warm shower or bath daily can help you fall asleep faster. Here’s why.
Throughout the day, your core body temperature naturally fluctuates in accordance with your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm controls your sleep-wake cycle, along with a host of other biological functions.
Among many other cues, your mind relies on your body temperature to determine whether it’s time to sleep or wake. At night, your body temperature cools slightly, signaling to your brain that it’s time to release melatonin and prepare for sleep. Your body temperature reaches its lowest in the early morning, at which point it begins rising again, preparing your body to wake up and meet the day.
When you take a warm shower at night, you help aid this natural thermoregulation process. During the shower, your body heats up thanks to the water. Then, when you get out of the shower, the water quickly evaporates from your skin, cooling you down—and signaling to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
This rapid cooldown is the largest reason why a shower at night can help you sleep. However, showering (or bathing) before bed provides several other pro-sleep benefits:
- Showers help you relax, both physically and emotionally. Your body always feels better after a warm bath or shower. When you’re less stressed, it’s easier to sleep.
- Showers are cleansing. When you get into bed clean, you’ll not only feel less stressed out, but you’ll also avoid bringing any dirt, oils, or allergens into the bed with you. This is good for the health of your skin and your mattress.
- Showers force you to disconnect. When you’re showering, you can’t be watching TV or checking Facebook on your phone (unless you’re willing to damage your tech). Even if it’s only for a few minutes, your mind has to unplug. Including a shower in your bedtime routine makes it easier for you to transition from your go-go daytime mode into relaxation and sleep.
Should you take a hot or cold shower before bed?
If you’re taking a shower to help you sleep, the temperature matters. Experts recommend that a lukewarm shower 60 to 90 minutes before bed is best. While cold and hot showers have their own benefits, they’re not ideal for sleep.
A cold shower stimulates your mind and body (the opposite of what you want before bed). The sudden cold rush activates your body’s sympathetic nervous system, sending your body into fight or flight mode. That energizing effect makes cold showers suitable for the morning, when you want to wake up.
A too-hot shower can have a similar effect to a cold one: energizing your body and waking you up. It will also take you longer to cool down, delaying sleep.
A lukewarm shower is just right. The steam acts as a natural decongestant, helping you breathe easier at night. This is particularly important to those living with asthma or allergies. The easier it is for you to breathe, the less likely you are to snore and disrupt the quality of your sleep.
Is it better to take a shower at night or in the morning?
Ultimately, it’s up to you and what you and your body need. If you’re more worried about being able to wake up in the morning, a cold AM shower might be more effective for you. If, on the other hand, you need help winding down and getting to bed, a warm shower at night is the way to go.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can always shower twice a day. Take a cold one in the morning and a warm one at night.
Pro tip: To supercharge the energizing or relaxing effects of your shower, work in some essential oils. You can add a few drops to your shampoo or conditioner, or straight into the bath water itself. At night, opt for sleep-promoting oils like lavender, ylang ylang, or sandalwood. If you shower in the morning, choose an energizing citrus scent instead.