July 30, 2021 6 min read
On some days, the only light at the end of the tunnel is the thought of getting into bed for a good night's sleep! Getting enough rest to deal with both the highs and the lows coming at us the next day, is more difficult than we realise. We end up looking for solutions to optimise and tweak the hours leading up to our bedtimes, to settle into a routine that maximises our sleep cycles.
One of the tips we hear about most often, is taking a bath before we want to sleep. We have all heard that taking an ice-cold shower wakes us up in the mornings, but surprisingly, a cold shower before bed, is known to improve sleep, as well. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this strange, dual effect.
Should you have a cold shower before bed?
Have you ever wondered why a cold shower after a long day sounds like heaven to most people? Why do we enjoy a cold shower before bed?
Cold showers before bed are known to soothe muscles that are tense or tired. With the cooler temperature, the body relaxes and the heart rate slows down, until you feel comforted and relaxed.
Studies have shown that the body’s temperature needs to drop by 1–2 degrees Fahrenheit (around 0.5 to 1 degrees Celsius), for us to enter a quiet sleep phase. Our bodies automatically set our circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Core temperatures fall slowly but consistently, till it reaches the best temperature for sleep.
Taking a cold shower before sleep is one of the fastest ways to decrease the core body temperatures. A meta-analysis conducted recently concluded that contact with cold water kept at around 50°F or 10°C cooled off overheated people twice as fast as those who were not exposed to cold water therapy.
Research has also determined that a chilly shower sends signals to the brain saying that you are now ready for bed. While temperature regulation plays a large role in getting some great quality sleep, a cold shower before bed also has some added perks which help in keeping circadian rhythms and sleep cycles consistent.
1. Cold showers activate your immune system by stimulating the production of your body’s natural defence system- the white blood cells. These are the cells that actively fight against invading infections. Freedom from recurrent minor infections, especially a stuffy nose or itchy throat, leads to undisturbed sleep.
2. The drop in core body temperature following a cold shower before bed, releases chemicals like melatonin , which are also known to induce sleep. Melatonin responds to a decrease in core body temperature. Studies have revealed that it is found in higher levels during autumn and winters when the nights are longer and colder. That does explain why waking up on a cold morning requires more coffee than usual!
3. Sudden exposure to cold temperatures releases a burst of feel good hormones that have anti-depressant effects, which help to elevate your mood and calm your mind after a long day, leading to restful sleep.
4. Chilly showers help with muscle aches and pains by reducing inflammation and soreness. It also increases both blood and lymphatic circulation, getting your body ready for a physically restful night.
5. There are several bonuses to taking a cold shower as well, which help with overall health. Cold exposure increases metabolism rates, allowing brown fat cells to use up their energy and has positive effects on weight loss. It also tightens and rejuvenates the skin, because it helps improve the rate at which new skin cells are generated. This is extremely helpful for those who suffer from eczema, as well as those who are battling hair fall.
Yes, it is true that the sudden drop in temperature after a cold shower will probably cause a spike in your survival hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol. These are also called our stress hormones and their job is to boost energy levels and alertness. Not exactly the mood you want to be in when you’re getting ready for bed, right?
However, there isn’t any conclusive data that proves that cold showers before bed disrupt sleep, because the energy spike is only temporary. The body resets itself to a comfortable temperature with the helps of its internal thermostat, to prepare you for bedtime.
Hot showers are thought to be relaxing, while cold showers are thought to be stimulating. As the age-old debate persists, we still find ourselves asking- is it better to take a hot shower or a cold shower before bed?
Generally it is easier to fall asleep when our bodies are cool, rather than warm. Hot sleepers are known to suffer from many sleepless and uncomfortable nights, because they do tend to feel warmer at night. Taking a hot shower before bedtime, may lead to further spikes in body temperatures, which makes the sleeping environment even more unbearable. These spikes may be transient, but the time it takes for the body to cool down again, may keep you up longer than you would like.
While temperatures are important in determining how good your sleep is, it’s also important to keep in mind, the time at which you choose to shower. Studies have shown that the best time for taking a shower or a bath is 1-2 hours before going to bed. The shower itself doesn’t have to be longer than 10 minutes for you to enjoy its effects.
Whether you use hot or cold water, taking a shower at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, gives your body the time it needs to respond to the new stimulus, as well as your body’s internal thermostat to regulate itself once again, until it settles at a core temperature that is perfect for sleep.
It seems like experimentation is the name of the game here! Results vary for different people , but taking a shower before bed has a myriad of benefits, whether you use warm or cold water, as they both act on the body in different ways. The climate around you also makes a big difference. If you live in a warm and humid environment, a cold shower before bed sounds like heaven! If your surroundings are cold and dreary, a hot shower will probably be a better option. The shower itself, not only helps us to fall asleep faster, but it also improves the quality of sleep and helps us to stay asleep through the night.
The Goldilocks’ Effect! Not to hot, not too cold, but ... just right!
If the two extremes don’t suit you, then consider the middle path. Transitioning from warm to cold showers, that is, starting with warm water and slowly decreasing the temperature, makes sure you get the benefits of both.
Fun Fact! Availing the healing benefits of water has been a healing ritual used centuries ago by the Roman empire. They practiced what we call hydrotherapy today, building complex communal bathhouses, designed to provide people access to steam rooms and heated tubs for hot water and ending with a dip in cold water, to improve their health and wellbeing.
While taking a shower before you go to sleep will cool you down, there are other ways you can improve your bedtime routine to ensure that you get the best sleep possible. The type of sleep that makes you feel well rested and ready to tackle the challenges of the day. If taking a cold shower before bedtime is not for you, then consider looking at ways to decrease the temperature of your sleeping environment, instead.
1. Keep it Breezy : Leaving the bedroom doors and windows open for a small period before bed can leave the room feeling fresher and cooler than before. Air conditioning and fan ventilation will also help.
2. Keep it Natural : Consider switching the sheets and bedding to natural fabric like cotton or linen to make it through the hot months, while saving heavy duvets and comforters for winters.
Cooling mattresses and pillows are also great for directly cooling the body. They may be made out of different types of materials, like gel, foam or fibre, which take longer to heat up.
3. Keep it Smart : A smart cooling solution, the Moona cooling system uses the cooling power of water to regulate your body temperature. Based on accurate sleep science, the system combines the water filled pillow pad, along with a smart pod that keeps the pillow cool all night. With sensors that detect movement connected wirelessly to a mobile app, you can also track your sleeping patterns.
Considering the positive effects of a cooler body and environmental temperatures for sound sleep, check out Moona’s Cooling Pillows, today!