Why A Warm Bath Keeps You From Sleep

You’ve had “one of those days,” stressful and exhausting. Or perhaps your muscles are sore after a workout or from doing some other physical activity. The point is you’re tired and want nothing more than to take a nice warm bath and go to sleep.

You draw a bath; add some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil to soothe and relax your tired body. Some lighted candles and soft music enhance the mood. You slide into the tub, and after a few minutes, you feel yourself relaxing.  Muscles loosen. It’s an “everything is right with the world” moment. You feel yourself about to nod off in the tub. A sure sign you think that that you are going to doze off just as soon as your head hits the pillow.

You snuggle into your bed ready for a peaceful night sleep; close your eyes, and WHAM. You’re wide-awake and can’t fall asleep. Your body is relaxed; muscles are feeling better. But, no matter what position you put your body into you can’t fall asleep. “What’s up with this? ” you wonder.

It’s All About the Timing

You did everything right for a relaxing and sleep-inducing bath. The one thing you weren’t aware of, however, is that body temperature rises after a bath. Though you feel relaxed, a higher body temperature makes you alert instead of sleepy. You may have noticed how a workout energizes you.

The body regulates temperature through the process of thermoregulation. For example, when the core temperature is too high, the excess heat is released through the skin. The hypothalamus regulates the body’s core temperature, and external temperatures affect the shell temperature, which includes skin and muscles. When the shell temperature rises, it also warms the core, which is what happens when you take a hot bath.

Reduced core temperature induces sleep. The temperature of the body needs to cool down for it to prepare for sleep. It takes about an hour. So, you can still take that relaxing bath just plan to finish it an hour or so before going to bed.

Body Temperature Cycle and Sleep

Your normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is true at least for part of the day. The hypothalamus regulates the core temperature allowing it to fluctuate between 96.8 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in a 24-hour period. Two hours before waking your core temperature is at its lowest, about 2 degrees lower. Sleep occurs when core temperature begins to drop.

Suggestions to Induce Sleep

While you wait the hour or so for your body temperature to go back down after a bath, there are some other things you can do to encourage sleep:

  • Sip on a cup of tea that contains one of these herbs:
    • Chamomile contains the plant compound apigenin, which has a sedative effect.
    • Magnolia bark is a Chinese herb that has a longstanding reputation for helping to promote sleep, nervous tension, and anxiety.
    • Licorice root is also known to relax the body and help with sleep.
  • Turn off your television, social media, and other like devices an hour before going to bed. Falling asleep while watching TV can impact the quality of sleep.
  • Listen to relaxing music or meditate. Both can allow your brain to “turn off” the constant chatter that may be the source of why you can’t sleep.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Yes, this suggestion may take longer than an hour, especially if you have a TV in your room. Sleep specialists recommend removing the television from your bedroom for better sleep. And decorate your room with soothing colors and decorations.

A warm or hot bath can relax the muscles and remove tension, which helps with the body’s ability to fall asleep. However, allow enough time for your body to cool down. You can also speed up this process with a cool shower.

Singing, “Rubber ducky you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun….” is optional.

References

A great night’s sleep can depend on the comfort you feel in your bedroom environment. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php.

The Physiology of Sleep, Thermoregulation and Sleep. Retrieved from http://sleepdisorders.sleepfoundation.org/chapter-1-normal-sleep/the-physiology-of-sleep-thermoregulation-sleep/.

Weil, Andrew, M.D. Magnolia Bark for Anxiety, Depression. Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/magnolia-bark-for-anxiety-depression/.

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