Taking a Cold Shower Before Bed: Is It Harmful or Helpful?

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As bedtime approaches, most of us start to wind down and relax so we can fall asleep easier and faster. A warm shower or bath is often high on our list of relaxing activities. But, do you know that taking a cold shower before bed can also improve your sleep quality? The idea may seem counterintuitive for many people, particularly when it comes to sleep. However, there are actually quite a few unexpected benefits. Of course, a warm or hot bath still has its merits. So this brings us to the question, which is better for facilitating sleep – a cold shower or a hot one?

This article discusses both the advantages and disadvantages of showering before bed. Also, we’ll tackle certain aspects where hot and cold water come handy in providing better sleep. This way, you can optimize every moment you spend in bed for rejuvenating and prepping up for the next day.

Does Showering Help You Sleep?

Should you shower before bed or do showers wake you up? Interestingly, even though it may seem a bit invigorating, showering before you go to sleep can actually help you to drift off faster by triggering our Circadian Rhythm.

Showering and Your Circadian Rhythm

backview of a man taking a bath

Our circadian rhythm functions as our internal clock and one of its main functions is to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. When the time for sleep approaches, your circadian rhythm starts to send signals to your body prompting the system to prepare for sleep. Part of this process is lowering your core body temperature.

One way to stimulate the lowering of body temperature is by taking a shower. If you take a cool or cold shower, it will naturally start to reduce your body temperature and will send a signal to your brain that sleep time is fast approaching. Even though it may wake you up a bit mentally, this adjustment in body temperature is still more ideal for sleep. Drowsiness will eventually take over and will ease you off to a deep and peaceful slumber.

Conversely, if you take a warm or hot shower, it may increase your core body temperature while you’re in the bathroom and shortly after. However, the quick change in temperature on your skin will cause a rapid cool down that is similar to showering in cooler water.

Timing Is Everything

If you plan on incorporating showers into your sleep routine or even if you already have, we recommend taking your shower about 60-90 minutes before going to bed. Allowing a brief period to separate your shower from sleep will enable your body to continue winding down and reach the ideal state for sleep.

This is quite important if you like more extreme temperatures for your bathing water, cold or hot, because of the initial shock it can cause to your system. Extreme temperatures will be somewhat stimulating either way. However, if you give yourself time to recover, it can still facilitate better quality and more consistent sleep.

Hot or Cold Shower Before Bed?

Now that we know taking a shower before going to sleep can be beneficial for your body, the question remains – should it be hot or cold? Will a cold shower before bed only wake you up? Are hot showers the only way to go? As it turns out, there are benefits to both cold and hot showers. So, which is better suited for your body and sleep needs?

Cool and Cold Showers: Benefits Related to Sleep

Do cold showers make you sleep better? Or, does it only wake you up at night? The benefits of cold showers on your body are far-reaching and could have more impact than you know. Taking a cold shower at night may not appear relaxing but you might be surprised at how much it can help you drift off to sleep. Let’s find out how and why.

a. Activates Your Immune System

When you’ve become cold, either from the climate or being immersed in cold water, your body instinctively starts working to build more heat and keep you warm. When this happens, your metabolism speeds up, triggering the immune system to increase white blood cell production. White blood cells play a vital role in maintaining your health and fighting off infections from bacteria and viruses. Hence, a cold shower can actually help your immune system to function at its highest level. Even if you don’t make it a part of your daily routine, remember this the next time you have a cold. Try taking a cool bath in an effort to regain your health as quickly as possible.

b. Boosts Metabolism

As mentioned before, cold water is likewise capable of increasing your body’s metabolism, entailing a number of health benefits. You may be aware that boosting your metabolism is good for weight loss and that’s quite motivating for most of us. But, how does a cold shower play into this? As discussed, your body naturally reacts to the low temperature and as a result, it creates brown fat cells to increase warmth. The new brown fat cells actively burn more energy, enhancing your metabolism rate. Hence, you get to burn calories quicker. This may sound unbelievable, but burning more calories while you sleep sounds like a dream come true!

c. Increases Alertness

A cool shower also increases circulation in your body leading to heightened awareness. When you are preparing for bed, encouraging alertness may seem like a bad idea when taken at face value. However, it can actually help you to sleep better by allowing you to remember and complete some unfinished tasks before going to bed. If you’re able to tie these loose ends, you probably will feel more accomplished, making it easier to fall asleep. If you’re looking to gain alertness at night, we recommend taking your cold shower about two hours before settling down to sleep. In this way, your body will have ample time to unwind after the initial shock.

d. Enhances Focus

When you take a cold shower, it becomes hard to focus on anything other than the task at hand. Going under a cold spray can bring your thoughts in one direction and that’s to get warmed up quickly. This is good because it can force you to forget stressful factors or things that are keeping you preoccupied, even if it’s only temporary. Ideally, clearing your mind in this manner will help you to prepare for bed when the time comes.

e. Releases Anti-Depression Hormones

The sympathetic nervous system is also activated when you take a cold shower because of the natural fight or flight response it produces in your body. When this occurs, a wave of beta-endorphins and noradrenaline floods your brain creating an anti-depressant effect. People who are content and happy generally sleep more consistently and get better quality sleep overall. This isn’t to say a cold shower will miraculously cure all of your depression and sleep problems but hopefully, it will help and it certainly can’t hurt.

As an added bonus, the hormones released also act as a natural pain reliever in your body that is actually thought to be more effective than synthetic opioids. When you add natural pain relief to the list of cold shower benefits, they really are starting to look better and better all the time.

f. Improves Hair Quality

When it comes to our hair, most of us have tried many different things in an effort to improve its overall health. In fact, tens of thousands of people have spent a lot of money doing so. Fortunately, cold water is one thing that has been shown to improve your hair quality and resilience without breaking the bank. When you wash your hair with cold water, it locks in moisture. Additionally, it helps to prevent breakage and also gives it a smoother, shinier appearance by flattening out the hair cuticles on each strand. Moreover, cold water may help reduce hair loss and that’s something that will certainly appeal to almost anyone.

g. Reduces Puffiness

Taking a cold or cool shower can also have noticeable effects on your skin and its texture. As we discussed above, a cold shower increases blood circulation in your body and this can give your skin a healthy, natural glow. Cool water also constricts blood vessels in your skin resulting in tighter pores for a brief while. As a result, tighter skin pores minimize redness and puffiness. This is why you may have heard that washing your face with cold water is a good idea when you want to look more refreshed.

Warm or Hot Showers: Benefits Related to Sleep

Many of us really like the way a warm shower or bath feels before bed, and fortunately, it provides a lot of benefits as well. Actually, taking a hot bath at any point during the day can produce the advantages listed below. Hence, you don’t have to wait for bedtime if you are experiencing any of them right now.

a. Relieves Tension and Relaxes Muscles

The warm water and steam from a hot bath will naturally relieve tension and will relax your muscles. Running hot water over sore and tense areas in your body will increase blood flow and circulation. After an intense workout, this could certainly relieve enough tension. An ideal routine to make sleeping easier if you indulge in strenuous activities a few hours before you go to bed.

b. Reduces Inflammation

The consistent flow of hot water can also kick start the healing process and reduce swelling or inflammation. Our circulatory system responds really well to the added heat and the benefits can be noticed almost immediately. Another advantage of reduced inflammation is pain relief. Inflammation can be pretty uncomfortable and, when we are in pain, every little thing helps.

c. Migraine Relief

Improving circulation by way of a hot bath or shower can also help you to experience relief from migraine faster after taking any pain medication. The hot shower will speed up its distribution throughout your system. Additionally, it will help to encourage relaxation which is certainly beneficial to migraine sufferers.

d. Lowers Anxiety

a woman enjoying a spray of water

If you are able to relax in a hot shower, it is possible to find relief from anxiety at the same time. As you unwind, you will improve your focus and may be able to rationalize outside factors that are causing your anxiety in the first place. Of course, this isn’t a cure-all but it has been shown to help some people.

e. Breathe Easier

The steam created by hot water will also help to clear your sinuses and air pathways. Try taking deep breaths while you stand in the shower and the steam will help to break up any congestion you may be experiencing. Furthermore, the hot vapor can help to prevent some respiratory issues from developing. Other individuals find this extremely helpful when their seasonal allergies are particularly bad.

f. Superior Cleaning

Washing with hot or warm water is more effective, even when it comes to cleaning your body and skin. While cold or cool water will still remove some toxins, warmer water will do more, quicker, and with less effort. A warm shower also opens your pores allowing the water to penetrate your skin in all of its hard-to-reach places. Hence, if you are looking for the ultimate clean feeling, a hot or warm shower is your best bet.

Location Matters

Where you live can also play a role in whether you are instinctively drawn to take a warm, hot, or cold shower. If you live in a colder climate, you will probably prefer to take a warm or hot bath. On the other hand, if you reside in a hotter, humid location, chances are that a cold shower sounds more appealing. Either way, you now know the benefits of both and you should use them to your advantage. Sometimes, going against your initial instinct can be beneficial after gaining new knowledge. We live in a climate that has snow for the majority of the year and showering in cold water sounded awful at first. But after giving it a shot, it was found to be a pleasant surprise.

Will You Be Showering Before Bed Tonight?

Should you shower before bed? Yes, we encourage you to give showering close to bedtime a try and we recommend switching to cold bath occasionally, as well. Before reading this article, taking a cold shower or even taking a shower at all before bed may have sounded a bit counterintuitive. Actually, even with all of this new information, it still may seem a little out of the ordinary, especially if you don’t live in a hot or humid climate.

So, does a cold shower before bed help you sleep? There is only one way to find out. Try it tonight, what do you have to lose?

Additional Resources

Emily Alexander
Emily Alexander

Emily Melynn Alexander was born on the east coast of the USA but has called Colorado home since 2000. She has a degree in English and Political Science from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She enjoys sleeping in locations all around the world.

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