Relaxing in a bubble bath an hour-and-a-half before bed could combat insomnia by telling your body clock it’s time for sleep

  • Evening bath or shower boosts the time spent asleep and the quality of shut eye 
  • Warm baths and showers redirect circulation to the hands and feet, experts say  
  • This then causes a drop in core body temperature, signalling it is time to nod off

Rather than counting sheep, relaxing in a bubble bath before bed could combat insomnia.

Indulging in an evening bath or shower an hour-and-a-half before you turn in boosts the time spent asleep and the quality of shut eye, research suggests.

Experts said water temperature of 40-to-42.5°C (104-to-108.5°F) is ‘ideal’ and speeds up sleep’s onset by up to 10 minutes.

Warm baths and showers redirect circulation to the hands and feet, which causes a drop in core body temperature, the researchers claim. 

This triggers the body’s internal clock into thinking it’s time for sleep, with body temperature naturally reducing in the run up to bedtime.

Relaxing in a bubble bath an hour-and-a-half before bed could combat insomnia (stock)

The research was carried out by The University of Texas at Austin and led by Dr Shahab Haghayegh, of the department of biomedical engineering.

Insomnia affects up to 35 per cent of adults in the US to some extent, according to Sleep Education. In the UK, a third of adults claim to have insomnia, statistics show.

In the short term this can make sufferers feel fatigued. But over time, a lack of shut eye can lead to depression and even heart disease. 

‘Water-based passive body heating’, such as warm shower or bath, is often recommended to combat insomnia, the researchers wrote in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.

However, how or why this occurs was relatively unclear. 

The researchers therefore analysed 13 studies that investigated how a shower or bath affects sleep.

‘When we looked through all known studies, we noticed significant disparities in terms of the approaches and findings.’ Dr Haghayegh said. 

‘The only way to make an accurate determination of whether sleep can, in fact, be improved was to combine all the past data and look at it through a new lens.’ 

Results revealed having an evening bath or shower at 40-to-42.5°C improved the participants’ self-reported sleep quality.

It also boosted their sleep efficiency, which is defined as the amount of time spent asleep relative to how long you lie in bed.  

When this was scheduled for an hour or two, or an average of 90 minutes, before bed, it significantly shortened the time it took them to nod off. 

Core body temperature regulates our sleep-wake cycle. 

It peaks during the late afternoon and is lowest towards the end of sleep.

When our temperature rises, it acts like nature’s alarm clock. 

Perhaps surprisingly, a warm bath or shower lowers our core temperature by directing blood flow to our peripheral areas, like the hands and feet.

This helps the body clock along, leading to a faster sleep time and a better quality of shut eye. 

The researchers stress further studies are required to confirm the optimal timing and duration of an evening bath or shower to best benefit sleep.

They are looking into making a bed that controls a person’s temperature throughout the night. 

HOW TO COPE WITH SLEEP PROBLEMS 

Poor sleep can lead to worrying and worrying can lead to poor sleep, according to the mental-health charity Mind.

A lack of shut eye is considered a problem when it impacts on a person’s daily life.

As a result, they may feel anxious if they believe lack of sleep prevents them from rationalising their thoughts.

Insomnia is also associated with depression, psychosis and PTSD.

Establishing a sleep routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time every day can help a person spend less time in bed and more time asleep.

Calming music, breathing exercises, visualising pleasant memories and meditation also encourage shut eye. 

Having tech-free time an hour or so before bed can also prepare you for sleep. 

If you still struggle to nod off, keeping a sleep diary where you record the hours you spend asleep and the quality of your shut eye on a scale of one to five can be a good thing to show your doctor.

Also note how many times you wake in the night, if you need to nap, if you have nightmares, your diet and your general mood.

Sleep problems can be a sign of an underlying physical condition, like pain.

Talking therapies can help your recongise unhelpful thought patterns that might affect sleep.

While medication, such as sleeping pills, can help break short periods of insomnia and help you return to better a sleeping pattern. 

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