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If there's one thing you need to know about me, it's this: I live for a hot shower. It's easily the most relaxing thing I do all day. When I was preparing to welcome my twins, all I heard was how I would barely have time to shower. But I knew one thing: I was going to make time for those long, hot showers because for me, they're the ultimate form of self-care.
A lot of people shower in the morning, but according to research in 2019, treating bathing as a nighttime ritual can help exhausted moms get the quality sleep they need. People often tell new moms they won't have time to shower, but maybe we should be making sure they can prioritize taking one.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering say the key to a good night's sleep is bathing in water of about 104-109 degrees Fahrenheit about one to two hours before bedtime. The researchers considered data from over 5,000 sources before determining that doing so helps you fall asleep about 10 minutes faster and get a better night of sleep overall.
The study set out to examine how passive body heating from a water source affects sleep. They looked at four factors: How quickly a person transitions from fully awake to fully asleep, how long a person sleeps, the amount of time spent sleeping as compared to the amount of time spent in bed and the quality of sleep.
The idea that body temperature and sleep may be linked isn't new. Body temperature actually drops about an hour before sleep time, dropping even lower in the middle of sleep and rising before it's time to rise. Your body temperature also decreases a bit after a warm bath or shower and this helps your body's natural circadian rhythm signal that it's time for your brain to shut down.
Taking a hot bath or shower can help your body know that it is time to power down. If you couple your bathing ritual with with a screen-time curfew for yourself instead of mentally working through your to-do list when your head hits the pillow, you'll be drifting off to sleep 10 minutes sooner.
If you've been having trouble sleeping, instead of scrolling on your phone in bed tonight, consider shutting off your phone and having a hot shower or bath. We know that a bath-time routine helps get our kids ready for sleep—and it's true for mama, too.
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A version of this article was originally published in February 2020. It has been updated.