For the many Americans who struggle with insomnia, it can be tempting to turn to pharmaceuticals in order to get a good night’s rest. But it turns out one of the best sleep aids is all-natural and essentially free. Studies have shown that taking a bath before bed is not only a classic way to relax—but an effective solution for helping you fall asleep.
It’s common knowledge that a bath can be soothing experience, but research has suggested that it does more than simply calm the mind. Because the body’s core temperature naturally drops before sleep, raising your body temperature a few hours before bed can actually trigger this process and prepare both your body and brain for rest.
While the relaxation effect comes from the heat, it doesn’t hurt to indulge in some spa-like features too. Try adding lavender oil or Epsom salts for an even more relaxing bathing experience. If you don’t have a bathtub—or simply don’t like it—a hot shower with some lavender body wash will also do the trick.
In order to make the most of your sleep-boosting bath, researchers suggest slipping into the tub a few hours before you plan on getting into bed. That’s because our bodies need time to calm down after a long day. “The brain is preparing for sleep about two hours before our actual bedtime,” explains Rebecca Scott, research assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center. “We literally go from billions of neurons firing up all day to keep us alert, active and engaged, and that waking system has to slowly come down to allow the sleep system to take over.” Using this decompression period to take a bath is the best way to signal to your brain that it should start slowing down and preparing for rest.
One famous proponent of the nighttime bath is media mogul turned sleep guru Arianna Huffington. She follows her soak by putting on actual pajamas—not sweatpants or leggings. Having outfits that are solely dedicated for bedtime can help signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep (instead of the gym or running errands).
Above all else, it’s important to simply prioritize your sleep—and stick to a nighttime routine that supports it.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on March 7, 2019.
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