Besides having a relaxing and highly refreshing effect, showering makes us feel better after a hard day’s work or after a grueling workout. After you step out of the bathroom, you may be in two states: sleepy in preparation for nap time or fully energized, ready to take on the day and its challenges. So how do showers affect your state of wakefulness or alertness?
Water temperature determines whether a shower will make you sleepy or awake. A hot shower will make you sleepy, while a cold shower will have the opposite effect. This is a consequence of our body’s metabolism and how we regulate its temperature throughout the day.
This article will discuss how choosing the proper water temperature can influence your body to become either relaxed or energized. In addition to discussing how our bodies regulate temperature, I will also shed more light on the best time to take a shower and make the most of your day (or night).
Did you know that the water temperature plays a huge role in how you feel after a shower? Understanding how hot and cold water affects our body’s sleep-wake cycle is key to knowing what kind of shower will make you feel sleepy or awake.
What Happens When You Take a Hot Shower
Hot showers are great after a stressful day. The heat helps your muscles relax and release tension, allowing you to feel good in preparation for a full night’s rest. But how does this work?
When hot water hits your skin, it increases your body’s core temperature, allowing it to achieve a state of thermal equilibrium. Your body will then stay heated until you exit the shower.
After showering, we experience a rapid cool-down period that lowers our body temperature as the heat leaves our body. The sudden decrease in body temperature is our regulatory system’s attempt at restoring a median core temperature. This drop in temperature is what makes us feel sleepy.
Also, our circadian rhythm is influenced by our body temperature. As body temperature decreases, our system releases more melatonin, a hormone in charge of helping us sleep. With increased melatonin production, our circadian rhythm kicks in and tells us it is bedtime.
So basically, hot showers make us sleepy because our bodies start naturally producing a hormone that signals it is time to sleep during the cool-down process.
On the other hand, cold showers can feel especially good during a hot day or after a strenuous exercise session. Cold water can make you feel more awake and invigorated if you’re tired from the day’s events.
Why does this happen? Unlike hot showers that affect your circadian rhythm, cold showers activate your body’s fight-or-flight response. However, changes to your core body temperature are still a factor in this scenario.
Our body temperature rises throughout the day, so when you dump cold water on yourself, it shocks your sympathetic nervous system. This shock jolts your fight-or-flight response, making you feel instantly alert and awake.
The colder temperature also does the following things to your body that wakes up your entire system:
- Increases your heart rate.
- Promotes blood circulation.
- Increases your respiratory rate.
- Lowers carbon dioxide levels.
- Raises oxygen intake.
The above biological responses happen because your nervous system is trying to counteract your rapidly cooling core temperature. Your body begins working harder to warm itself back to its base temperature. Increased heart rate and blood circulation lead to higher respiratory rates, so more oxygen enters your body and energizes your brain.
Also, your metabolic rate increases, releasing feel-good hormones and reducing stress hormones. That’s why cold showers render you awake and feeling refreshed.
Now you know what happens when you shower with different water temperatures. How do you decide which type of shower is the best for you?
If you suffer from insomnia or bad sleeping habits, a hot shower before bed can help you get a good night’s sleep. In a study assessing the sleep hygiene of youth soccer players, researchers found that taking a hot shower at least 30 minutes before bedtime improved sleep efficiency in the athletes. The decrease in the players’ body temperature also helped them fall asleep quicker.
On the other hand, if you have trouble waking up in the morning, cold showers are the way to go. Although the shock to your system can be quite jarring at first, it becomes the stimulation you need to energize your mind and body for the day.
Interestingly, a study found that bathing in cold water as a post-exercise recovery technique did not affect overall night sleep quality. Specifically, the study was conducted on fitness enthusiasts who enjoyed evening exercise. The researchers found that the cold may increase sleep efficiency because it helped reduce the body’s core temperature more rapidly than if athletes were to skip the shower entirely.
However, research suggests that lukewarm shower temperatures between 104°F and 108.5°F (40°C and 42.5°C) are best for improving sleep hygiene. While not scalding hot, warm water can still induce the rapid-cooling effect needed for your body to reach a sleepy state.
Apart from affecting your state of wakefulness, both cold and hot showers come with their own pros and cons. Sometimes, alternating between the two shower conditions may be a good idea to improve bodily functions.
The Best Time to Take a Shower
Do you prefer a shower in the morning or evening? How many times do you shower in a day?
There is no single answer when deciding the best time to shower. Everyone thrives on their own routine, so what may work for you may not work for someone else.
However, showering has certain benefits at certain times of the day. While water temperature plays a part in helping you sleep or stay awake, choosing when to shower can also help you plan your day better.
Showering in the morning helps you wake up for the day ahead. According to a survey, 49.5% of 1000 employees said they prefer showering in the morning. Surprisingly, 53.8% of the people who take morning showers said they shower with warm water.
While cold showers energize you, having a shower in the morning is generally considered a good habit because it helps your mind get ready for the day. Taking a shower after you wake up has a meditative effect — your mind is relaxed, which helps increase productivity and creativity throughout the day.
Apart from that, showering in the morning helps you eliminate the dirt you accumulate on your skin during the night. We tend to perspire in our sleep, so showering after we get out of bed cleanses our skin of dead cells and bacteria.
Morning showers also have the added benefit of de-stressing your body in preparation for a hectic workday. So whether you shower with cold or warm water, try incorporating shower time into your morning routine and see if it improves your day.
Sometimes, we skip out on morning showers because cleaning yourself before you get dirty from the day’s events doesn’t make much sense. Is showering in the evening better after all?
Getting into the shower in the evening helps you unwind and relax. Warm showers help reduce muscle tension and lower blood pressure for a restful night. The result leaves you less anxious or stressed, relieving symptoms like headaches.
Evening showers also coincide with our natural circadian rhythm. Showering after the sun has gone down can help you become sleepy since our bodies rely on core temperature and light exposure to fall asleep.
Since showering before bed helps you get a good night’s rest, it also reduces your need for a shower in the mornings to wake yourself up. So if you want to save time in the mornings, consider showering as part of your bedtime routine for improved sleep quality.
Essentially, besides cleansing your body from pollutants, showers in the evening are great for relaxation at the end of the day.
Best Time to Shower Before Bed
Since showering is a relaxing activity, you may think that getting into bed immediately after cleansing yourself helps you fall asleep quicker. Most of the time that isn’t true — you could find yourself taking longer to fall asleep because your body hasn’t had enough time to cool down.
For a good night’s sleep, experts recommend showering approximately 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime. Studies have shown that giving your body time to cool off before attempting to sleep helps you fall asleep more efficiently and get better sleep.
Showers can make you feel sleepy or awake, but this highly depends on the water temperature you use.
Hot showers make you sleepy because your body’s natural cooling-off process after exposure to higher temperatures makes you feel tired. This is because a decrease in your body’s core temperature promotes sleep hormones and affects your circadian rhythm.
On the other hand, cold showers can wake you up because cold water shocks your system and leaves you alert. The stimulation from lower temperatures activates your fight-or-flight response by making your body work harder to raise its temperature back to normal.
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