Reports show that a global movement of prioritizing self care and wellness has been increasing during this COVID-19 pandemic and is predicted to become the new normal afterward. Self-care can take many forms—a few of our favorites are freshly brewed tea, long walks, and even our daily showers. As sleep connoisseurs we are interested in the effects of showering on our sleep as well the relationship between the two. Is it better to shower after you wake up or just before bed?
We aren’t aiming to make you change your routine, if you’ve found something that works, stick to it. However, it may surprise you just how much of an impact your shower habits have on your sleep patterns, skin care and even your mental health.
How can something make you sleepy and awake?
Generally we don’t think about sleep and showers going hand in hand but for many people a shower can be the kick in the morning to get them going or what helps them wind down for the evening. There is evidence to show that cold showers can get your heart pumping and help you feel more awake. The abrupt cold rush can engage the body’s sympathetic nervous system, activating fight or flight mode. This energizing effect can help you to wake up in the morning. In terms of going to sleep, a warm shower can really aid in this process. Your body temperature plays an important part in regulating your circadian rhythm, which communicates to the body when to feel sleepy or alert. Throughout the day our body naturally warms up and begins to cool down in the evenings. A warm shower can aid in this cool down process. Whilst the water may initially warm you up, when you towel off the evaporation of moisture leads to your skin cooling and research has shown this can facilitate the onset of sleep. Some doctors even suggest that this could help with insomnia as the shower will artificially raise and lower your temperature mimicking the natural process of the circadian rhythm.
Now prepare yourselves for this truth bomb. Turns out it’s just as the nursery rhyme goes, not too cold and not too hot. The perfect temperature recommended by doctors and dermatologists is lukewarm! That’s right, those steamy hot showers are not what the doctor ordered. Very hot showers can take the oil off your skin, causing irritation and dryness. Lukewarm means just steamy enough to act as a natural decongestant. The steam can help you breathe easier at night and is particularly important for those with asthma or allergies. You are even less likely to snore or have disrupted sleep! Doctors also recommend showers between 5-10 minutes—any longer and there is a higher chance of getting dry skin. For those of us who can’t bear to give up our hot showers, even making only a few of your showers lukewarm each week can positively impact the health of your skin. Thankfully there is also a silver lining to this in that shorter, cooler showers are much more gentle to our environment.
When it comes to staying clean, while there is value in both morning and evening showers, evening showers do a lot more to our overall cleanliness. We sweat in our sleep, so a morning shower can cleanse us of the previous night. We recommend this for particularly sweaty sleepers or those with acne or oily prone skin. However, morning showers are more of a preference, whereas evening showers are actually more beneficial. It’s important to wash away all the dirt, pollution, allergens and other things that come with interacting with the world in your everyday life. By showering in the evening you are preventing transferring these substances into your bed, where you sleep for the next 8 hours.
A moment of calm
If you’re looking for the right time and place to start a daily meditation practice, your showers could be a great place to start. The shower can be a good place to do this as it forces you to be away from interruptions like phones, and just be in your body feeling the temperature of the water. Whether you shower in the morning or night, we recommend spending the time at the start of your day to set intentions and taking a moment at the end of your day to reflect.
It’s your routine—whatever works for you is key. If you are showering in the morning short, cold bursts can be useful to kick start your day. Evening showers are important for washing the day away and can help us wander off to sleep. Try to make at least a couple of your showers in the week lukewarm and between 5-10 minutes. Take the time to relax in your shower and use it as an escape from the noise of the outside world. Sweet dreams!