Bring Back Bathtime! Why You Need a Soak Before Sleeping
By Franki Hanke
Think a bath before bed is just for kids? Think again.
Bathtime might be something you left in childhood, but there’s more to a warm bath before bed than you might think. We include a bath for sleep in our bedtime routine whenever we can, and here’s why.
Why Take a Bath for Sleep
If you haven’t read our Sleep Guide, you might not know why a bath before bed helps! A warm bath (or shower) one to two hours before sleep can improve sleep quality in multiple ways.
→ Less waking up in the middle of the night
→ Better sleep quality
A systematic review in Sleep Medicine Reviews compiled the data from 17 total studies to prove these claims. The heat of a hot bath changes core body temperature so we sleep better (and feel more rested the next day).
These effects can even be enjoyed from a hand or foot bath if you lack a traditional bathtub. For an easy foot bath before bed, use the HoMedics bath to soothe tired toes and help your sleep. You can practice all our healthy habits below even with just a foot bath.
For all the tips we know for getting your best night’s sleep, purchase The Well-Rested Woman, our science-informed guide of every sleep tip you need (all in one spot).
However, there’s more to a bath than adjusting our body’s temperature. By adding a warm bath to our pre-sleep routine, we enjoy the benefit of healthy sleep and the other benefits of a bath.
How Baths Help
Besides boosting our sleep, the water and heat of a bath are incredible for pain. Stiff joints and sore backs are inevitable after a long day but they can be temporarily soothed by the heat therapy of a warm bath. This relaxation at the end of the day can cut down on tossing and turning due to discomfort once you slide under the covers.
Warm water is so effective it’s even soothed the pain of labor!
Bump up the impact of your bath with additives that bring their own benefits:
→ Epsom salts (for muscle relief)
→ Colloidal oatmeal (for skin soothing)
→ Milk powder (for skin nourishment)
→ Essential oils (for relaxation)
Besides the physical effects on your muscles and skin, the bedtime ritual of a warm bath is holistically beneficial. We build a routine around our bath for a good night’s sleep and mental health wellness in one before the day ends.
The Best Bedtime Bath Routine
One to two hours before bed, you should be winding down for the night. This is the perfect time for your soak.
Set the Scene
Remove distractions and bright lights. If the house is still lively, consider music or white noise in the bathroom to create a space for relaxation. By limiting blue light exposure now, you support your body’s circadian rhythm recognizing bedtime is coming.
Ditch Electronic Devices
If you dim the lights, but then scroll Pinterest in the tub, you’re doing it wrong.
The blue light from our phones disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle. For improved sleep patterns, ditch your phone before your evening bath and don’t pick it back up.
Instead, opt for a screen-free activity in the bath.
→ Follow along with guided meditation.
→ Practice self-care with self-massage, shaving, scrubbing, or any other bath activity.
→ Listen to an audiobook.
→ Read a physical book.
→ Try journaling.
Customize your Bath Cocktail
No, I’m not saying to pour some wine. I’m referring to the bath itself. By adding extra goodies to our bathwater, we can double up on the benefits of the warm water itself.
Choose products for your body and skin (or mix them all, you party animal).
Sore Muscles – Stiff Joints – Body Aches
I love the Village Naturals menthol-infused products because they combine the muscle-relaxing effects of Epsom salts with an added oomph from menthol (which you’ll often find in pain relief products like IcyHot back patches). Imagine soaking your whole stiff, sore body in an IcyHot bath… Mmm. Just me?
Well, either way, the Village Naturals products are a gift for sore bodies.
Bonus Points for Relaxation
If you really love to smell your bath, like me, combine this duo with some pure Eucalyptus, Spearmint, or Lavendar oil in an oil diffuser. The Vivitest Diffuser has a ceramic cover for a super-luxe feel (and a subtle design fit for any bathroom style). It looks just like the iconic Vitruvi sold at Anthropolgie but for half the price! If you don’t believe me, believe the reviews: “I bought this diffuser and the Vitruvi diffuser, which is more than double the price and looks very similar. I’ve used them both in different rooms for a few weeks. I can not tell any difference at all whatsoever. Don’t waste your money on the more expensive one.”
While the scientific support for essential oils impacting us directly is missing, there’s a powerful suggestion in creating a relaxing scene yourself for relaxing you. By choosing a scent to soothe your mind, you do have the power to soothe your mind.
Dry or Itchy Skin
Hot water from a bath can dry out the skin, especially if you’re already feeling a little crusty. Combat this by adding some moisturizers to your bath.
For itchy skin relief, add colloidal oatmeal which is commonly used for Eczema relief. That’s because colloidal oatmeal has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that minimize skin reactions. Aveeno makes convenient bath-sized packets to add one at a time.
For moisturizing skin, add milk fats with a milk bath powder. Using powdered milk, a milk bath hydrates with fat content for a super-luxe feeling a la Cleopatra who famously bathed in sour milk to keep her skin smooth. Sour milk, unlike our powdered milk product, has lactic acid to gently exfoliate the skin.
Control the Temperature
Don’t let the water get too hot. Overly hot water will damage and kill skin cells. Your bath should feel warm, not hot.
If you tend to get cold, try closing the door to the bathroom and running the water very hot to create a steamy environment. Then, once the tub is full, leave it full without entering until it’s cooled down to warm temperature.
The room will stay warm and steamy, but you won’t hurt your skin. A mug of chamomile tea won’t hurt either (for keeping warm and getting sleepy).
Soak For 10 Minutes (at Least)
The minimum amount of time for a boost to sleep hygiene is 10 minutes, though I love to stay in the bath much longer. But, if your nighttime routine is short on time, you don’t have to stay in long for some help solving sleep problems.
However, the longer you soak pre-bedtime the better for letting the heat work on muscles and for skin to absorb any additives.
Make sure your bath is paired with some other good pre-sleep habits. Once the steam has softened your skin and opened your pores, follow up with your evening skincare routine.
Protect the relaxation from your bath by limiting (or totally avoiding) screens between your bath and bed. Opt for activities that support your well-being: rest, light prep for the day tomorrow, or hobbies.
Then, make sure you go to bed early enough to get enough sleep before your set wake-up time. A warm bath won’t help when you go to bed hours before sunrise!
After a restful night’s sleep, you’ll understand why a warm bath isn’t just something for kids to play boats in, but a relaxing and soothing part of our self-care routine.
This article isn’t medical advice. If you’re turning to a warm bath for severe sleep disorders that affect the quality of your sleep, it’s time to talk to a doctor. You deserve good sleep, and if all our tips aren’t helping, schedule an appointment for an individualized assessment.
The above content may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Finer Things earns from qualifying purchases. When you click and shop, we receive a small commission to support our writers.