“Your circadian rhythm, which is your sleep-wake cycle, is guided by your body temperature and light,” says sleep specialist Whitney Roban, PhD. “You want your body temperature to decrease in order for melatonin to increase. When you get out of a hot shower, your body temperature is going to drop, and your melatonin is going to the production of your melatonin is going to increase. And that will help you feel sleepy.”
The temperature is up to you. For some, a hot shower can make them feel really sleepy. Hot showers can be energizing, so you may opt for something more on the warm side. “You don’t want to be too hot when you’re going to bed,” says sleep neurologist Temitayo Oyegbile-Chidi, MD, PhD. “You want to really be cooling off.”
Bear in mind that your body naturally starts to produce melatonin at the end of the day; a warm shower hastens the process. Additionally, the relaxation it brings also signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. “You need a really good wind-down period before bed. It really helps to set the tone, set the moment, set your brain the mindset of getting ready for bed,” says Dr. Oyegbile-Chidi.
Your bedtime shower should truly happen around bedtime—you won’t reap the same benefit from a 6 p.m. shower if you go to bed at 11 p.m. You’ll get the most out of your bedtime shower if you take it about 30 minutes before you’d like to get into bed, says Dr. Roban. To fall asleep at 11 p.m., hop in the shower at 10:30 p.m.. When you get out, complete the next step in your wind-down routine.
“You don’t want to take a shower and that be your whole routine. You want to make sure that once you get out, you’re doing something, another relaxing activity before you’re going to bed,” says Dr. Roban. “Let’s say you take that shower and then you go into a bright room and go on your phone. That’s counterproductive.”
Before you get into the shower, prep your room to wind down. Dim the lights, set your phone to charge in another room, and prep an activity you can do to relax, like some gentle yoga, journaling, or massaging in your skin-care products (don’t turn your ring light on for this—the last thing your body needs is all of that blue light.) “When you’re getting in the shower, you know what’s coming next is going to be your relaxing routine,” says Dr. Roban. Spend no more than 15 minutes on that relaxing activity and then let yourself drift off to sleep.
Here’s how to fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night:
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