Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep. Other times, I will wake up and can't get back to sleep. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it seems to stick around for a while. Both situations are frustrating, especially when the alarm clock goes off in the morning.
Evidently, I am not alone. According to a study cited by the National Center For Biotechnology Information, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders more than one night a week. It shortens people lives, reduces their quality of life and restricts their performance at work and in their personal lives. Errors in judgement can also be a symptom of not getting enough sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation, reports that a lack of sleep can cause depression and other serious illness. People with insomnia are 10 times more likely to be clinically depressed. Good and adequate sleep is critical to every aspect of your life, physical and mental health included.
I have always found that a 20-minute, late-night soak in my hot tub acts as a natural sleep aid and helps me sleep deeper and longer. So, whenever sleep becomes elusive, I take a soak before bed.
How does a hot tub help you to sleep better?
There appear to be two theories as to why it might be true.
1. Warm water relaxes the mind and body
One notion is that the warm water therapy simply relaxes a person so a transition to sleep is just a natural progression. A soak in a hot tub is similar to taking a mild sedative in that it calms the mind and the body and soothes tired or over-worked muscles. The cares of the day seem to just slip away.
2. The warming and cooling of body temperature naturally helps you to fall asleep faster
Another idea is that your body temperature is raised as you soak in your hot tub and when you leave the hot tub, your core temperature cools, which signals to your body that it is time to sleep. When you are sleeping your body temperature is at the lowest level of the day. Using your hot tub 60 to 90 minutes before you go to bed will cause this variation in body temperature to happen signaling your body that it is time to sleep.
Other evidence that warm water therapy is a natural sleep aid
Evidently people in Japan think so. Since many homes do not have central heating, it's a common practice to take a hot bath to warm up before bedtime in order to sleep better.
The idea was also tested in a study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropological Applied Human Science. In the study, one group soaked in hot water before bed. Another group soaked their feet in warm footbaths, and a third control group did neither. The study found that those who soaked in warm water fell asleep faster, moved less during sleep and had higher quality REM sleep. This particular study only involved 9 participants but other studies have shown that soaking in a hot tub will help you to sleep better and fall asleep faster.
A Gallup poll with many respondents found that warm water bathing was commonly effective as a natural sleep aid. A Consumer Reports survey found that a warm bath was the most common remedy for mild sleep disorders.
As with most things, it comes down to the individual. Will it work for you? It's pretty easy to find out, so test it yourself. It works for me, and it eliminates the need to get a prescription and take a pill to sleep.
While looking around, I found that a hot soak is not the only way to help you sleep. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where we discuss more natural sleep aids.