THE IMPORTANCE OF ADEQUATE SLEEP TO HEALTH IS RECEIVING MORE AND MORE ATTENTION these days. Insufficient sleep duration has been tied to the development of several common chronic diseases, indicates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the same conditions that many have turned to exercise to help prevent.
The CDC says, “sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”
This last summer version of the Earned Runs’ Science Friday post might be just the thing to jump start a back-to-school and -work effort to improve sleep this weekend. An Elemental+ article from Robert Roy Britt for Medium.com discusses that researchers think taking a hot bath 1-2 hours before getting into bed has the effect of lowering body temperature to the point that time to falling asleep is shortened by 10 minutes, and that sleep quality is improved.
Bath temperature must be 104-109 degrees Fahrenheit and the activity should extend to at least 10 minutes, Britt reports. Hot showers might offer the same benefits but, according to the cited expert in the article, more scientific study is needed. There’s no mention whether sitting in a sauna will have a positive effect on sleep.
The article is a quick read, especially for those with bathtubs who would like to give it a try and who don’t have medical conditions that discourage spa sessions (by law spa temperatures can only reach 104 degrees).
However appealing it is to believe that science has proven this tactic works as a “sleep hack”, the research study referenced by Britt tells a slightly less exciting, headline-grabbing story.
The scientists did not conduct original research but reviewed the results of pre-existing research in a meta-analysis. Of the 17 reviewed research articles, 10 had studied only footbaths, not whole-body baths, and one only studied warm showers. Participant numbers in each were mostly small, and age was quite variable; many subjects were greater that 40 and even 60 years old.
The finding that time to falling asleep was lessened by a hot bath was “based upon data from only two investigations that entailed a total of 36 subjects- elderly insomniac subjects with moderate vascular dementia whose average age was 77 y in one study, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients who average age was 36 y in the other study.” This last study involved footbaths.
The research paper’s conclusion cautions that more work is needed because the findings “are limited by the scarcity of reported research, especially its optimal timing and duration plus exact mechanisms of effects.”
So, the evidence suggests that taking a hot bath can help with sleep if it allows enough time for body cooling to occur before bedtime. That it definitely must be at the whole body bath at the temperature (104-109 degrees) discussed in Britt’s article seems uncertain, considering footbaths are among the studied body-warming methods.
Testing whether the enjoyment of a 10-minute, warm-to-hot temperature soak roughly 90 minutes before sleeping, by those in whom it is not a health risk, is an easy personal research project to undertake. Perhaps individually we can determine which conditions are optimal for our own body temp cool-down before sleep, until further scientific direction is provided.
Seems like a wonderful but luxurious, science project to start over the Labor Day weekend.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
New! Search Box
Earned Runs is now searchable! Check it out...