Nightly Routine: Winding Down With a Relaxing Bath
I know some people use heat for their RLS while others like to use cold packs. I haven’t actually tried a cold pack yet, but I do use a nice soothing hot bath. I'm not entirely sure if that is a heat thing or more a relaxation thing — or maybe it is a combination of both.
Temperature regulation is essential for good sleep hygiene
I know my body's temperature regulation and sleep really affect my insomnia, and I am definitely someone who needs a cool-to-cold room and has gone out of my way to ensure my room is just the right temperature. I definitely know when my temperature regulation is out of whack; I wake up more, which means I have trouble falling back to sleep, and it also means my RLS can come back and make it near impossible to fall back to sleep.
The 'warm bath effect'
Apparently, if you have a hot shower before bed, it aids in this temperature regulation process. They call this the "warm bath effect." Research suggests it helps us fall asleep faster, and those studied reported better sleep quality.1
That is awesome if it helps even a little in my effort to regulate my sleep temperature, so I will not argue with that. I really think the benefit of easing muscle tension, helping with muscle pain overall, and helping me get a bit sleepy are even greater perks, to be honest.
Cold water immersion
Cold water research is a mixed bag. Immersion in cold water stimulates blood flow, which can improve circulation, and it can even temporarily boost our metabolism. Unless you are an athlete, though, there really is not enough benefit to your body to outweigh the discomfort — and that is because cold water is... well, stimulating. It puts a strain on your body and flips it into "survival mode."2
The increase in alertness may be a perk we want with RLS right there; however, we most definitely do not want the overstimulating part of the deal.
Ice/heat combination treatment
It made me wonder when I read this if we could have the best of both worlds. Sometimes for pain I do an ice/heat treatment, where you use both ice and heat to treat an area that is causing a lot of pain. It sort of confuses the pain signals, I find. So I wondered if maybe we could get the perk of the soothing, sleep-inducing warm-to-hot bath and then ice and massage our legs just prior to going to bed. It is something I might give a go.
Baths over showers
First, I specifically choose to have a bath. I think it helps with body temperature regulation better being immersed in water, for me. Second, soaking in the water itself is extremely relaxing for me. Third, the routine is part of a habit that preps my brain for sleep.
It is the entire process of running the water, choosing the bath products (bubbles, salts), and maybe a soothing scented body wash. I add in Epsom salts or magnesium oil sometimes. And then getting into some clean, super comfortable PJs to wind down for the rest of the night.
It is all part of my sleep hygiene routine to get my brain to wind down at night. And that bath is a good start. You just can’t have it too early before bed, and I don’t like it too close before bed either.
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