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Kids really know how to take a bath. They create wacky water-filled stories with their favorite toys, whip up wild shampoo hairdos and bubble “beards,” and let time just float away.
Then somewhere along the path to adulthood, most Americans forget the bliss of bathing. Instead, they take more efficient showers to get clean, not willing to let all those minutes go down the drain. Taking the time to soak can feel like a luxury reserved Instagram influencers, aka “bathfluencers.” Bathing also seems strangely gendered for grown-ups (i.e. Chandler in this old Friends clip).
Let’s pull the plug on these sudsy myths! Women and men have been bathing to relax and restore for thousands of years, from the toga-donning Romans to the modern-day patrons of Japanese onsen, Turkish hamams, and Russian banya.
If we know that we’re doing our bodies and minds a favor while we soak, this self-care treat becomes even more delicious.
Plus, we need to destress more than ever. In a September 2020 report by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute, more than half of the respondents reported a recent increase of patients with dental conditions associated with stress: patient teeth grinding, cracked and chipped teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. These challenging times call for special mellow-out measures.
Below, we lay bare some of the research about the health benefits of baths and give you a recipe for the best bath ever. Then please give yourself full permission to let your tub transport you to bliss, no matter your age or gender. (Psst! Don’t forget to drop in an aromatherapeutic CocoBomb for an even more relaxing journey to a peaceful state of mind.)
Ready to relax and reap the bath-efits? In a small 2018 study, British researchers found that multiple 45-minute to hour-long soaks in a hot bath (102°F) helped 10 overweight men to decrease inflammation markers in their blood and also lower blood-sugar and insulin levels. After two weeks and 10 baths, the results were on par with the effects of exercise.
As reported on Healthline, “‘It appears to be similar to exercise. One exercise session won’t do much to fitness or health, but repeated sessions show the desired effect,’ said Christof Leicht, PhD, MSc, one of the study’s authors and a lecturer in exercise physiology at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.”
So put your bath-time ritual on replay.
Another study compared cycling to bathing and found that blood sugar and inflammation levels were lowered just as much from an hour-long soak as from a 60-minute bike ride.
What could be even better? A triple-“B” combo: A bike ride, then a bath, perhaps followed by a beer. (Be sure to hydrate well along the way.)
A chill pill of a molecule called nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Eating nitrate-rich veggies and exercising can raise nitric oxide levels. Now research shows that bathing can, too.
In one study, a hot bath beat running on a treadmill in lowering blood pressure. Newsweek sums it up: “Water immersion resulted in a greater increase in body temperature compared with exercise, as well as a greater reduction in average arterial blood pressure. This is important as a reduction in blood pressure is closely associated with a reduced risk of developing heart disease.”
Don’t trade in your running gear for a robe just yet. We all know that there’s no replacement for working out, which supports your health in so many short- and long-term ways. But supplementing your exercise routine with regular hot baths may help boost the benefits even more.
Bonus: A hot bath can burn as many calories as a half-hour walk.
Looking for a natural way to get some zzz’s? Research has revealed that a hot bath may be the lullaby you’re looking for.
Here’s the restful recipe for a bedtime bath: According to a study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, to get the best sleep, bathe one to two hours — ideally, 90 minutes — before bed in water at 104 to 109°F (40 to 43°C). Be sure to soak for at least 10 minutes.
Why does a bath ease you into bedtime? It has to do with your body’s core temperature and circadian clock.
When it’s time to hit the pillow, the body’s temperature lowers by .5 to 1°F. It continues to drop by small degrees as we head deeper into sleep. Then it slowly rises again as we wake up. It’s our own personal sunset-to-sunrise temperature cycle.
When we take a hot bath at night, it raises our core body temperature. After we come out dripping wet, that temp drops again, mimicking the natural cool-down process. This signals our pineal gland to release melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle.
“Just don’t bathe too close to bedtime, because doing so may not allow enough time for your body to cool and may have reverse effects,” Dr. Jianghong Liu, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, told Healthline.
When’s the last time you felt bubbly with joy? The weight of the world right now could lay out a sumo wrestler. If you’re looking for a simple, safe-at-home way to lift your spirits, the answer might just be spending more time in your tub. (For extra smiles, dry off with these sumo wrestler bath towels!)
As reported in Health, “According to a new study, taking a hot bath every day could actually help treat depression better than exercise can.”
Forty-five people struggling with depression either took a daily half-hour bath at 104°F or did 40- to 45-minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week. After eight weeks, the people taking baths rated themselves as less depressed than the exercisers.
Health offers one possible reason why: “Those battling depression often have a disrupted or delayed circadian rhythm (which is why insomnia is a common symptom of the condition). By regularly increasing participants’ body temperatures [with hot baths], the researchers believe they were able to improve their circadian rhythms — and in turn alleviate some of their depression symptoms.”
Another reason why baths might beat back the blues? Increasing our core body temperature may be connected to the release of serotonin, nicknamed the “happiness molecule” for its role in regulating our mood. Saunas can have the same effect.
There’s no doubt that depression is serious and doesn’t have any easy cures, but taking a bath might just be one way to help. Exercise is also a proven mood booster, especially when done regularly.
Sure, it would be nice to have a full day at the spa, but don’t let that challenge burst your bubble bath. Even a 10-minute steamy soak might be enough to soothe and refresh your body and spirit.
Here are a few tips for taking a healing bath:
• Go with the flow when deciding bath-water temperature. One person’s “lukewarm” is another person’s lobster pot. Ideally, though the temperature should be a little hotter than body temperature (averaging 97.5 °F). If it’s a bedtime bath, aim for 104 to 109°F. Don’t go higher than 112 °F or you risk damaging the protective outer layer of your skin.
• Consider the temperature of the surrounding environment. A hotter room will help raise your core body temperature more quickly.
• Do up the bath-cessories, such as candles, calming music, and even a bath pillow.
• Keep a water bottle handy so you stay hydrated inside and out.
• Soak for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour for maximum health benefits.
• Repeat every chance you get.
Bask in bath bliss with all-natural, aromatherapeutic CocoBombs. Will you travel to tranquility with Calm Coconut, Mind-Clearing Mint, or Mood-Boosting Orange? Take care of your mind, body, and spirit, one bath at a time.