The Sleep Benefits of Hydrotherapy

If you’ve ever owned a hot tub, you’ve most likely experienced the soothing effect warm water can have on aching joints and muscles. You even may know some of the science behind hydrotherapy: how the heat of the water can improve circulation and lower blood pressure while the extra buoyancy takes the weight off strained joints. But most people haven’t even heard about one of the most amazing benefits that using a hot tub can give: improved sleep.

Lack of sleep has been linked to innumerable negative effects. People who suffer from sleep deprivation are: more likely to cause accidents while driving, struggle with weight gain, have difficulty concentrating, and be more irritable. Given that 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from some kind of sleep disorder according to the CDC, improving your nightly rest should be an important concern.

A Ready Solution

Luckily enough, the answer might be waiting in your own back yard. The National Sleep Foundation states that, “Soaking in hot water, such as a hot tub or bath, before retiring to bed can ease the transition into a deeper sleep.” Here’s the science behind it: soaking in hot water approximately 90 minutes before going to bed triggers your body’s internal thermostat to lower your temperature. The gradual drop in body temperature can induce drowsiness, leaving you more prepared for sleep. You can further encourage that feeling of sleepiness by turning down the thermostat (but not too much!). The NSF recommends keeping your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees F, while also ensuring your room is free from noise and other disturbances.

The increased blood flow in the rest of your body caused by the warm water will also divert some blood from the head, which reduces brain activity and settles your busy mind.

Most people who have difficulty sleeping turn to their doctor or pharmacist for sleep-assisting medication. But these drugs come with their own side-effects and costs, and can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented in the morning. A quick soak in your hot tub before bedtime can be a good alternative to achieving a restful sleep without the use of medication.

Hot tub temperature should be set to no higher than 104 degrees F, as going to bed while still hot or sweaty may contribute to overheating. Consume plenty of water before soaking, as hot water can accelerate dehydration. But be careful, as too much right before bed will encourage more middle-of-the-night bathroom visits. As with regular hot tub use, users who are pregnant or have certain medical conditions such as diabetes should consult with a medical professional before using a hot tub.

Additional Benefits

Besides providing that helpful drop in body temperature, soaking in your hot tub before bed can also bring other benefits. Your hot tub’s jets can relieve muscle stiffness and pain. Try targeting your jets to specific painful areas, such as your neck or lower back. The sudden temperature shift can also stimulate your body’s production of endorphins, which are natural pain-killing hormones. The combined relaxing effects of hydrotherapy continue after you exit the tub, resulting in a deeper and longer-lasting sleep.

Adding essential oils to the hot tub water can also encourage further relaxation. Lavender is an especially good choice, as some studies suggest it has sleep-inducing effects, but jasmine and chamomile are also relaxing. Five to 10 drops of these soothing scents should suffice for smaller hot tubs designed for one to two people. If you don’t feel comfortable adding oils directly into the hot tub’s water, adding a few drops of essential oils to a nearby soy or beeswax candle can be a great alternative.

The National Sleep Foundation states recommends that you should establish a routine:

“A regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.”

Summing it Up

Mankind has known for centuries about water’s relaxing properties (think of the ancient Romans and their baths). The benefits of using your hot tub for hydrotherapy are numerous, so here’s a list summing them up. Hot tubs have been shown to:

  • Improve circulation by causing your blood vessels to expand, which lowers your blood pressure. A mere five minutes in a hot tub can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to drop.
  • Relax stiff muscles and increase flexibility.
  • Ease aching pain in overworked joints.
  • Stimulate the body’s production of endorphins (natural pain killing hormones).
  • Lower your internal temperature, encouraging relaxation and drowsiness.

All of this combines to give you a deeper and more restful sleep. Given that sleep is one of the most basic needs next to eating and breathing, it’s important to take it seriously. Studies show that people who get more sleep are often healthier and happier individuals.

So tonight, do your body a favour. Stay away from electronic screens, eat a smaller meal, skip the alcohol, and take a good long soak in your tub before hitting the sack. Your body will thank you, and so will your future self when you wake up refreshed the next morning. 

Be sure to check out the pHin device, a new way to care for your hot tub. pHin monitors water quality, notifies you by smartphone when you need to add chemicals and ships you just the right amounts.