Morning vs. Night Shower: Which Is Better?

Do you have a favorite time of day to shower, or do you grab the opportunity whenever it arises?

Lots of people feel they don't come to full alertness until after a morning shower, but if you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may want to put off your daily cleansing ritual until evening. But don't do it right before you collapse into bed—according to sleep experts, the sweet spot for a sleep-inducing shower (or bath) is an hour and a half to two hours before your regular bedtime.

"Research has shown that good sleepers naturally have their temperature rise during the day and slowly start to drop (ever so slightly, nothing you'd ever notice if you thought about it) just before bedtime," asserts Dr. Shelby Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Poor sleepers don't necessarily do this as much. So if you take a hot shower or bath just before bedtime, you actually are warming up your body, which is the exact opposite thing your body needs to do to signal that it is bedtime."

Basically, giving yourself that 90- to 120-minute window before going to sleep allows your body to cool off slightly from the warm shower. This cooling-down signals that it's time to get sleepy.

Say you have no problem falling asleep, but you do have trouble shaking off the grogginess in the a.m., does a morning shower work the opposite way—by waking you up? Not necessarily. Harris says, "Showers in the morning are fine, but they don't do anything to help or hurt your sleep. I'll sometimes have patients splash cold water on their faces if they have trouble staying up at the time I ask them to, or to alert themselves, but this isn't a standard researched point in the field."

In fact, Harris recommends that people who have great difficulty staying alert and awake on a regular basis go through a medical workup to make sure there aren't any underlying health issues causing the fatigue.




Interview with Dr. Shelby Harris, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY.