10 Supposed Hot Bath Benefits (And the 7 I Achieved)

The original hydrotherapy.


Dacy Knight

I remember first hearing the idea of taking a nightly bath when Gwyneth Paltrow admitted that the practice is a non-negotiable in her self-care routine. Wowed by the dedication, I admired the idea, but rarely ever did it. Fast-forward to now and I’ve become better about carving out time to take care of myself. I do a facial massage with a Kansa wand at least once a week, I'll make myself a flower tea to unwind from a difficult day, and I've recently adopted a rule to fall asleep with a book rather than my phone. With the temperatures getting colder, I decided what better time step up my self-care and give baths a go. I committed to doing a full week of nightly baths (indulgent, for sure) to explore the purported benefits of hot baths—from encouraging weight loss to boosting immunity to balancing your hormones—and finally see if baths were something worth incorporating into my bedtime routine. Below, read all about what happened.

It helps create a time-slowing ritual.

Drawing a bath and luxuriating in it seems, on paper, like a huge time suck. But in reality, there are so many less worthwhile ways I kill time after the workday—the dreaded social media scroll or browsing sites for things I don’t need. Filling the tub with water while turning on a relaxing playlist, lighting a candle, and prepping some bath oils, immediately gets your brain out of work mode and saves your eyes from unnecessary screen time. Before even enjoying the bath itself, the act of preparing it was somewhat meditative. Furthermore, once the water was running, I simply had to keep my eye on it while I had time to do something productive like tidy up my bathroom drawers or apply a face mask.

It soothes sore muscles and joints.

Even after the very first bath, I could feel the relaxing benefits take effect. My body has been extra sore lately—a combination of joining a gym and braving the cold—and my muscles felt soothed in a way they hadn’t with just foam rolling or massage. My knees have also developed a tendency to become achy after I sit, even for short periods, and I felt the creaks and stiffness lessen as the week went on.

It quiets the mind.

My mind, too, felt at ease, as if all of my racing thoughts were finally given permission to slow down. I could just focus on my senses. I found that baths are actually able to pull you away from mental distractions. While I admit I did use some bath times to brainstorm ideas, the mood during these thoughts wasn’t stress or worry. I could plan at ease, unbothered by the pressure of time or the black hole of my computer or phone. Studies have found that immersion bathing (meaning baths) improves both physical and emotional aspects of quality of life, with significant improvement in general and mental health and lower scores for stress, tension-anxiety, anger-hostility, and depression-dejection.

It relieves cold symptoms and makes breathing easier.

Between allergies and bouts of the cold, I feel like I’m always at least somewhat congested this time of the year. The hot bath, aided by essential oils, was a wonderful way to open up my nasal passageways, taking in deep breaths that simultaneously induced relaxation. Studies have indicated that an elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. I feel like my on-the-verge-of-getting-a-cold symptoms also cleared up about midway through the week. I’ve read that warm baths also improve the immune system, which I would consider to be one of the greatest benefits. I experienced reduced sinus pressure and less congestion.

It improves skin.

Initially, I was wary that these nightly hot baths would end up drying out my skin, especially in winter months. But because I added epsom salt or oils—sometimes a combo—and always applied lotion immediately after exiting the tub, my skin wasn’t any worse off than it is after nightly showers. It actually seemed to become more moisturized with fewer dry patches. I'm also prone to getting skin irritations along my legs and the baths helped soothe these and calm redness. If you have sensitive skin, it's best to turn the temperature down (lukewarm is advised) and follow the "Soak and Seal" method as suggested by the National Eczema Association, towel-drying lightly and leaving the skin slightly damp and then liberally applying moisturizer within three minutes.

It signals that it’s time to sleep.

By night three, I found myself relaxing to the point of dozing. In just a handful of sessions, my body seemed to be very into the idea of bath time equating bedtime. I’ve always loved having a set routine, and while some nights it felt like a hassle (one night I did have to skip and noted how a shower simply didn’t deliver the same relaxing results), it did become something to look forward to. By night four, I began brushing my teeth and doing my skincare routine while the bathtub was filling up, so at the end of the bath, I could just lather up in lotion, put on pajamas, and get into bed.

It helps you sleep.

Beyond just getting my body and mind to unwind for a shut-eye session, nightly baths greatly improved my sleep quality, starting the very first night. Climbing into bed after a hot bath, my body felt completely relaxed and sleepiness crept in much sooner. The minor aches and pains (would usually cause me to take several minutes to get comfortable and eventually fall asleep) were completely soothed. Studies have shown that a nightly hot bath (and even a hot foot bath if you're unable to take a full bath) facilitates earlier sleep onset. I sometimes suffer from restless legs (and have been using a weighted blanket because of it) and the hot baths helped ease the tension even more. Instead of waking up with a sore neck or tight joints, I felt like my younger, more agile self, stepping out of bed in the morning (note to self to stretch more).

Overall, I enjoyed and benefited from the experience of nightly hot baths. In reality, bathing daily is simply too indulgent for me (and I’m wary of a spike in my water bill), but I’ve certainly been convinced to take baths more regularly.

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