What are the benefits of cold water therapy for sleep?

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What are the benefits of cold water therapy for sleep?

For many people, a restful night’s sleep is something that evades them. No matter how much they toss and turn, they just cannot get to sleep, or often wake up several times throughout the night, leaving them lethargic and unenergized the next day. This makes daily activities difficult to complete and mental focus is often lacking as a result.  

Sleep issues such as insomnia and sleep apnoea are some of the most common sleep disorders in the world and they affect many people. Research suggests that up to 10 million people suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, and around 10% of the world’s population suffer from insomnia. 

A good night’s sleep and a good sleep routine have been proven to aid everything from concentration to heart health, so their importance can’t be overstated. Amidst the myriad strategies and remedies that promise to help us achieve healthy sleep, a somewhat unconventional contender has risen to prominence: cold water therapy.  

The practice of immersing oneself in icy waters, colloquially known as an ice bath, has transcended its reputation as a recovery aid solely for athletes. It has now garnered attention for its potential to positively impact sleep quality. In this article, we’ll take a look into the multifaceted benefits of cold water therapy for sleep, interweaving scientific insights and practical applications. So, what are the benefits of cold water therapy for sleep? 

What is an ice bath? 

At its core, an ice bath involves submerging your body in cold water, often maintained at temperatures spanning from 50°F to 59°F (10°C to 15°C). This practice triggers an orchestra of physiological responses within the body, resonating far beyond the initial chill that tingles your skin. While its inception was predominantly linked to aiding muscle recovery, the utilisation of ice baths has now rippled across various realms of well-being, including the world of sleep. 

Can an ice bath help with sleep hygiene? 

Before exploring the benefits of utilising an ice bath to enhance sleep, let's address a fundamental query: Can a seemingly jarring encounter with icy water truly wield the power to influence sleep hygiene? The answer lies in the intricate choreography between body temperature, circadian rhythms, and the quality of sleep we experience. 

Our body's temperature adheres to a natural circadian rhythm, dipping as evening approaches, priming the body for the transition into slumber. By voluntarily subjecting yourself to the embrace of a cold water bath, you're orchestrating a controlled lowering of your body temperature. This orchestrated thermal shift mirrors the body's inherent mechanism of evening cooldown, potentially cultivating an environment conducive to both initiating and sustaining sleep. The practice centres around the production of melatonin, a naturally occurring, sleep-inducing hormone, which is boosted as your body temperature adjusts after cold water immersion.

Man in Polar Recovery Ice Bath

 What are the benefits of using an ice bath for sleeping? 

The combination of cold water therapy and sleep unravels a symphony of potential benefits: 

Streamlined sleep onset: The subtle yet profound dip in body temperature after an ice bath might accelerate the process of falling asleep. This orchestrated temperature decline mirrors the body's nightly prelude to rest, coaxing you into the gentle embrace of slumber. 

Deeper sleep phases: The science behind a restful night's sleep has more to it than simply duration—it hinges upon the depth of the sleep phases. Cold water therapy could potentially orchestrate a symphony of deeper sleep stages, providing your body with the invaluable opportunity to engage in vital restorative processes. A study conducted on distance runners who had incorporated ice baths into their pre-sleep routine found that subjects had deeper, less interrupted sleep.   

Tranquil mind: The influence of cold water therapy stretches beyond the confines of the body — it’s also proven effective at improving mental health. Engaging in an ice bath prompts the release of endorphins, which, in turn, fosters an atmosphere of relaxation, making it easier to find restful sleep. 

How to use an ice bath to aid sleep hygiene 

The integration of cold water therapy into your sleep routine can have many benefits. Here are some things to consider when including an ice bath in your sleep hygiene practices: 

Correct timing: Timing is of paramount significance. Aim to partake in your ice bath approximately 1 to 2 hours prior to your intended bedtime. This window enables your body to gradually recalibrate its temperature, synchronising it with your natural sleep rhythm. 

Conscious preparation: Part of healthy engagement with cold water therapy is remaining calm as your body’s natural stress responses are triggered. Preparing and engaging in your treatment calmly and methodically will not only increase its effectiveness but put you in a better mental state for sleeping. 

Gradual progression: For beginners, when it comes to ice baths, initiate your journey with shorter sessions—around 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually extend the duration as your body acquaints itself with the sensory experience. 

Sleep hygiene: To maximise the benefits of increased melatonin, muscle relaxation etc., make sure to pay attention to your sleep hygiene, avoid bright screens, build in some wind-down time and maximise your comfort. 

How often should I use an ice bath to improve my sleep pattern? 

The frequency of ice baths for sleep benefits varies from person to person. As with any wellness practice, it's important to listen to your body and start gradually. Beginners might consider incorporating ice baths 2 to 3 times a week, with sessions lasting 1 to 2 minutes. Over time, as your tolerance increases, you can extend the duration and frequency of your sessions.

Cold Water Shower

Starting your cold water therapy for sleep routine  

If you struggle with your sleep and are thinking of trying cold water therapy to aid in a restful night’s sleep, we suggest trying a 14-day trial of cold showers before investing in a cold water therapy tub. This trial gives you the opportunity to gain insight into your body’s responses to cold water therapy and see if it can help you with your sleep. Once you’ve mastered the cold shower, the next step is to take on an ice bath where the benefits become far more apparent! Our Polar Recovery tubs are a great, cost-effective option for anyone looking to maximise their cold water therapy routine.   

The journey towards enjoying the benefits of restful sleep is as complicated as it is worthwhile. As you engage with the crystalline waters of an ice bath, you're not only immersing yourself in an age-old practice but also delving into the realm of potential to elevate your sleep hygiene. 

Remember, as you traverse this pathway, the effects of cold water therapy on your sleep are uniquely personal. Always pay attention to your body, carefully observe your sleep patterns, and course-correct your routine in alignment with your own experiences.

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