Sleep Benefits of Steam

Can a Steam Shower Help Me Sleep Better?

We all know that sleep is important; the way we feel after even one late night is enough to prove it. Scientists are still puzzling over exactly why we need sleep, but they do know what happens if we don’t get enough. According to Dr. Eric J. Olson of the Mayo Clinic, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to get sick, and they can have a harder time recovering from illness. “Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease,” Olson says.

Clearly, getting plenty of good-quality sleep is crucial for optimum health. However, many people struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, or finding time to sleep, which can bring these health risks to the forefront. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of American adults aren’t getting the quantity or quality of sleep they need each night.

The good news here is that there are many ways to improve your sleep, from adjusting your bedtime routine to trying different relaxation practices, some of which can be truly enjoyable. One example is steam bathing. Dr. Andrew Weil tells us that in addition to easing muscle stiffness, increasing energy, and decreasing stress, a steam bath can improve sleep.

Quick Tip

There is such a thing as too much sleep! As Dr. Olson warns, “more sleep isn’t always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.”

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Age is the biggest factor when it comes to sleep requirements. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children need more sleep than adults because they are developing at a rapid pace, both physically and mentally. One-year-olds need 11–14 hours, school-age children need 9–11, and teenagers need 8–10. Adults need 7–9 hours of sleep per night, but as most coffee drinkers know, that isn’t always easy to achieve. Luckily, enjoying a steam shower before bed is just one of the many ways you can create better sleep habits and hopefully increase the amount and quality of shuteye you get each night.

Improve Your “Sleep Hygiene”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” These practices include limiting naps to 20–30 minutes, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, and getting adequate exercise during the day. And there are other helpful habits too. “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need,” says Dr. Wayne Giles, director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health.

Breathe Easier with Steam

If you or your partner snores, you know how disruptive these nocturnal noises can be. “Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the airway, which limits the flow of air and also increases the speed of airflow through the nose and air passages,” Dr. Michael J. Breus (aka The Sleep Doctor) explains. This fast-moving air causes a vibration at the back of the mouth and throat—hence, the snoring sound. One way to reduce snoring is through decongestion, and steam bathing is an excellent option. “A steam bath can help to clear the nasal passages before bed (and help you relax in the process),” Dr. Breus says.

Relax Your Way to More Restful Sleep

Stress is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, and research shows that not getting enough sleep is a huge source of stress—creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, 43 percent of American adults report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month. But according to a Medical News Today article written by journalist Jon Johnson and reviewed by nurse practitioner Cynthia Cobb, the heat of a steam shower can combat the effects of stress by causing the body to release “feel good” hormones called endorphins. “A steam room can also decrease the level of cortisol, which is the hormone released in response to stress,” the article continues. “When the cortisol level drops, people can feel more in control, relaxed, and rejuvenated.” When you incorporate a steam shower into your daily routine you may find yourself feeling not only less stressed but more rested as well.