Is It Better To Shower In The Morning Or At Night? Well, It Depends.

When it comes to sleep patterns, skin health and your hair, the answer isn't always the same.
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Among the many strange things I noticed about my now-husband when we first moved in together was his habit of showering in the morning. Still drowsy with sleep, he’d stumble out of bed and into the bathroom with his eyes still closed but hop out of the shower with a sense of purpose: He was ready to tackle the day.

I, on the other hand, have always been in the “shower is the last thing you do before getting into bed” camp. It’s the moment I look forward to all day, quite literally washing away the previous 12 hours before settling into bed for a good night’s sleep.

It all got me wondering: Is it better to shower in the morning or at night? Turns out it depends on what “better” means.

When it comes to sleep, a hot shower can help you wind down in the evening.

Robert Oexman, a chiropractor and sleep adviser, explained that at night our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms will cause our core body temperature to decrease, basically telling our brains that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep.

“As we approach our normal time for falling asleep, our core body temperature begins to drop,” Oexman said. “Just prior to our time for waking up for the day, our core body temperature begins to rise and acts as one of the signals to our brain that it is time to wake up and start our day.”

Oexman says a warm bath can signal to your brain that sleep is near.

“Showering at night can enhance sleep by augmenting the decrease in core body temperature that is necessary to initiate sleep and maintain proper sleep at night,” Oexman explained before clarifying that, although beneficial, the practice isn’t necessary as our circadian rhythms will initiate the process regardless.

More specifically, he said, to thoroughly take advantage of all the sleep-related benefits of showering, you should try to take one “approximately 30 minutes or less prior to initiating sleep.”

Some have argued that a cold shower before bed has helped them rest more easily. That, Oexman said, isn’t as scientifically true as many may think.

“Studies have shown that cold temperatures activate brown adipose tissue, which has been shown to ‘generate sleep promoting signals,’” he said. “In isolation this may make sense (taking a cold shower or bath), but clinically it is probably not the best practice. Getting too cold prior to sleep can increase core body temperature by reducing blood flow to the skin and promoting shivering, which increases core body temperature and may negate any benefit derived from the small amount of brown adipose tissue that will be activating sleep-promoting signals.”

Considering all that, it’s important to understand there aren’t really any cons to showering in the morning. In fact, Oexman posited that morning showers can actually help folks get rid of that “sleepiness” that characterizes just about anyone’s morning, whether they had good rest the night before or not.

For skin health, when you shower doesn’t really make that much of a difference.

According to Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist, when it comes to skin, the effects of showering remain unchanged no matter what time of the day one decides to shower.

Overall, she explained, showering helps “cleanse off dirt, oil and other environmental contaminants.” It follows then that showering at night will help one remove the accumulation of dirt from the day. Carroll said “it’s really a personal choice.”

However, she was quick to note that moisturizing is just as important as showering and should be done after bathing.

“It’s important to know that showering too frequently, particularly with hot water, can decrease the skin’s natural moisturizers, leading to dryness and irritation,” she said. “In all cases, it’s important to use mild, non-irritating cleansers and to moisturize the skin after showering, regardless of the time of day. Adjusting the water temperature to be warm rather than hot can also help preserve the skin’s natural oils.”

Carroll also said that many people might not have time to properly moisturize after a morning shower, which could be a benefit of bathing at night instead.

“People are often short on time in the morning, so they may not do a thorough job, including the all-important step of moisturizing after their shower.”

If you shower at night, heed this warning about your hair’s health.

Jonathan Palmer, the founding director at the trichology service Hairknowhow, told us, “What can make a difference to our hair health is what happens to our hair when it is wet, damp or in the process of drying.” Including sleeping on it.

When letting your hair “air dry” after a nighttime shower, you will likely end up sleeping with damp hair, which is naturally weaker and more prone to erosion than when dry, Palmer said. Not to mention it makes your scalp prone to fungus growth.

Rubbing your head against the pillow while sleeping will make the situation worse, likely increasing hair cuticle chipping and eventually leading to more extensive damage.

“This is not normally catastrophic,” Palmer said, “but it can make a difference over time, especially to longer hair. Sleeping with dry hair is always better for our hair from a hair health perspective.”

It follows then that those who prefer to shower at night should make sure to thoroughly dry their locks before hitting the sack.

When bathing in the morning, on the other hand, you’ll benefit from a longer period of “natural dry,” perhaps not even needing damaging hair dryers to do the job.

It’s important to note that most of the observations made by Palmer directly relate to long hair. Folks with shorter hairstyles can be a bit less cautious about shower times, given that their manes will likely dry before risking any damage.

Stress levels are affected by the temperature of your shower more than the time of day.

In the past few years, various studies have shed light on the relationship between showers and stress. Specifically, researchers have noted that cold showers may lead to a bump in cortisol levels, which is the “fight or flight” hormone that the body releases when stressed.

“Cold showers can help increase cortisol levels because they stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response,” says a study by Texas Health Resources. “This response can increase heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels in the body, all of which can help improve alertness and focus.”

According to the research, a cold shower also stimulates the release of adrenaline, a hormone that can speed up heart, blood pressure and respiratory rates. “All of [that] can help improve mental alertness and focus,” the survey says.

Hot showers also prove beneficial, as reported by BayCare, a health care system in central Florida.

The BayCare website reports that the practice is associated with reduced stress levels (“as the hot water pounds down, our muscles relax, our minds go to a happier place and whole-body tension is erased”), improved sleeping patterns, relief from symptoms of congestion, increased blood flow and lower levels of pain and inflammation.

It seems then that the time of day to shower has less bearing on stress levels than the type of shower one chooses.

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