Science Finally Answers: Should We Shower In The AM Or PM?

We have all asked ourselves that question when having to wake up early. Are we going to wake up extra early with enough time to enjoy a proper shower? Or should we carve out a few extra minutes of sleep in the AM and shower before bed?

Personally, I like my sheets clean, therefore my body must be clean before jumping into bed. Unless I am incredibly exhausted and pass out in my jeans, which happens all too often.

During the summer, it’s nice to do a bit of both. Maybe it’s a bit too humid in your hometown so you wake up a little sticky- straight to the shower. But perhaps the long daytime activities you encountered- call for a deep cleanse before bed. However, during the winter, it’s no question. Why shower in the cold dead of the morning? Why make mornings more miserable than they already are?

I don’t like to make too many biased opinions so I will make a case for both. Starting with the enemy, those who shower in the morning. People who love morning showers always say the same thing… “There is no better start to the day!” Those are the people that can afford to sleep 8 hours a night, I am not one of those people… Then there’s those people 2.0, you know, the ones who are extra ambitious and need to wash off after a morning workout. HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, said the following on AM and PM showers: “A morning shower can help shake off sleep inertia and get you going, while an evening shower can be a relaxing part of a pre-bed routine.”

But wait, that sounds like a happy medium, and kind of contradictory. How can the same activity both wake you up and help you get to sleep? According to science, the answer lies in how your body’s internal temperature helps control its circadian sleep rhythms. Dr. Janet K. Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert in New York, said a morning shower can boost alertness, but she recommends a somewhat cooler, not cold, shower to avoid raising your body temperature dramatically.

So, stay with me while I drop some science facts on you. Our core temperature naturally begins to drop in the evening and remains low while you sleep. While a shower before bed will briefly heat up your skin, you’ll quickly feel colder after toweling off because—as with sweat—the evaporation of skin moisture leads to skin cooling. Research done by TIME Health, states that this cooling effect may facilitate the onset of sleep. Our core temperatures is also the reason as to why many sleep experts caution against nighttime exercise. The extra physical activity can raise your core temperature, and make it harder to fall asleep.

Showering is also a good way to unwind and release muscle tension, she said, which aids sleep. If you suffer from insomnia, Dr. Kennedy said she’d suggest showering at night, about 90 minutes before bed. And professor Grandner adds: “A shower might also have the benefit of giving you some time to think and wind down before bed, rather than distract yourself in front of the TV.”

However, with all things- moderation, we cannot get carried away in the shower as we tend to. Turns out, those long, steamy showers spent unpacking the day and draining the water heater could damage your skin. Dr. Gary Goldenberg, a dermatologist in New York and a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, recommends spending a maximum of 5- to 10-minute showers in lukewarm water at most. Which means some ladies need to stop scalding themselves in the shower (I am not one of those ladies.)

Dr. Brandon Mitchell, an assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University backs Dr. Goldenberg’s theory and asks that we specially take caution during the cold weather: “Especially [during winter] when the humidity drops, dry skin becomes a more frequent problem. And applying moisturizing cream after bathing is important to keep your skin from drying out.”

Besides your skin, you’d be doing Mother Earth a favor. Short, cooler showers are kinder to the environment — as is capturing the water that’s being wasted while you wait for it to heat up. Mary Ann Dickinson, president of the Alliance for Water Efficiency said: “There are products on the market to help people time their showers and to capture water.”

Don’t know how much water you’re using? There’s a calculator for that. The alliance’s water calculator is the tool to help us evaluate our daily water use. But does it help the environment more to shower at night or during the day? Mary says the time of day is irrelevant, however, some electricity providers like Con Edison in New York have reduced rates for night use.

Another major benefit of nighttime showers: When you’re out and about during the day, your body, especially your hair, can collect all sorts of airborne allergens and irritants. According to Dr. George Cotsarelis, a professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania: “If you come in with pollen or chemicals on your body and go to bed without showering, you’ll contaminate [your bed].”

But don’t just jump into bed with hair soaking wet. Dr. Cotsarelis says that going to bed with wet hair is bad for your follicles. Lying against a pillow can trap moisture in your hair. So, for germaphobes like me, is it more sanitary to shower at night? Dr. Goldenberg says that fans of night showers be ware: We’re not keeping our sheets as fresh as we think we are. All because when we sleep and stay still, our bodies may begin to sweat. “When you wake up in the morning, there’s all this sweat and bacteria from the sheets that’s just kind of sitting there on your skin,” he said.

Also worth noting, when people are intimate at night and they just fall asleep right after, it can be twice as gross. The solution? Rinse off in the morning, “to wash all of that gunk and sweat off that you’ve been sleeping in all night.” A final morning-vs.-night shower consideration has to do with when you trim your whiskers. A hot, steamy shower can help soften hairs for a more comfortable shave. Especially for men with thick beards who need to shave in the morning just before work, an A.M. shower can make his morning routine more comfortable.

But when we compare this research side by side, before-bed showers seem to have a slight leg-up—especially for people with allergies. Just be sure to dry your hair properly before hopping in bed.

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