Do you struggle to wind down at night? Does it take you a while to get comfortable in bed, or to feel relaxed and ready for sleep? Are the muscles in your shoulders and back feeling tight and tense by the end of the day?
How does a nice, hot bath sound to remedy all that?
Uh, yeah. My guess is it’s been a while since your last bath time, right?
A bedtime bath is by far one of the most therapeutic tools you can have in establishing healthy sleep patterns. Taking time to yourself to relax in warm, soothing water is great as it is, but if you really want to turn your bath into a sleep-boosting, stress-busting, muscle-relaxing miracle worker of a sleep remedy, this is how it’s done.
(Oh, and YES—this works for calming the kids down at night, too!)
You’ll need just two simple key ingredients: epsom salts, and baking soda.
Epsom salts for better sleep
Epsom salts, made of magnesium sulphate, are an old-fashioned remedy for soothing tired, aching muscles.
That’s because magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. It accomplishes this by moving calcium out of the muscles, and back into the bloodstream where it can be mobilized elsewhere. It’s also a critical nutrient to your body’s glucose metabolism—magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar by assisting cells in producing energy from glucose.
What does that all have to do with sleep? Well, releasing muscle tension is a key element in allowing the body to initiate the relaxation response (think, the opposite of the stress response), which is necessary for sleep. And because the metabolism-supportive benefits of magnesium help to produce cellular energy, your blood sugar can be better stabilized—this is essential for maintaining balanced hormonal levels that help you sleep.
Your body can absorb this magnesium from epsom salts quite efficiently, so epsom salt baths are an excellent way to supplement the calmative mineral. And epsom salts also serve to provide a gentle, effective detox bath.
Sleep benefits of baking soda
Baking soda added to an epsom salt bath is another powerful sleep aid. That’s because it supplements the body with extra CO2 to be absorbed. Did you know that C02 is one of the most important chemicals in your body? It supports healthy cellular energy production—which in turn promotes healthy sleep and keeps stress hormones at bay.
Your sleep cycles are designed to maintain CO2 levels during the night. In REM sleep, breathing is shallow and inhibited, and CO2 levels rise. The naturally-restful deep sleep stages allow for a greater production of CO2, which allows for cellular repairs to take place as stem cells multiply and mitochondrial energy is supported with lots of that good CO2.
You can take baking soda orally, as well, but I much prefer a baking soda bath.
So here’s my recipe for the ultimate in bedtime relaxation—the Sleepy Time Bath!
Sleepy Time Bath Recipe
To be used in a regular-sized full bath tub filled with hot water.
Don’t have whole-house-filtered water? You can find a bath tub chlorine filter (and whole house filtration systems, too) here.
- 2-4 cups (or more) epsom salts
- 1 cup baking soda (I recommend buying in bulk)
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Optional (but helpful!) ingredients
- ½-1 cup magnesium chloride. (Find it here.) This type of magnesium comes in large flakes, and is the kind used to make magnesium oil as mentioned in the Supplements chapter. It’s ideal to get magnesium in multiple different forms for optimal absorption, so adding a little magnesium chloride to the epsom salts may be beneficial as well.
- 2-4 T bentonite clay. Bentonite clay is known to be an effective detoxifying agent, and it also absorbs chlorine and fluoride in your bathwater. Almost all of us have chemically-treated water, so throwing in a little clay to the bath is a great idea if you have it.
- Essential oils or dried herbs of your choosing. Chamomile (oil; dried) and lavender (oil; dried) are excellent sleep-promoting choices.
If you aren’t noticing a muscle-relaxing effect from the epsom salts, increase the amount until you do. Some people need as much as 4 pounds of epsom salts in their bath! As your body’s magnesium stores become replenished, you will find that you’ll need less epsom salt as time goes on. Generally, a good maintenance dose is about 2 cups of epsom salts, when used in a full bath for at least 15 minutes. (Who seriously only takes a 15 minute bath, though? I’m at least a 40 minute bather, myself!)
Don’t have a full tub? Try a foot bath instead!
If you don’t have a bathtub in your home, try a simple foot bath. This will help in raising body temperature, as well as absorbing the beneficial nutrients of the epsom salts and the baking soda. Your feet have very large pores capable of absorbing things transdermally better than anywhere else on your body, so if a full bath isn’t an option, a foot bath can be just as good!
Variation: Sleepy Foot Bath
- ½-1 cup epsom salts
- ¼-1/2 cup baking soda
- Plus small amounts of optional ingredients
Use in a basic foot bath tub, or even a stainless steel tub (if plastic freaks you out), and soak for at least 15 minutes.
Want more ways to sleep better?
This bath recipe can be a big help in getting a better night’s sleep, but if you really want to address the true causes of your insomnia, you need to do more than soak up some sleepy bath time.
Sleep health is all about regulating blood sugar and balancing hormones—both dependent on metabolic health. That’s where The Sleep Solution comes in. Once you understand why you’re not sleeping as you should, you can take simple steps to change that and reset your body’s biological clock back to a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
If you want to end the tossing and turning, wound-up evenings and sleepless nights for good, and finally address the root of your sleep problems rather than the symptoms, my newest ebook, The Sleep Solution, is for you.
What helps you wind down at night?
Do you have a bedtime routine that helps you sleep? Tell us about it in the comments below.
I pour in a bottle of hydrogen peroxide with the epsom salt and baking soda.
The last time I did this it was in response to a grueling night at work. I ended up with a severe knot in my spinal muscles. When I got home the first order of business was a bath with 2 cups epsom salt and a couple of squirts of lavender and rose castile soap. When I got out I was so relaxed that I felt a bit tipsy. Yes, the magnesium relaxes you, but lavender and rose are both nervines that calm. You can add them to your bath via essential oils eiter straight or present in soap, or you can put the dried material in a drawstring muslin or mesh bag and float that in the water. Taking them as a tea works wonders if you are susceptible to taking herbs internally.
I still love the ol’ ‘oats in a muslin bag’ thang… Only I use cut and sifted Oat Straw rather than… porridge. It’s an incredible, subtle, supportive nervine and rich in magnesium.