Hot Shower vs. Cold Shower 
Which one is Better for You?

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Modern bathroom and showerModern bathroom and shower
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The human body is governed by circadian rhythms, which tell us when to sleep, wake, eat, and so on; it's a kind of internal clock that works in 24-hour or longer periods. For example, bears' rhythms tell them when to hibernate and wake up again.

A hot or cold shower can benefit you at both ends of your day, to refresh you in the morning and settle you before bed, getting your body ready for sleep mode.

Let's look at the benefits of hot water versus cold water showers, when you should consider it, and when you shouldn't.


When should I hot shower?

If you are concerned about the amount of water you are using by showering twice a day, select the time of day that best suits you and stick to once a day.

A warm shower will wash away grease and oils which trap dirt and dead skin, so a nice soak and vigorous scrub of your body under the warm spray will refresh your skin and clear your pores, leaving you with healthy skin and glow.

Never use a high temperature for your shower; set it to a maximum of between 98°F (37°C) and 101°F (38.3°C) and certainly no more than 105°F (41°C). Skin specialists agree showering in too hot water can damage your skin.

As we prepare for bed, our rhythms reduce our core body temperature by approximate degrees for ideal sleep conditions. Showering in too hot water will raise your core temperature, so you should allow a cooling down period before trying to fall asleep.

Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks knew something about cold water immersion after a hot bath or sauna and did it repeatedly during a single session. Later, Scandinavians popularized sauna culture with high heat followed by cold water plunges, cold showers, and even rolling naked in fresh snow.

Why?

Because of the benefits to your body and skin.

So why on earth take a cold shower?

After a hard workout at the gym, spend around 20 minutes in a cooling-down routine to bring your breathing and body temperature back to normal, then go for it and jump into a cold shower.

Yes, it sounds awful and is certainly a shock to your system, but the way you will feel afterward when you have toweled off is incredible. Your skin and hair will be glowing, and all of the muscle and joint pain you get from strenuous work out is eased by a cold shower.

Stepping under a cold shower will raise your pulse level and boost your blood circulation. It also releases adrenaline and anti-stress hormones into your body, which makes you feel refreshed and renewed. After your cold shower, you will have a healthy radiance.

The same benefits are there if you take a cold shower first thing in the morning when you rise. It will wake you up, wash away sleep for sure, and will refresh and invigorate you ready for the day ahead.

Your immune system receives an instant boost from a cold shower. Your body's intuitive reaction to being hit by cold water is to try warming up, which it does by ramping up your metabolism and bringing your immune system into play. Your blood count will rise sharply, which will help protect you from viruses and bacterial infections.

Your hair will benefit and be healthier too. It will be shinier as the cold water moisturizes and protects the cuticles, preventing hair breakage.

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Cold shower before bed?

This will invigorate you and make you more alert, which is not ideal for sleeping straight away, so if you do take a cold shower in the evening, it would be best to do it a couple of hours before sleeping and use the time in between to complete some work or reading to relax.

Fertility boost

Men should never expose their testes to very hot water as it can cause a reduction in fertility. Experiments done in the 1950s found that men who took a hot bath for half an hour every other day over a three-week period were infertile for several months afterward. The UCSF recently carried out an experiment with similar results. After stopping the hot water treatments, the participant's sperm count rose dramatically.

Showers may not have as powerful an outcome, but there's no point in risking your fertility.

The downside of cold showers

It is an acquired habit, and if you suffer from health issues or cardiac or heart-related problems. If you are pregnant or anyone who has issues with blood pressure, cold showers are best avoided. Sharp changes in body temperature could cause serious issues for you.

If you are healthy, there is nothing to stop you from beginning with a normal shower temperature and slowly reducing it, doing it step by step until it's as cold as you can stand. The main benefits come from refreshingly cold water, which boosts your blood flow and invigorates you.

The sudden contact with cold water in a shower will cause you to take a sharp breath which increases your heart level to increase along with your blood pressure which can put stress on your heart. Avoid this by starting with a warm water shower and gradually reducing the temperature.

Avoid cold showers if you are already cold, as they will lengthen the time it takes to get warm again. If you are unwell, very cold water straight off may not be good for your system, so use warm temperatures, to begin with, then ease slowly into cooler water as you feel you can take it without harm.

Combined: Pros and cons (Benefits and Risks)

Pros of hot showers

  • Refreshes you in the morning
  • Settles you for bed
  • Cleanses skin and boosts hair
  • Relaxes you ready for sleep

Cons of hot showers

  • Don't use too high a temperature maximum of 105 F
  • Raises core temp bad for sleeping; cool down before sleep
  • Can damage skin

Pros of cold showers

  • Invigorating
  • Refreshing
  • Cleansing
  • Benefits hair and skin
  • Reduces joint and muscle pain
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Reduces stress
  • Releases hormones and adrenaline
  • Ramps up metabolism
  • Fires up the immune system
  • Increases/preserves men's fertility
  • Burns body fat

Cons of cold showers

  • If your health is compromised, it is NOT safe to do
  • Can exacerbate existing heart conditions
  • Heart stressor
  • Takes getting used to
  • Avoid if already cold or ill

Alternating between hot & cold shower

  • Tones nervous system
  • Anti-stress effect
  • Stimulates circulatory system
  • Reduces sick days
  • Improves mental health

Best way to try it

If you want to try a cold shower but can't face the shock of doing it straight off, try a hot/cold switch. Start with a comfortable, warm water shower, then gradually reduce the temperature to as cold as you can stand it. Do it for a fixed period like 45, 60, or 90 seconds then revert to warm water. It's easier to cope with until you are used to it, and it has its own benefits.

Hot to cold switch

We all benefit from quality blood circulation for good cardiovascular health, so switching between hot and cold water while showering boosts your blood circulation, which is beneficial in so many ways. The cold water moves your blood to your vital organs to maintain heat, and warm water moves the blood to your skin's surface. By invigorating your system this way, you improve your health, boost your circulation, and it gives you healthier skin.

The effect of cold showering on health and work

In this randomized controlled trial (RCT), participants who regularly showered starting hot and then reducing the temperature down to cold for between 45 and 90 seconds reduced self-stated work absence due to illness by 30%. They also reported a boost in their quality of life due to the regime.

Most also reported increased energy levels, similar to consuming caffeine. 64% of those taking part continued the practice following the trial.

What to avoid

Don't shower in water that's too hot (above 105 F) as it can damage your skin or scald you, so always test carefully before getting under the spray. Most countries require thermostatically controlled shower valves that prevent scalding; however, if you travel overseas, not every country has the same strict rules, especially in foreign hotels where you could start your shower at a comfortable temperature and suddenly be doused in freezing or scalding water. Check it out carefully and particularly if you have children.

Don't shower too soon after a workout, let your body come to a natural resting heart rate and normal core temperature by doing a cool down after a serious workout. Then jump into a cold shower which will invigorate your skin and refresh you from your exercise. You may even lose some weight as the body reacts to cold water by creating brown fat cells, which are designed to create warmth, and in doing so, they burn calories. These are found around the neck and shoulders, so they are ideal for showering. Neat Huh?

Conclusion

Most of us shower at least once a day and many more often, which can help you have a better quality of sleep. So if you are having problems sleeping, perhaps you should consider showering before bed and assessing if it helps to give you a better rest. It's an easy solution to try, and if it works, it's a win, win.

You can boost your quality of life by showering, starting with a warm shower and then reducing the temperature to cold for a period of up to 90 seconds, provided you have no medical issues.

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