Study objectives: Passive body heating in controlled settings could shorten sleep onset latency (SOL). The hypothesized mechanism is vasodilation-induced heat loss before bedtime. However, this evidence is based on small sample-sized studies in specific populations. Thus, we analyzed the association of hot-water bathing and its before-bedtime timing with SOL and heat loss in a large study population of older adults.
Methods: We conducted a longitudinal analysis using repeated measurements of hot-water bathing and sleep among 1,094 older adults (mean age, 72.0 years). SOL was recorded using actigraphy and self-reported sleep estimates and was categorized into conditions (intervals of 1-60, 61-120, 121-180, and > 181 minutes between hot bath and bedtime) and compared with the control condition of no bathing. The heat-loss indicator, distal-proximal skin temperature gradient, was examined in the same categorization.
Results: Mixed-effects linear regression models suggested that the bathing conditions of 61-120 minutes and 121-180 minutes showed significantly shorter log-transformed actigraphic SOL by 0.23 log-minutes (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.03-0.42) and 0.32 log-minutes (95% CI, 0.09-0.56), shorter self-reported SOL by 0.16 log-minutes (95% CI, 0.02-0.30) and 0.18 log-minutes (95% CI, 0.01-0.35), and higher distal-proximal skin temperature gradient for 30 minutes before bedtime by 0.49°C (95% CI, 0.22-0.75) and 0.51°C (95% CI, 0.20-0.83), respectively, independent of potential confounders.
Conclusions: Hot-water bathing before bedtime is significantly associated with shorter SOL and higher distal-proximal skin temperature gradient among the large-scale older population. This finding could enhance the generalizability of hot-water bathing habits for ameliorating sleep initiation difficulty.
Keywords: actigraphy; older adults; passive body heating; skin temperature.
© 2021 American Academy of Sleep Medicine.