It doesn’t get much better than a sudsy soak in the tub—but now what you’ve always known about a bath’s power to relax body and mind is borne out by science. Research from the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that soaking in warm water daily for 8 weeks is more effective at easing anxiety than a prescription drug. (Does your body feel out of whack? Then check out Heal Your Whole Body to get back to balance.) Other reasons to indulge in a good soak session:
Ditch the psoriasis itch. Taking a warm bath with a couple of tablespoons of olive or coconut oil can help relive the itchy and flaky skin caused by psoriasis. “The oil acts as a moisturizer, helping remove scales and making your skin less prone to infection,” explains Abby Jacobson, emeritus medical board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation. Just don’t linger in the tub—longer than 10 minutes daily tends to dry out skin, even with the oil. And use a soft washcloth instead of scrubbing with a loofah, which can make your skin more inflamed. After your soak, you’ll still want to apply whichever moisturizing cream your doc recommends.
Soothe dry winter skin. Although oatmeal is a centuries-old skin soother, researchers only recently recognized the avenanthramides in oats as the key compounds that calm inflamed, itchy skin. Put whole oats in a clean, dry sock. Seal the open end with a rubber band, and then drop the sock into a warm or hot bath. Soak yourself for 15 to 20 minutes.
Score a great night’s sleep.
Slipping between cool sheets helps trigger a drop in your body temperature, and that shift signals the body to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. That’s why taking a warm bath before going to bed is a good call—it temporarily raises your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy.
Boost your brain. Adding essential oils gives you even more bath-time bang for your buck: Sage sharpens memory, and bergamot relieves stress, according to the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies.
Ward off a cold. A hot bath can soothe stuffy nasal passages and erase body aches. Plus, relaxation releases painkilling endorphins in the brain.