If you need a shower and a cup of coffee to wake up in the mornings, you already know showers are powerful things. But, cold shower vs. hot shower – which one actually boosts your productivity more? Or, is it a combination of both? If you want to start off your day more productive than ever, it could come down to the temperature of your water.
Cold Shower vs. Hot Shower – Pros and Cons
Both types of showers have their own sets of benefits. In fact, both can help with a variety of health conditions. Research has shown that it’s actually beneficial to add both types of showers to your daily routine. Medical News Today backs up the benefits with even more studies.
Not sure a cold shower is worth the shock? Some of the scientifically proven benefits include:
- Improving circulation – The cold water shocks your system, causing blood to circulate faster to increase your body temperature.
- Wake up faster – If you’ve ever stepped into the shower before the water’s warmed up, you already know it’s an instant wake-up call. The cold also increases your oxygen intake, heart rate, and overall alertness.
- Help with brown fat – These are fat cells that use fat to generate heat in your body. While you’re not going to replace your exercise routine, cold showers can help a little with weight loss.
- Improve skin and hair health – Cold water doesn’t dry out your skin and hair like hot water does. Hot water can actually damage the natural sebum layer. Colder water also seals your hair cuticles, strengthening them naturally.
- Reduce cortisol – Cold water has been shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body.
- Increase norepinephrine and dopamine – Both of these hormones are proven to increase attention and focus, boosting productivity.
- Improve immune health – A study has shown adding 90 seconds of cold water to a daily shower can reduce sick days by 29 percent. Even when participants became sick, their symptoms were lessened and they could push through easier.
Cold showers aren’t perfect, though. If you’re already sick, they can actually hurt your immune system. It’s also not a great idea to take a cold shower if you’re already cold, as this hurts your body’s ability to warm up and may simply make you more tired.
On the other hand, hot showers aren’t without benefits. Obviously, they just feel better overall. They’re comforting and soothing, but that might not always be the best thing for waking up and feeling more productive.
Before you discount a hot shower as hurting productivity, consider these benefits:
- Relieve muscle tension and fatigue – Hot water helps soothe your body and muscles. This can help reduce aches, pains, and even stress.
- Improve blood flow – A nice hot shower helps to wake up the body and get blood flowing, much like a sweaty workout, though you don’t get the same cardio-type benefits.
- Improve respiratory health – Hot water helps to open up airways, which can help you breathe better.
- Improve sleep – Taking a shower at night relaxes the body and aids in sleep, which helps you feel more refreshed when you wake up.
- Increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) protein – A hotter shower has been show to increase BDNF, which is responsible for healthier nerve cells and improving memory and learning.
Hot showers have a few cons as well. Since they’re so relaxing, they may not wake you up as well. Plus, the heat can dry out your skin, causing distracting itching throughout the day. Anyone with high blood pressure should also be careful, as extended heat can make the issue worse.
Cold and Heat Shock Proteins
Hot and cold temperatures increase the body’s cold and heat shock proteins. These are considered specialist proteins, and they’re always present in the body. However, extreme temperatures that “shock” the body increase the production of these proteins. While you don’t have to sweat through a sauna or dive into an ice bath, each type has a different effect on your body.
Early studies have shown an increase in cold shock proteins may help reduce the risk of degenerative brain conditions. There’s also evidence they improve the immune system due to a higher norepinephrine release.
Heat shock proteins focus more on repairing the body. That’s why many people sit in saunas after an intense workout. The heat works as a stressor, encouraging your body to heal itself.
Standard showers won’t give you quite the same extremes, but they can increase production of heat shock proteins especially. These can help improve your health, but may not necessarily impact productivity.
The Best of Both Worlds
You don’t have to think of it as cold showers vs. hot showers. Instead, get the benefits of both. Obviously, a cold shower is much more invigorating. It instantly makes you more alert and can even improve your mood. If you’re feeling groggy when you first start working, a cold shower will improve your productivity by making you feel better and more awake.
However, cold showers are difficult and may make you feel tense. Many people opt for a hot or lukewarm shower followed by a short cold burst to shock the system. This is more bearable and offers many of the same benefits.
Others use contrast showers, which is often used as a holistic therapy for health and healing. This involves going back and forth to continually shock the system, but this can be too extreme if you already have certain cardiovascular health issues.
Ideally, add a minute of cold water at the end of your shower each day or take a short cold shower in the morning to boost your productivity. Add a short warm shower at night to improve your sleep and increase your productivity even more.