I’ve always showered at night. I got into this habit early in life—I had evening swim practices and preferred to wash the chlorine away before bed. Plus, I’m a night owl and require no shortage of five alarms to get out of bed on time. Showering in the morning just takes up way too much precious sleep time.
But some nights, when I go to bed with a sopping wet mop or wake up a little too sweaty, I wonder if I'd be better off delaying my shower until morning. I wonder: Is there one right answer when it comes to what time of the day one showers?
“Scientists have made a case for both a.m. and p.m. showers, as there are advantages and disadvantages to each,” says Chandler Coleman, a consumer insights investigator for ConsumerSafety.org. “While showering in the morning is a good pick-me-up and helps to eradicate sleep inertia, night showers can be relaxing and calm the body as a pre-bedtime ritual.”
Turns out, there’s more that should go into the decision-making than just relaxing or waking up—like the consideration of germs, bacteria, and sweat between the sheets.
Your bed is full of bacteria
Yikes—our beds are actually hotbeds for bacteria. According to one study, we lose up to 26 gallons of sweat in bed per year, or one liter of sweat per day. What’s more? The same study found 47 different species of fungi on 10 regularly used pillows. Turns out, pillows are full of dead skin, dust mites, and droppings, too.
When you shower at the end of the day, you rinse toxins, sweat, and bacteria off your body before ever touching your sheets, says Coleman. However, you risk crawling into bed with soaking wet hair, which poses risks of its own.
“Going to bed with a head of wet hair allows moisture to seep directly into your pillow, creating the perfect environment for unwanted fungi, bacteria, and more,” says Coleman. Don’t worry: this isn’t a catch-22. As long as you dry your hair before bed, it may be more hygienic to shower in the evening.
So, is it better to shower at night?
Some people just can't bear the thought of forgoing a morning shower—some even say it wakes them up more than coffee. "It can alleviate sleep inertia that makes us feel groggy in the morning,” says Ellen Wermter, a board certified family nurse practitioner at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. If that's the case for you, don't fret.
Though there’s tons of bacteria living in our beds, according to AmeriSleep, only some of them can actually make you sick. With a little care—like regularly cleaning comforters and bedding, washing pillows every six months and replacing your pillow when necessary, and using a top sheet to keep your bed clean—you can minimize illness-causing (and overall unsettling) bacteria in your bed.
And if all this talk of bacteria in your bed has you tempted to add a second shower to your daily routine, not so fast. "On occasion, there may be a reason to shower twice a day, but those should be extremely short showers,” Dr. Jessica Krant, a board-certified dermatologist with the American Academy of Dermatology, told NBC News. Too much water exposure, particularly hot water, can lead to dry skin and hair, especially in people with atopic dermatitis or very dry skin. You're better off upping your laundry game.