Trouble Sleeping? Try a Foot Soak. | Wirecutter – The New York Times

SeeVay is a baby product store that provides comprehensive safety checklists and a curated selection of high-quality, safe baby products. Our mission is to give new moms peace of mind by ensuring their baby’s safety is always top of mind.
We independently review everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more
Advice, staff picks, mythbusting, and more. Let us help you.

Marilyn Ong
Share this post
It started innocently enough: After I sat through a Zoom meeting clearly miserable with nasal congestion, my colleague, editor Gabriella Gershenson, kindly suggested I try soaking my feet in some hot water. “It may help you sleep better, too.” In a ’90s sitcom, that would be the line that echoes as I wavy-effect out of a flashback, into a current scene where I’m explaining how I came to love soaking my feet before bed.

To start, I ordered a cream-color version of this foot soak bucket from an online Asian grocer, where they tend to be cheaper (I’ve also seen a smaller size at an H Mart in New Jersey). It’s inexpensive and made from a high-quality, thick plastic, and it has a sturdy handle that allows you to move it fairly easily. The bucket is also nice and tall—about 9.5 inches—but with a small footprint, so you can get ankle-deep without using up too much water or splashing your environs as you soak. And it has little nubs at the bottom, so you can press your foot against them for a gentle massage. Speaking of the small footprint, though, if your feet measure longer than 10.5 inches (which is about a size 9.5 in men’s shoes or a size 11 in women’s), you should look for something bigger.
You can probably use any bucket or basin you have on hand, but this bucket is especially nice if soaking your feet becomes a daily or weekly habit. It’s tall, sturdy, and easy to carry even when filled.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $15.
Having enjoyed foot soaking at Chinese spas, I mimicked that process, filling my soaking tub about halfway with water that was hot enough to feel a little uncomfortable but not scalding—I like mine between 108 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit—and leaving my feet in it for 20 to 30 minutes. The first time I did this, I noticed how much it helped me relax and how quickly I was able to fall asleep. I also found I slept more soundly and woke up feeling more refreshed. (As a working mom with three little kids, good sleep often feels like a mirage, just out of reach.)
The more I soaked my feet, the more curious I became about if these effects have been studied and if I was doing it the right way. The practice of foot bathing spans many cultures, from ancient times to today, and it continues to be popular in Chinese and Japanese therapeutic traditions (to name just a couple). A small but growing number of studies about foot soaking and sleep quality show some promise. One study found that a 20-minute soak had a positive effect on sleep latency and total sleep duration; in other words, budgeting a foot bath into your nightly routine can send you to dreamland faster and help you stay there longer. Another study found improvements in sleep efficiency, especially in those with poor sleep quality.
I also spoke with Dr. Daniel Barone, associate medical director at the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine and author of Let’s Talk About Sleep, and though he has yet to adopt foot soaking as a remedy for his patients, he said the science is interesting and corroborates what doctors already know. “There is pretty good data to suggest that extremity warming, whether that be hands or feet, actually changes your body’s core temperature. It can drop the core temperature as heat is dissipated, and that helps promote sleep.” He agreed that this should have helpful effects on both falling and staying asleep. (Something we also found to be true for sleeping with socks).
A footbath is not a good idea in a few instances. The American Diabetes Association cautions that those with diabetes should never soak their feet in hot water, as poor circulation can make it difficult to sense heat properly, leading to burns (it can also dry out the skin, which can lead to other complications). Barone also cautioned that if you have any kind of foot injury or neuropathy, it’s best to check with your doctor and, if you get the go-ahead, to always measure the temperature of water to keep it in a safe range (below 110 degrees Fahrenheit; though it is technically safe, it still felt very hot in my own informal tests). No matter what, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about a new remedy you’re trying.
Soaking my feet has resulted in one more unintended consequence: It’s a nice treat at the end of the day—one that doesn’t take a lot of work—so I’m much less likely to procrastinate getting ready for bed. Sometimes I’ll soak while I’m finishing a TV show, and other times I’ll put the screens away and read a book or let my mind wander. But every time, I settle into bed just a little more relaxed, and a little more ready for sleep.
It’s Sleep Week at Wirecutter! Read more about the best Sleep Week deals on our expert-recommended mattresses, bedding, and more for your bedroom.
This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.
by Caira Blackwell
Sometimes you need a last-ditch trick to help you sleep. Here are the six simple practices our sleep writer uses when nothing else works.
by Sam Schild, Kit Dillon, and Kalee Thompson
After using 41 sleeping bags in the Western wild, we have a range of recommendations for car-camping and backpacking.
by Shannon Palus
After we tested 17 diffusers, our favorite is the Urpower 2nd Gen 300ml Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser.
by Claire Wilcox, Kit Dillon, and Kalee Thompson
After sleeping in 27 tents, we think the Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3 is the best tent for two people and the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 is best for most families.
Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).
© 2023 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company

At SeeVay, we know that the safety and well-being of your baby is your top priority. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to make sure you’re always on top of your baby’s safety. We understand that being a new mom can be overwhelming, and there’s so much information out there that it can be hard to know where to start.

Leave a Reply

Shopping cart


No products in the cart.

Continue Shopping