The Research Behind Cold Water Immersion
Cold water immersion is a widespread practice among athletes, and a growing body of research is suggesting this tool may also benefit mental health as well. Numerous studies have uncovered links between cold exposure and improved mental health, potentially even helping to curb the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. From studies on chronic polar plungers who live in cold climates to studies on mice, research teams around the globe have been discovering promising evidence of mental health improvement through cold water immersion. Let's cover several factors that contribute to how cold water immersion may help treat mental health conditions.
How Cold Water Immersion May Improve Your Mental Health
Benefits of Cold Water Immersion
Cold Shock Protein and Brain Health
When the role of the RBM3 "cold shock" protein was uncovered in mammals such as bears, the link between this protein and brain health became more clear. In a 2015 study published in the journal Nature, a Cambridge research team revealed their discovery of “cold-shock" protein while conducting studies on mice with no health issues as a control group, along with mice afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative brain diseases like Prion.
The Cambridge research team found that when healthy mice were exposed to a hypothermic state and then carefully rewarmed, they showed signs of benefiting from the resulting natural boost of cold shock protein production. Once the mice were fully rewarmed, the researchers also discovered the ordinary mice had healed neurons that were damaged by the initial cold shock.
Vagus Nerve Response
The vagus nerve has long been considered to play a role in mental health and stress-related conditions. This nerve connects the brain with the rest of the vital organs in the body, and it turns off the sympathetic state, also known as the fight or flight response.
Research has found that exposure to cold water, even slight amounts on the face, can activate the vagus nerve, reducing breathing and heart rates and flipping the brain into parasympathetic mode, also known as the rest and digest state.
All of this boils down to gaining more control over anxiety and depression, which result from prolonged chronic stress.
Mood Elevation Through Hormone Response
Cold water immersion has been found to increase the production of mood-elevating hormones and neurotransmitters, such as beta-endorphins, noradrenaline, and dopamine. All of these hormones help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety through brain chemistry. When jumping in cold water, the resulting rush comes from this flood of hormones rushing through the brain.
Increased Sensory Input May Press Pause On Stress
We have a high concentration of cold receptors on the surface of our skin. When these receptors are quickly and simultaneously activated, the brain gets a massive influx of sensory information, which can produce an antidepressant effect.
Some researchers think this rapid influx of lots of sensory information into the brain acts as a pause button for the neurological processes for depression and anxiety setting in. So, being immersed in cold water may actually interrupt certain neurological cycles that lead to mental health problems.
Ice Bath Treatments Could Boost Stress Resilience
Cold water immersion acts as a short-term physiological stressor, which temporarily throws our nervous system into sympathetic survival mode. Research indicates brief and repeated exposure to physical stress could improve overall stress response, a neurological process called cross-adaptation.
Regularly practicing cold-water immersion is proving to be effective for developing an adaptive response to stress triggers or many different types.
Cold Water Therapy May Ease Depression Symptoms
While cold water certainly isn't a cure-all for mental health conditions, some studies suggest that swimming in open cold water has helped to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety when part of a regular routine. In one study, researchers found that a regimen of short, twice-daily cold showers led to a decrease in symptoms of depression.
Cold Water Immersion Safety tips
Speak with your doctor first
Keep in mind at all times how cold water immersion is affecting your blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation, as it can cause serious cardiac stress. Because of the risks involved, it's crucial when beginning a cold water immersion routine to discuss the risks with your doctor first. Making sure it’s safe for you to immerse yourself in cold water is an essential first step, so don't overlook it.
Keep an observer close-by
Also remember that cold water immersion can impair your reasoning, emotions, and mental responsiveness. It's a best-practice to keep someone close-by to help you monitor your condition when taking ice baths, especially when you're first starting out or working to increase your cold exposure tolerance level.
Cold Exposure May Help Optimize Sleep
Optimize your sleep with cold water immersion
Aside from the calming effects of hormone stimulation that stem from cold water immersion, reducing aches and pains is also helpful for achieving a higher quality of sleep. Ice baths can help reduce pain and inflammation while also producing a sense of well-being and calmness within, enabling you to more easily and fall asleep in comfort. To gain the maximum sleep benefits, consider implementing contrast water therapy, transitioning from a hot sauna to cold water immersion.
Easier Cold Water Immersion For Mental Health
Limiting your chances of developing a degenerative brain disease such as Alzheimer's or Prion disease is a wise reason to invest in a RENU Therapy Cold Water Immersion Tub for your home or office.
RENU Therapy hand-crafts every cold plunge tub 100% in the USA so we can provide the best warranty available. Simply put, we do whatever it takes to deliver 100% customer satisfaction!
Choose from multiple design options so your new cold plunge tub blends in beautifully into its surroundings. Each of our cold immersion tubs features a world-class design that will add to the aesthetic appeal of any home or office space.