Placing a hot water bottle at the end of the bed. Having dogs sleep at your feet. Wearing socks. Are you seeing a pattern?
For a long time, humans have gravitated towards warming their feet around bedtime. According to science, it turns out they had the right idea.
Why is sleeping with socks on good for you?
To understand why sleeping with socks on is good for you, you first have to understand how thermoregulation works. Humans are endotherms, which means we regulate our own body temperature, unlike reptiles, which need the sun’s heat and light to warm up. Our brain works throughout the day to ensure our core temperature stays around 98.6 degrees, despite external influences like your environment or exercise regime.
However, your body doesn’t stay at a strict 98.6 degrees. It varies during the day. It drops at night, reaching its lowest point while you sleep, before starting its rise in the early morning before you wake up. This is why the ideal temperature for sleep is in the cool mid-60s degrees Fahrenheit – it facilitates that natural drop in temperature your brain associates with sleep.
Maintaining your body temperature during sleep ensures a smooth night of rest. Just like Goldilocks, if you get too hot, or too cold, you’re likelier to wake up.
Source: National Institutes of Health
Now, back to socks. It’s not the socks themselves that bring the benefit; it’s the effect they have on your body. Warming your feet before bed facilitates vasodilation, which is the dilation of your blood vessels in your extremities. When vasodilation occurs in your hands and feet, it opens them up so they can redistribute heat throughout your body, regulating your body temperature and preparing you for sleep. Sleeping with socks on helps this process happen.
In fact, researchers have found that vasodilation in the feet, thanks to socks, shortens the time it takes to fall asleep by a full 15 minutes.
Benefits of wearing socks to bed
Besides helping you fall asleep faster, sleeping with socks on provides various health benefits, including:
- The warmth contained by the socks helps your body thermoregulate while you sleep, staving off night sweats or hot flashes.
- The temperature regulation assist from wearing socks helps prevent a Raynaud’s attack. People with Raynaud’s disease have sensitive blood cells that overreact to cold temperature.
- Socks protect the natural moisture on your feet during the cold, dry months of winter, helping prevent or minimize cracks and dryness (especially when you apply moisturizer before putting on your socks).
- According to traditional Chinese medicine, wearing socks promotes positive energy flow. Cold feet can drain the body, while warmth from socks helps circulate your blood and qi energy.
- Wearing socks can even increase your chances of orgasm by 30 percent, according to a University of Groningen study.
Drawbacks to sleeping with socks on
Are there any drawbacks to sleeping with socks on? Besides the squick factor some experience, the only real issue with sleeping with socks on is wearing the wrong socks. Here are a few to avoid.
- Avoid socks that aren’t breathable or are too thick, such as compression socks (these in particular are not designed for overnight use). Instead, look for socks made from natural materials that allow airflow so you don’t get too hot.
- Avoid using electric blankets, hot water bottles, or heated socks for children and infants, as it may cause them to overheat. Simply dress them in normal socks after a warm bath.
Sock sleeping pro tips
If you want to sleep with socks like a pro, follow these best practices.
- Always change your pair of socks before bed, as the sweat and activities from the day can introduce bacteria and dirt to your socks and feet.
- Shower or bathe in warm water before bed. When your body temperature lowers, your brain recognizes it’s time for sleep. When you take a warm shower or bath, the evaporation of warm water from your skin heat makes this decrease in temperature more intense, helping induce sleep.
- Fully dry your feet before putting on new socks after your bath or shower. This prevents the bacteria buildup that leads to fungal infections.
How to stay warm without wearing socks to bed
What if the idea of wearing socks to bed makes you cringe? Whatever your reasons, some people are simply unable to get on board with wearing socks to bed. That’s okay, as there are alternatives that can offer you the same benefits as your sock-sleeping peers.
- Give it one last try with really nice socks, such as ones made from cashmere or merino wool.
- Wear insulated slippers in the hour before bed, as part of your bedtime routine.
- Place a hot water bottle or heating pad or blanket at the foot of your bed. For safety purposes, be sure to turn it off as soon as you start feeling drowsy.
- Place extra blankets, sheets, or pillows at the foot of your bed.