What To Wear To Bed

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In addition to keeping your room dark, cool, and quiet at night (1), choosing the right sleepwear is part of creating the optimal sleep environment. We explore the various types of fabrics used for sleepwear and how they might affect sleep to help you decide what to wear to bed.

Different Fabrics for Sleep

Pajamas come in a variety of fabrics, each of which may offer unique benefits:

  • Bamboo-Derived Material: Bamboo-derived fabrics tend to be lightweight and breathable.
  • Blends of Multiple Fibers: Fabric blends combine the advantages of different materials.
  • Cotton: Cotton is lightweight and breathable, but it may trap moisture.
  • Fleece: Fleece is designed for insulation in colder months.
  • Flannel: Flannel fabrics have raised fibers that trap heat, making them suitable for the winter.
  • Linen: Linen can feel rougher on the skin, but it is exceptionally breathable and durable.
  • Polyester: Polyester is very affordable, though not as breathable as other materials.
  • Satin: Satin feels smooth to the touch.
  • Silk: Silk is known for its softness, strength, and breathability.
  • Wool: Wool regulates temperature well, but some find it scratchy.

People generally agree that sleepwear should be loose and comfortable. The best sleepwear for you depends on multiple factors, such as your nighttime room temperature (2), your bedding, your personal comfort preferences, and whether you tend to run hot or cold.

Most people sleep best in a cool room paired with bedding and sleepwear that warm the skin. Contrary to expectations, warm skin actually helps a person's core body temperature decrease at night by releasing heat through dilated blood vessels. A lower core body temperature is necessary for better sleep.

Two studies have found that people fall asleep faster while wearing wool sleepwear. Wool excels at wicking moisture away from the body to keep the sleeper at a comfortable temperature.

In one study, sleepers wearing wool (3) in a cooler bedroom fell asleep an average of eight minutes faster than those wearing cotton. Another study conducted in a warmer climate found that adults wearing Merino wool sleepwear (4) fell asleep faster than those wearing polyester.

If you prefer not to wear wool in general or during hot summer months, other options for cool sleepwear fabrics include breathable cotton or bamboo-derived materials (5). Some may even choose to sleep in the nude.

Should I Sleep Nude?

Many people anecdotally report receiving benefits from sleeping without clothing on. Similar to sleepwear fabric choice, the decision of whether or not to sleep nude likely depends on other factors, such as your room temperature and bedding.

Studies show that people sleeping semi-nude (6) are able to handle warmer temperatures without much sleep disruption. They are more disturbed by exposure to cold temperatures, however. If you find it comfortable to sleep nude when temperatures warm up, be sure to keep adequate bedding near you in case the temperature drops during the night.

Should I Wear Socks to Bed?

Some research suggests wearing socks to bed could be a good idea. In a study of young men sleeping in a relatively cool room, those wearing socks (7) fell asleep seven and a half minutes faster and stayed asleep over half an hour longer than those not wearing socks. In another study, adults fell asleep faster with socks on (8), as did some older adults, although to a lesser extent.

The question of whether or not to wear socks to bed may also depend on other factors such as your bedding and the bedroom temperature. If you choose to wear socks to bed, opt for a loose and comfortable pair. Talk to your doctor first if you are considering wearing compression socks to sleep.

What Should Babies Sleep In?

Expert advice on what babies should wear to bed is relatively specific. Swaddling your baby (9) snugly in a blanket might be appropriate if done correctly during the first two months of life. Swaddling can lead to less crying and better sleep (10), but it becomes unsafe once a baby starts attempting to roll over. Babies in a swaddle should always be placed on their back and never on their stomach. Alternatives to swaddling include sleep sacks or wearable blankets.

Since infants should not have blankets or pillows (11) with them as they sleep, their sleepwear needs to provide warmth without leading to overheating. It should also be relatively snug and secure, since anything too loose or easy to remove could create a choking hazard. In a warmer sleep environment, one layer of clothing may be acceptable. However, it is generally advised that babies should sleep in a room that is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (12), which means you might want to dress them in more than one layer (13).

How Does Sleepwear Fit Into Sleep Hygiene?

Selecting the optimal sleepwear can be considered one component of good sleep hygiene. For many people, the act of changing into something comfortable is an integral part of the nightly sleep routine, signaling that it is time to relax and wind down for bed. Other sleep hygiene habits that can help you prepare for sleep include putting digital devices away for the night, taking a warm bath, and engaging in other relaxing activities like reading or breathing exercises.

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