Find Out What You Really Should Be Wearing to Bed

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation.


Pick the right pajamas to get your best night’s sleep.

Getting good slumber requires more than just scheduling a consistent bedtime. In fact, creating the right sleep environment—considering light, temperature, and more—can be the difference between fitful dozing and a long, full night of sleep. Another important element: what you wear to bed. Picking pajamas to help support good shut-eye is surprisingly simple.

Focus on Fabric

First and foremost, choose sleepwear that feels good when you put it on. If you dislike the slippery sensation of silk, for example, you won’t get good shut-eye in a silky pair of pj’s. Being strategic about what your sleep attire is made of can also help regulate your body temperature during the night, which, in turn, can promote better slumber. So consider the following fabrics.

  • Cotton: This all-natural fabric is lightweight and soft to the touch; it’s also breathable, allowing for air circulation, and doesn’t tend to irritate the skin. However, cotton does a poor job of insulating and may make you cold if worn in a cooler climate without adequate blankets. It’s also inefficient at wicking away moisture, so if you experience night sweats, it may not be the best choice.
  • Silk: This fabric is a magical thermoregulator: It can keep you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re hot. That said, real silk is costly and requires dry-cleaning. It’s also slippery, and may move around while you sleep.
  • Flannel: For colder months, a pair of pajamas made from this soft fabric may be just what you need. The material is comfortable and provides warmth and breathability, so it can help you stay toasty without overheating.
  • Moisture-wicking: If you tend to get hot when you sleep—or if you usually experience night sweats—moisture-wicking sleepwear may be your best choice. These materials are designed to draw water away from the skin, helping your body to regulate its own temperature.
  • Bamboo. This fabric, spun from fibers of the hearty plant, feels soft and silky on the skin. It’s a natural moisture-wicker, so it keeps you at a comfortable temperature. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and may have anti-bacterial properties that are beneficial for allergy sufferers. Last, but not least, it’s 100% biodegradable—a great bonus if you’re eco-friendly.
  • Wool and fleece: While these fabrics will keep you warm, they may actually promote overheating. What’s more, wool may irritate the skin, causing itchiness that wakes you up during the night. And fleece doesn’t allow air to circulate, so you may find that it makes you perspire.

Consider the Details

When you shop for sleepwear, think about more than just the fabric. Fit matters, since looser pajamas move more easily over your body when you sleep, instead of tightening or binding. Elements like buttons, snaps, and tags can become problematic if they itch or otherwise irritate you during the night. Also, be sure that any elastic isn’t too tight to cut off circulation or too loose to slip off as you snooze.

Don’t Forget Your Feet

One often-forgotten component in choosing what to wear to bed is what to do about your lower extremities. Cold feet are actually associated with sleeplessness. But warming your feet too much can cause your entire body to become too hot. If you tend to get chilly while you snooze, slip on a pair of lightweight socks at bedtime.

Consider Going Au Naturel

Believe it or not, sleeping sans nightclothes can actually have some health benefits. When you’re overheated during sleep, your body doesn’t produce adequate melatonin and growth hormone, both of which are important for repair and anti-aging. Going without pajamas helps ensure that your body temperature doesn’t get too high. Growth hormone also plays a big role in metabolism, so sleeping in the nude could lead to a better body composition. Finally, staying cool by forgoing pjs could even lead to longer, deeper sleep.

Ultimately, personal comfort reigns supreme when picking the right sleepwear for you—whether that means a silk chemise, classic cotton pajamas, a stretchy jersey sleep shirt, or nothing at all.

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