Whether wearing socks while sleeping sounds super cosy or criminal, there’s a surprising amount of science behind how it affects both your health and sleep.

What happens when you sleep in socks?

At its most simple, wearing socks to bed increases blood circulation to your feet. This, in turn, speeds up the rate at which your core temperature drops. Your extremities – feet, hands, and ears – are the places you lose heat fastest. So, anything that speeds up blood flow to these areas will help you lower your body temperature. And with a low core temperature being imperative for sleep, wearing socks in bed can help you nod off easier than if you weren’t wearing any.

But there are downsides too.

Read on for a full list of the advantages and disadvantages of wearing socks in bed.

Related: How To Get Out Of Bed When It’s Cold

sleeping with socks on

Advantages of Wearing Socks in Bed

Let’s start with the advantages for sleeping with socks on:

1. Improved circulation:

By increasing blood flow to the feet, sleeping with socks on helps to improve your circulation. Good circulation ensures a healthy blood and oxygen flow, allowing your muscles, lungs and heart to work efficiently.

2. Thermoregulation:

As the name suggests, thermoregulation refers to the way our bodies control their own temperature. To ensure we don’t fall victim to changing temperatures – think heated trains on cold days – our bodies respond to the environment to ensure we remain an optimum temperature.

3. Prevent Raynaud’s attack:

Raynaud’s syndrome is a medical condition in which your body – typically your fingers and toes – responds to cold weather and feel numb. While this condition doesn’t normally create any severe health problems, it’s still recommended to do whatever possible to prevent it. Wearing socks in bed can help. A key symptom is that affected areas turn white or patchy, as blood flow is restricted.

4. Prevent hot flushes:

For women going through menopause, sleep can often be difficult to achieve. Hot flushes are a response to hormonal changes but they can be prevented by wearing socks in bed. By sleeping with socks on, you trigger a process called vasodilation. This is where blood vessels dilate which allows you to cool down faster and, therefore, achieve sleep faster.

Disadvantages of Wearing Socks to Bed

Now, let’s look at the downsides to sleeping in socks:

1. Reduced circulation:

While wearing socks in bed can improve circulation, it can also go the other way. If the socks you choose to wear are restrictive and too tight, this can cause blood flow to decrease. Either opt for bed socks or choose a size up to what you would normally wear throughout the day.

2. Poor hygiene:

In some cases, wearing socks to bed can increase the risk of poor hygiene. If your socks are too tight or aren’t clean, your feet aren’t able to breathe properly and chances of infection or odours are increased. To counteract this, ensure you change your socks before bed and choose a pair which are made from breathable materials such as cotton, merino wool, cashmere, or bamboo.

3. Overheating:

While wearing the right pair of socks to bed can help you cool down faster, there are instances where it might have the opposite effect. If your socks aren’t breathable, any heat that is expelled through vasodilation will have nowhere to go and cause you to overheat. We’ll go into more detail on the best materials for socks in bed later in this article.

Related: How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep Flowchart

The Science Behind Wearing Socks in Bed

To ensure you are improving your sleep by wearing socks in bed, you’ll need to understand some key bodily functions. These are vasodilation, the Circadian Rhythm and thermoregulation.

vasodilation illustration

1. Vasodilation:

Definition:

The dilation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure.

Vasodilation is the widening (dilation) of your blood vessels. This is a natural process which happens in response to improved blood flow to tissues in your body. When your blood vessels increase in size, they can expel heat much faster than usual. This is due to a greater surface area, allowing your core temperature to cool down at greater speeds than normal.

2. Circadian Rhythm:

Definition:

Physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a daily cycle.

Acting like a 24-hour clock, a circadian rhythm is a bodily function controlled by the part of your brain called the Hypothalamus. This rhythm responds to changes in light and temperature. It is also known as your sleep/wake cycle. Healthy circadian rhythms are achieved by keeping regular sleep habits. But in a world as on-the-go as the 21st century, this can be difficult. To help your body send the right signals to your brain, wearing socks in bed can help. When done correctly, this lowers your core temperature. Coupled with a dark or low-light environment, your brain recognises it’s time to sleep and kickstarts the process of nodding off.

The Best Sleep Socks

Now we’ve looked into why wearing socks in bed can help you achieve sleep, you’ll likely want to know which are the best socks for sleep.

1. Cashmere socks

Cashmere is well known as one of the finest, naturally occurring materials. That’s because the diameter of its fibres is thinner than those in Merino wool and cotton. This results in less gaps for air to pass through and helps to keep your feet warm. However, despite it helping to keep you warm, the structure of cashmere fibres does allow air to pass through. This, in turn, helps you thermoregulate.  Put simply, cashmere warms your feet enough for vasodilation, before expelling that built-up heat.

2. Merino wool socks

Merino wool socks are also great for wearing to bed. Again, the fibres are thick enough to warm your feet while offering enough air gaps to allow them to cool when heat is built up. Merino wool also wicks moisture away and is odour resistant, all while providing incredible comfort.

3. Cotton socks

If you’re vegan, or just not a fan of wearing animal products, you’ll likely want to stay away from cashmere and merino wool. Cotton socks provide similar benefits, and by choosing those which are 100% cotton, you can be confident you’re only using plant-based products. Like merino wool, cotton is a great material for wicking away moisture, regulating temperature and providing breathability all night long.

4. Bed socks

If you’re going to buy sleep socks, you can’t do much better than those designed for the purpose. A simple Google search will send you in the right direction. They’re typically much thicker than normal socks, yet offer incredible breathability. Made from super thick fibres, there’s plenty of space for heat to dissipate once it’s built up. Make sure to buy a few pairs so you always have a clean pair.

How to Regulate the Temperature of Your Feet Without Socks

If you’re totally against wearing socks in bed, there are other ways to regulate your temperature and kick off the process of vasodilation. A popular choice is to place a hot water bottle at the bottom of the bed. Other options include taking a warm foot bath before bed, sleeping with a blanket over the end of the bed, or wearing a warm pair of slippers before you hit the hay.

Verdict: Is it bad to sleep with socks on?

If you can ensure good hygiene – swapping your socks nightly and choosing materials that offer breathability – wearing socks in bed can help improve your ability to fall asleep. Keeping your feet warm triggers bodily functions such as vasodilation, which in turn tell your brain that it’s time to sleep. This is to do with the human circadian rhythm, which is the process that controls why we sleep at night and wake in the morning. So, is it bad to sleep with socks on? No, if you often find yourself struggling to sleep, consider wearing socks to bed and you’ll likely see an improvement.

References:

Raynaud’s – NHS

Vasodilation Definition – Lexico

Circadian Rhythm Definition – Science Daily