It might seem a little odd, but anyone who has trouble sleeping would do well to think about putting on a pair of socks before they climb into bed tonight. Scientists have found that being able to regulate our body temperature is an important aspect of the sleep cycle.
Adults typically need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. As we sleep, our core body temperature drops, affecting the quality of our sleep and rousing us back into consciousness if it falls too low. Wearing socks can keep our internal temperatures stable and therefore help us stay asleep for longer. As sleep tips go, this one is well worth a try.
Sleeping with socks on: is it good or bad?
To understand whether or not you should start sleeping with socks on, it is essential to get a grasp on how our bodies work. We are endothermic creatures, which means that we regulate our own body temperatures and generate our own heat, unlike reptiles, which are cold-blooded and need external heat from the sun to stay warm.
As our activities start to slow down and stop in readiness for going to sleep, our extremities, especially our feet and toes, are at greater risk of becoming cold than the rest of us. They need external help to keep warm and help our core body temperature stay consistent overnight. Enter the mighty pair of socks.
How can socks help you fall asleep?
As we said in the introduction, the science behind sleeping with socks on is all based on body temperature regulation.
Our temperature rises gradually throughout the day, peaking in the late afternoon when we are at our most alert and awake. From that point onwards, the temperature then lowers throughout the night, making us feel drowsy and stay asleep as our bodies rejuvenate.
Once we are sleep, however, we need our core temperature to remain consistent so that our body can relax and not experience any stimulating or sudden changes in temperature. Keeping our extremities covered can really help keep things steady inside our bodies.
Body Temperature and Sleep
The lowest body temperatures tend to occur around 4 am which is often a time that people find themselves waking up and being unable to drop back off to sleep. It is also a time when worries can start to surface, also preventing us from feeling relaxed enough to nod off in the calm of our bedroom.
Wearing socks can help stave this reduction in temperature and so keep us in the land of nod for longer. As our hands and feet warm up after being covered, the blood vessels in them start to dilate in a process known as vasodilation.
This helps to redistribute heat around the body and stabilise its core temperature to stop it lowering in the early hours of the morning. It also releases excess heat through the skin to help us get to sleep faster and stop us from waking up feeling overheated or faint.
Some scientists believe that wearing socks to bed can shorten the time it takes us to get to sleep by as much as fifteen minutes, thanks to the effects of vasodilation.
Benefits of wearing socks to bed
Getting into this habit can help to prevent certain medical conditions affected by circulatory problems, such as Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s affects the blood vessels in the skin and attacks a person when they feel cold or stressed.
It reduces the flow of blood to the hands and feet, leaving the person feeling numb and cold. Wearing socks can help protect the feet, ankles and toes from such attacks.
Socks at night can also help reduce hot flushes that are commonly associated with the menopause for women over a certain age. They help to regulate body temperature by keeping the extremities warm and helping excess heat to escape through the skin.
Hot flushes are often accompanied by sweating, palpitations and a reddening of the face. In addition, wearing socks can offer other benefits besides helping you fall asleep. The practice can also protect our skin’s natural moisture, keeping them safe from dryness or painful cracks.
Finally, it has been suggested by some so-called sleep science experts that wearing socks in bed can lead to better sex due to the increased likelihood of having an orgasm.
How much scientific basis this claim has is open to debate, but it is certainly more appealing to cosy up to someone with warm feet, rather than blocks of ice under the covers on your single or double beds.
Cons of sleeping with socks
It is important to choose socks that are not too heavy, as this can become uncomfortable if they make you feel too hot. Choose breathable fabrics and avoid thicker fabrics such as merino wool.
Avoid using heated socks for kids and infants as they can cause them to overheat while they are asleep. If you do feel too hot, but don’t want to take your socks off, simply kick the covers off of the beds or fold them up so that your lower legs and feet are exposed.
Another downside is the fact that socks can become twisted up in the bedding if they are too coarse a texture, making it very annoying to straighten out again. Choose smooth materials that can glide across the sheets, mattress and duvet as you climb into bed and move about naturally in your sleep.
How to keep your feet warm and cosy
Of course, there are those among us who simply cannot stand going to sleep with socks on, who feel that exposing their feet to the fresh air is more beneficial and pleasing.
If such people find themselves feeling cold at night, or experiencing trouble sleeping, there is still plenty they can do to help themselves keep warm and get to sleep faster.
Alternatives to wearing socks to bed!
A hot water bottle can provide immense comfort for many people, as can adding an extra blanket over the end of the bed. Treat yourself to a warm footbath just before you go to bed, or spend the evening wearing cosy, warm slippers.
You could even take a bath one or two hours before bed to ensure that you retire to your bedroom with higher body temperature to induce sleep.
If you do find yourself drawn to popping on a pair of socks at night, make sure they are not too tight to avoid restricting the blood flow. Never wear compression socks overnight unless directed to by a medical professional. Choose natural fabrics instead of man-made alternatives and don’t forget to change your socks in the morning to a fresh pair.
Have a go…
Why not try sleeping with a pair of cosy socks on tonight and see if you feel the difference? If you need to add to your sock collection first, why not sign up to one of our monthly sock subscription services to guarantee a brand-new pair of cosy socks arriving through your letterbox each month.