At a Glance
- Sleeping with socks on has a surprising number of health benefits.
- Sleeping with socks on can help your body’s thermoregulatory system to work more effectively, helping you to sleep faster and prevent night sweats.
- There are also a number of reasons not to wear socks while sleeping, including restricting blood flow and causing infections.
The debate about whether or not it’s a good idea to sleep with socks on has been going on for centuries.
In days gone by, some believed that sleeping in socks was bad for you, and could even cause blindness. So it’s no wonder it has been a subject of much discussion. Thankfully, there’s no scientific proof that wearing socks in bed causes blindness!
Apparently, half of us sleep with our socks on. Some people feel the need to cover their feet to make them feel protected; others don’t feel comfortable covering their feet in bed.
So whichever side of the debate you’re on, you are definitely not alone!
More recent scientific theories based on how the body works present some convincing arguments for wearing socks in bed, and some naturopathic practitioners actively advocate wearing wet socks in bed in some cases – more on that later!
So what’s the lowdown on socks in bed?
Advantages of Wearing Socks in Bed
While some old wives tales suggested wearing socks to bed would make you toss and turn all night, new research actually indicates it can have the opposite effect.
Changes in body temperature at night can lead to difficulty falling asleep, night time waking or poor sleep quality.
One such study investigated different methods of warming the feet before and during sleep, and found that both methods resulted in people falling asleep faster and it improved the quality of their sleep. (source)
OK, so it’s not very sexy, but wearing socks in bed might be good for you – especially if you have trouble sleeping.
Increased Temperature Causes Drowsiness
More recent theories about wearing socks in bed mostly revolve around the fact that they increase the temperature of your feet. When this happens, the body recognizes the increased temperature, and dilates or opens the blood vessels to allow more blood to circulate and allow the heat to dissipate.
In this way, the additional heat generated by the socks is redistributed through the body. The slight increase in temperature makes us feel more drowsy and ready for sleep, particularly if this happens around our regular bedtime, when the body is already expecting sleep.
Prevention of Night Sweats and Hot Flushes
The increase in body temperature from wearing socks in bed causes the body’s thermoregulatory system to become more active. This means when events like night sweats or hot flushes occur, the body is ready to deal with them effectively, and is quicker to reduce temperature.
Helps Improve Circulatory Problems
Poor circulation from problems like diabetes and Raynaud’s disease can cause decreased temperature in the extremities (hands and feet). As wearing socks in bed provides not only an increase in general body temperature, but also extra insulation, it can help to avoid a sudden decrease in temperature in the feet.
No More Cracked Heels
Many people suffer from dry skin and cracked heels, especially during winter months when temperatures are lower. Wearing socks in bed helps our feet to retain moisture, particularly when a layer of suitable moisturizer is used when tucking up your toes before bedtime!
WET Socks in Bed?
Some naturopathic practitioners recommend wearing a pair or damp, natural fiber socks underneath a dry pair of socks at the first sign of illnesses like coughs, colds and fever.
The theory is that the damp socks cause the immune system to think it’s under attack. As a response, the immune system becomes more active throughout the whole body, and deals with any threat of a virus or bacteria more effectively.
Anecdotally, many people report that this approach causes the first symptoms of many common illnesses to disappear – literally overnight!
As yet, there isn’t any scientific research to support this theory, and there are some instances where it’s not a good idea for some people to wear damp socks to bed.
The best advice here is to seek proper medical advice, and only try this method if you are advised to do so by a properly qualified health practitioner.
The Importance of Good Sleep
Getting an adequate amount of good quality sleep is incredibly important. Sleep performs a number of vital functions, including:
- Promoting healthy brain function
- Ensuring emotional well being
- Healing and repair of cells and tissue – including the heart and blood vessels
- Avoiding obesity
- Recharging the immune system
- Improving daytime body function
- Avoiding accidents through error of judgment (source)
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Socks in Bed
The additional heat generated by wearing socks at night can bring some undesirable consequences, such as:
If your feet are too hot they can sweat inside the socks, creating a warm, damp environment perfect for breeding bacterial and fungal infections. If you already have a bacterial or fungal infection, it’s best to wait until this has been resolved before considering wearing socks at night.
If the socks you wear at night are too tight, particularly around the ankles, it can restrict the blood flow into your feet.
Many people like to have their feet uncovered at night to allow their feet to “breathe” and to help avoid foot odors.
If you have smooth floors, like laminate or polished wood or tiled floors, socks can present an increased risk of slipping and falling.
While this obviously isn’t a problem when you’re actually in bed, it may be something to consider if you wake frequently in the night, for example, to use the bathroom.
When we wake, it takes us a while to really become fully awake. If we get out of bed during the night there usually isn’t time for us to become fully awake, and this puts us at increased risk of falling. Add in socks on a smooth surface, and the risk dramatically increases.
Elderly People and Socks at Night
As we get older, the blood finds it more difficult to circulate, especially in the hands and feet, and this may be one reason to consider wearing socks in bed.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that as we age, our balance tends to gradually worsen and we wake more in the night, particularly for bathroom breaks.
As we’ve already highlighted, walking in socks across smooth floors can present a falling hazard, which, particularly for elderly people, can present risk of injuries such as a hip fracture. (source)
For the sake of safety, for elderly people and anyone else who has generally poor balance, consider buying socks with anti-slip material on the soles, like the ones we found here.
Children and Socks at Night
There is no reason why children shouldn’t wear socks at night. However, children’s bodies are not as good as adults at regulating body temperature, so it’s important to monitor children carefully when they are sleeping in additional layers of clothing or bedclothes, and remove them immediately if they show signs of overheating.
Things to Consider
There are several very important factors to think about when contemplating wearing socks to bed.
The first is hygiene. When we wear socks all day, especially if we have an active lifestyle, the warm, damp environment inside our shoes and socks becomes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Foot hygiene is very important to avoid problems like athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and other kinds of infections.
It is essential that you remove the socks you have been wearing during the day, wash and dry your feet thoroughly and put on clean socks to wear to bed.
Another important bed sock factor is the material they are made from. Choose natural fibers like cotton, silk to make sure air can still get to your feet.
The socks you wear to bed should be a medium thickness – too thin and they won’t be very effective, too thick and your feet can overheat and risk increase growth of the bacteria naturally present on our skin, possibly resulting in infection.
It’s important to make sure your socks are not too tight – they should be comfortable and not leave any marks on your skin in the morning. This suggests the socks have restricted the blood flow into and out of the feet, defeating the purpose of wearing them in the first place.
This also applies to compression socks – while they have their place in foot care and for improving circulation, compression socks should not be worn in bed unless you have been specifically told to do so by a qualified medical practitioner.
Equally, it’s just as important to make sure your socks are not too loose, as they may slip off your feet in the night and become ineffective, or worse, cause a trip hazard if you get out of bed at night and find them dangling, half on, and half off your feet.
Although most socks with anti-slip material on their soles are made from synthetic fibers, it is possible to find some that are mostly natural fiber, like the pair we recommended above.
Alternatives to Socks in Bed
If you really don’t like the idea or the feeling of wearing socks in bed, there are a few alternatives.
As suggested in the sleep research, having a warm footbath before bed can improve your chances of falling asleep quickly. However, it’s important to do this very shortly before bedtime so that your feet retain the heat, and to dry your feet very well after your footbath. (source)
You could also add an extra layer to the bottom third of your bed to help insulate your feet and keep them warm.
A hot water bottle is another route to toasty toes – although care should be taken that this method doesn’t overheat the feet.
So we can see that the choice to wear socks in bed is a very personal one, and there are arguments for and against doing so.
If you are having trouble sleeping, and particularly if your feet are cold at night, wearing socks could help to improve your circulation, increase your body temperature and allow better regulation of your body temperature.
This can improve your quality of sleep and decrease the amount of times you wake up during the night, as well as reducing the effects of night sweats and hot flushes.
Improvement in sleep pattern can have a dramatic effect on our daytime activities and quality of life, helping to improve concentration and prevent accidents.
If you choose to wear socks in bed, wash and dry your feet very well before bedtime, and make sure your nighttime socks are clean, fresh and made from natural fibers to allow air to circulate around your feet.
Make sure the socks you wear at night are neither too loose to stop them slipping off your feet, or too tight, to make sure they don’t adversely affect blood circulation in your feet.
Consider investing in socks with anti-slip soles, particularly if you’re at increased risk of falling.
If you don’t like the idea of wearing socks but want to warm up your feet, consider adding extra layers of bedclothes over your feet, or using a hot water bottle, but be sure to follow the correct safety procedures to avoid burns or overheating your feet.
If you have any condition affecting your feet, especially any bacterial of fungal infection, consult your doctor before considering wearing socks in bed.