Should You Be Sleeping with Socks On?
Have trouble falling asleep? Feeling restless when you really just want to sleep can make you game to try anything that might help you catch some zzz's. There might be a simple solution, though: sleeping with socks on. It seems too easy to be true, but some doctors are making TikToks claiming that sleeping with socks on can help you fall asleep, fast.
But, you know what they say: You can't trust everything you hear on social media. So, can sleeping with socks on really help you sleep? Read on to hear what sleep researchers and scientific studies have to say about the sleeping hack.
Why Sleeping with Socks On Can Help You Fall Asleep
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Wearing socks to bed can increase blood circulation to your feet, which causes blood vessels to widen (aka vasodilation), according to research. As a result, your core body temperature is lowered. But why does a lower core body temperature translate to better sleep? Your circadian rhythm (i.e. your internal body clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle) helps to regulate several bodily functions, including your internal body temperature, "which is generally set by the environment," according to the American Sleep Association. So, since sleeping with socks on can cause blood vessels in your feet to widen and release heat from the body, that means this simple act can essentially encourage your body to initiate the cool-down process for your circadian rhythm that ultimately gets you to sleep. (Related: How to Sleep Better When Stress Is Ruining Your Zzz's)
Even though you might have just heard about this bedroom hack, sleeping with socks on to promote rest "is not a new concept," adds Andrea Spaeth, Ph.D., a sleep researcher at Rutgers University.
In fact, there's plenty of research to support the idea of wearing socks to bed, says Spaeth. A 1999 review published in the scientific journal Nature, for example, found that "the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the hands and feet, which increases heat loss at these extremities, is the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep." Meaning, people who have warm hands and feet are more likely to fall asleep quickly compared to people whose hands and feet aren't warm. The room temperature needs to be cool for this to work, according to the study's authors.
In another small study published in 2006, researchers tested different sleep interventions in people with and without sleep health issues (e.g. insomnia) and found that young adults who slept with socks on, regardless of sleep issues, fell asleep faster than those who didn't wear socks to bed. In elderly study participants without any sleep health issues, researchers found that having a warm footbath before bed or sleeping with socks on helped them fall asleep more quickly. However, in elderly participants who had pre-existing sleep issues, neither of these strategies helped, according to the research.
Yet another small study published in 2018 analyzed the impact of wearing socks to bed on six young men. The researchers discovered that the men went to bed an average of 7.5 minutes faster and slept 32 minutes longer compared to when they went to sleep without socks on their feet.
Now, to be clear, the simple act of putting on a pair of socks, whether in the daytime or before bed, isn't going to knock you out automatically. Rather, wearing socks to sleep can be "one of a series of cues for bedtime," explains W. Christopher Winter, M.D., a board-certified sleep medicine researcher of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It. Sleep is "the coordination of multiple signals," including the level of the sleep hormone melatonin in your body, your core body temperature, and your skin temperature, adds Spaeth.
Tips for Sleeping with Socks On
If you think sleeping with socks on might help you fall asleep faster, begin making it a part of your bedtime ritual. "Have a pair of big, fluffy socks that you designate for sleep," suggests Dr. Winter. You can put them on an hour or so before bed, or just before you climb in — it's up to you, he says.
You'll also want to make sure your bedroom temperature is cool. BTW, "cool" is defined as between 60°F and 68°F, according to Spaeth. "If the room is hot, wearing socks won't help," as the vasodilation in your feet won't be enough to counteract the warmth of the rest of your bedroom environment, she says.
It should go without saying, but overall sleep hygiene is still important — the act of slipping on socks alone won't overshadow poor nighttime habits. Make sure that your room is dark and quiet, only use your bed for sleep (as opposed to working in bed), avoid screens before bed, and maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule, suggests Spaeth.
Keep in mind that sleeping with socks on simply might not be your thing — and that's fine. "There is a style or comfort level in the way some people sleep that might be at odds with bedtime socks," says Dr. Winter. "Personal preference can trump the science" in this case, he notes.
And, if you're already sleeping great sans socks, don't rock the boat, says Spaeth. You "shouldn't worry or change your behavior," she says. But, if you're into the idea, "there's no harm" in trying this sleep hack, says Dr. Winter. Sounds like now's the time to bust out those fuzzy socks your mom gifted you last holiday season.