Here’s a bit of information that could knock your socks on.
Wearing socks to bed may help you fall asleep faster and snooze better during the night. Research shows that thawing out icy feet can adjust your body’s core temperature to put restful ZZZs within reach.
But the potential benefits of socking up for bedtime go beyond just warming toes and regulating your internal thermostat. It also opens the door for skincare pampering and maybe even (ahem) some extra zing in your love life.
Let’s break down the reasons to pull on a pair of socks tonight with behavioral sleep disorders specialist Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.
Why should you sleep with socks on?
Nobody likes cold feet, right? It’s just downright uncomfortable — and not a sensation that leads to sound sleep. (Chilly toes can even jolt you awake, a fact known by anyone who has kicked bare feet out from under the covers.)
But there’s a deeper, physiological reason for wearing socks to bed that goes beyond toastier tootsies, says Dr. Drerup. It’s a process called distal vasodilation. Here’s how it works.
Your body naturally works to lower your core temperature at night to help you sleep. This happens as part of your circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal clock that manages your sleep-wake cycle. (That’s also why a cooler room temperature is better for sleep.)
But if your feet are too cold, your core temperature may actually click up a notch or two, says Dr. Drerup. That’s because your body is sending more blood flow — and the heat that comes with it — to your core areas.
So, what does adding in a fluffy pair of socks do? Those cuddly duds warm your feet, relaxing and widening blood vessels that constricted while cold.
This improved blood circulation in your overall body helps release more heat through your skin.
“By making your feet warmer, you’re opening up blood vessels to help cool down the rest of the body,” notes Dr. Drerup. “So increasing the blood circulation to your feet results in a lower core temperature. It seems counterintuitive, but that’s what happens.”
Other potential temperature-related benefits include:
Reducing Raynaud’s disease symptoms
Cold feet come with Raynaud’s syndrome, a disorder that affects blood vessels in toes and fingers. The phenomenon causes blood to tighten and reduce circulation, which can leave your skin cold and discolored.
“Wearing socks at night can help prevent that from flaring up by keeping your feet warm and the blood circulating,” says Dr. Drerup.
Limiting hot flashes during menopause
Being too cold can keep you up at night — and so can being too hot, as anyone experiencing the “hot flash” symptoms of menopause knows all too well.
The way that socks work to lower your core body temperature at night can minimize those flashes. “Wearing socks kind of levels things out and helps prevent those sudden heat spikes,” explains Dr. Drerup.
More fireworks with sex
Socks can heat up more than just feet, it seems.
A 2005 study found that a small sampling of amorous couples was more likely to achieve orgasm during sex if they wore socks, according to a much-cited report by the BBC. (Let’s admit it: Cold feet are a major turn-off.)
“There are probably other factors contributing to that,” says Dr. Drerup, “but it’s an interesting finding.”
Skincare benefits of wearing socks to bed
Wearing socks to bed isn’t just a hot-or-cold issue. It also allows you to pamper your feet while you sleep.
Applying lotion to your feet before slipping on a pair of cotton socks before bed helps the moisturizer to work its skincare magic throughout the night. “It locks that moisture in to keep your heels and feet from getting dry,” says Dr. Drerup.
Want to know more? A dermatologist has a few more tips to avoid dry and cracked heels.
What type of socks are best?
Fit and material are key to selecting the perfect pair of nighty-night socks. “Look for something comfortable,” says Dr. Drerup. “Loose is better, too. You really don’t want them leaning toward being tight.”
Bedtime socks made of natural fibers such as cotton, cashmere or Merino wool are best, given their warmth and breathability. Synthetic materials such as polyester are less ideal.
Can you sleep in compression socks?
Avoid sleeping in compression socks unless it’s recommended for a medical issue, says Drerup.
Whatever you wear, though, make sure to put on a fresh pair of socks every night to avoid bacteria growth. Keep your feet clean, too. (If you have stinky feet, here are some steps to consider.)
So, is sleeping barefoot bad?
Not at all. If you prefer your little piggies to be free-range under the covers, that’s your choice. There are many people, after all, who believe sleeping naked is the way to go. “This isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation,” says Dr. Drerup.
But if you’re a barefoot sleeper who is having trouble sleeping, wearing socks could be an easy, inexpensive ticket to Snoozeville.
Just don’t expect too much, cautions Dr. Drerup.
“If you’re having significant sleeping difficulties, don’t expect socks to be a magic solution,” she says. “Putting on a pair won’t calm your racing thoughts or eliminate the day’s anxiety when you lie down in bed.
“In the end, wearing socks to bed is a simple thing to do. If they work, great. If they make your feet too hot, take them off. There’s no risk in giving it a try.”