Here’s a bit of information that might knock your socks off.
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Wearing socks in bed can help fall asleep faster and sleep better during the night. Research shows that thawing icy feet can adjust your core body temperature to put restful ZZZs at your fingertips.
But the potential benefits of the bedtime sock go beyond simply warming your toes and regulating your internal thermostat. It also opens the door to skin care and maybe even (hmm) a little extra zing in your love life.
Let’s find out the reasons to put on a pair of socks tonight with a specialist in sleep behavior disorders Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.
Why sleep with socks?
Nobody likes cold feet, do they? It’s just downright uncomfortable – and not a feeling that leads to restful sleep. (Cold toes can even startle you awake, a fact known to anyone who’s barefooted from under the covers.)
But there’s a deeper physiological reason for wearing socks in bed that goes beyond toastier toots, Dr. Drerup says. This is 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, an internal 24-hour clock that manages your sleep-wake cycle. (This is also why a cooler room temperature is better for sleeping.)
But if your feet are too cold, your core temperature may actually go up a notch or two, says Dr. Drerup. This is because your body sends more blood flow – and the heat that comes with it – to your core areas.
So what does the addition of a pair of fluffy socks do? These warm plushies warm your feet, relax and widen the blood vessels that constrict when cold.
This improved blood circulation throughout your body helps release more heat through your skin.
“By heating your feet, you open the blood vessels to help cool the rest of the body,” Dr. Drerup notes. “So the increased blood flow to your feet leads to a drop in core temperature. It sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s what happens.
Other potential temperature-related benefits include:
Reduce symptoms of Raynaud’s disease
Cold feet come with it Raynaud’s syndrome, a disorder that affects the blood vessels of the toes and fingers. The phenomenon causes blood to constrict and reduces circulation, which can leave your skin cold and discolored.
“Wearing socks at night can help prevent it from flare-up by keeping your feet warm and circulating blood,” says Dr. Drerup.
Limit hot flashes during menopause
Being too cold can keep you awake at night – as can being too hot, as anyone with the symptoms of ‘hot flashes’ from menopause knows too well.
The way socks work to lower core body temperature at night can minimize these flashes. “Wearing socks levels things out and helps prevent those sudden heat spikes,” says Dr. Drerup.
More fireworks with sex
Socks can get hotter than feet, it seems.
A 2005 study found that a small sample of couples in love were more likely to reach orgasm during sex if they wore socks, according to a highly cited BBC report. (Let’s face it: cold feet are a major obstacle.)
“There are probably other factors contributing to this,” says Dr. Drerup, “but this is an interesting finding.”
Skin benefits of wearing socks in bed
Wearing socks in bed isn’t just about hot or cold. It also allows you to pamper your feet while you sleep.
Applying lotion to your feet before putting on a pair of cotton socks before bed helps the moisturizer work its healing magic throughout the night. “It locks in that moisture to keep your heels and feet from drying out,” says Dr. Drerup.
Want to know more? A dermatologist has some additional tips for avoiding dry, cracked heels.
What kind of socks are the best?
Fit and material are key when choosing the perfect pair of socks for the night. “Look for something comfortable,” says Dr. Drerup. “Loose is better too. You really don’t want them tending to be tight.
Bedtime socks made from natural fibers such as cotton, cashmere, or merino wool are best, given their warmth and breathability. Synthetic materials like polyester are less ideal.
Can you sleep in compression socks?
Avoid sleeping in compression socks unless recommended for a medical condition, says Drerup.
Whatever you wear, be sure to put on a new pair of socks every night to prevent bacteria growth. Also keep your feet clean. (If you have stinky feet, here are some steps to consider.)
Not at all. If you prefer your little piggies to be loose under the covers, that’s your choice. There are plenty of people, after all, who believe sleeping naked is the way to go. “It’s not a unique situation,” says Dr. Drerup.
But if you’re a barefoot sleeper and have trouble sleeping, wearing socks could be an easy and inexpensive ticket to Snoozeville.
Don’t expect too much, warns Dr. Drerup.
“If you’re having significant difficulty sleeping, don’t expect socks to be a magic bullet,” she says. “Putting on a pair won’t calm your racing thoughts or eliminate the anxiety of the day as you lay in bed.
“Ultimately, wearing socks to bed is a simple thing to do. If they work, great. If they get too hot on your feet, take them off. It’s safe to try.