Barefoot ain’t best, at least according to science.
As a baby, your parents always swaddled your little feet into a snug blanket before rocking you to sleep. As a toddler, you cozied into fleece footy pajamas at night. But somewhere in your teens or young adulthood, you might have learned to let your feet go naked for bedtime—either by preference or because your mom told you it was “weird” to sleep with socks.
It turns out your childhood sock habits might be wiser than you thought. Wearing socks to bed can actually help you fall asleep, according to science.
Experts use a fancy little phrase called distal vasodilation: It means the opening up, or dilating, of blood vessels in the distal regions of the body, like the hands and feet. When those distal regions are warm and cozy, it prompts blood vessels throughout the body to open up, which lowers blood pressure. Once blood pressure has dropped, the body feels more relaxed and you’re better able to drift off into sweet dreams.
And there’s reason to dig out your warmest, fluffiest socks: One study in Switzerland found that warming up your hands and toes predicted the onset of sleep better than any other factor, including your core temperature, heart rate, melatonin onset, or your “subjective sleepiness.”
Then again, being uncomfortable can keep you wide awake, so if you really can’t stand the feeling of socks in bed, here’s what you can try instead: Pre-warm your feet by wearing warm slippers in the evening. This way, you’ll trigger the vasodilation process, even if your tootsies are bare by bedtime.
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Barcat L, Decima P, Bodin E, Delanaud S, Stephan-Blanchard E, Leke A, Libert J-P, Tourneux P, Bach V. Distal skin vasodilation promotes rapid sleep onset in preterm neonates. N Sleep Res. 2017 Oct;26(5):572-7.
Krauchi K, Cajochen C, Werth E, Wirz-Justice A. Functional link between distal vasodilation and sleep-onset latency? Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2000 Mar;278(3):R741-8.
Wearing socks to bed: Is it normal? Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on November 6, 2017 at http://sleep.org/articles/wearing-socks-to-bed/.)