To pajama or not to pajama? Sleeping naked is a divisive issue — for some it’s their go-to, while for others it’s a no-go. And, honestly, this is how it should be. Sleep is highly personal, and when it comes to catching zzz’s, you want to find a system that works for you.
Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a dearth of scientific research on the topic of sleeping naked. We have no evidence that it’s harmful (sleepwalkers may want to think twice, however!), but the jury’s also out on whether there are any true benefits to the practice. Most claims that tout the sleep-related benefits of a clothes-free bedtime revolve around the idea that sleeping naked keeps you cooler, and a cooler body temperature promotes getting enough sleep. While it’s true that temperature is a key player in our sleep health, there are in fact other ways to regulate temperature that don’t involve stripping all the way down. And for other proposed health benefits (which include improved self-esteem, better reproductive health, weight loss, and more satisfying intimate relationships, among others) there are indeed other ways to reap these rewards too if going full birthday suit isn’t for you.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to consider when thinking through different aspects of our sleep routine or environment is “Does it help me meet my sleep need?” For those who sleep better in the buff, more power to you! And — as the risks are next to nil — if you’re sleeping-in-the-buff curious, it’s certainly worth giving it a try. But if you’re someone who’s committed to keeping that extra layer, there’s no reason to worry that your sleep and general health are suffering for it.
Here we’ll go over the science behind the so-called “benefits” of sleeping naked, and offer some possible alternatives for the pajamas-fans out there (i.e. if you prefer to keep covered, we’ve got you covered too…just make sure you read to the end.)
It’s worth restating that little-to-no research has been done on the benefits of sleeping naked, so claims related to this are anecdotal at best. But we do know that temperature is critical to sleep health, and that our bodies depend on a cooler environment to aid chemical processes essential to our sleep. For some, sleeping naked helps achieve this. Others, however, are fine temperature-wise with pajamas, and may even find themselves too cold without them (there’s a lower temperature threshold for healthy sleep, as well).
The natural cooling of our core body temperature (CBT) when the light begins to dim in the evening helps prepare our bodies for sleep. Body temperature is controlled by our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle. Our CBT typically runs around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and begins to dip as our melatonin levels start to rise in the evening. We continue to get cooler, naturally, as night progresses. Our CBT reaches its lowest point a few hours before we wake (about three degrees cooler than daytime), and then, in the wee hours of the morning, our CBT begins to climb again. This rise in temperature cues a corresponding rise in the wakefulness-promoting hormone cortisol, which gradually readies us for waking.
For the most part, our internal thermostat shoulders the burden of adjusting our CBT in accordance with the phases of our circadian rhythm, but, even so, our circadian rhythm is a sensitive mechanism, easily influenced by environmental factors. When we’re too warm at night — even by just a degree or two — our internal clock gets thrown off and we have a harder time getting the sleep we need.
Research shows that sleeping in a too-warm room not only increases sleep latency (the amount of time it takes us to fall asleep), but also throws a wrench in REM and slow-wave sleep (aka deep sleep). Poor and/or shortened nightly sleep means we’re less likely to meet our sleep need (the biologically-predetermined amount of sleep we need to get each night to feel and function our best during the day), leading to an accumulation of sleep debt (how much sleep we “owe” ourselves, based on our sleep need, calculated in the RISE app over the last two weeks). And when we let our sleep debt mount (> 5 hours), this sleep deprivation can have dire consequences on how we feel and function.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
A cool sleeping environment, on the other hand (sleep experts say 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature range for sleep), will support our body’s nightly natural temperature dip, and therefore is favorable to our sleep. But ambient bedroom temperature isn’t the only thing to take into account — our bedding and the clothing we sleep in also matters. Even in a temperature-perfect room, if our bedding is too bulky or we’re wearing too many (or the wrong kind of) clothes, the added insulation can heat us up, ultimately hijacking our circadian rhythm and interfering with our sleep.
For some, sleeping naked is an easy and effective way to keep core body temperature where it needs to be for dreamy, undisrupted sleep. Especially for those who crave the comforting compression of heavier blankets, shedding the pajama layer means that they can increase the cozy factor when it comes to bedding without running the risk of also increasing CBT.
That said, temperature for sleep is a real “sweet spot” situation, and when we’re too cold it can inhibit our sleep as well. Studies show that when our feet are cold, for instance, it increases sleep latency (the amount of time it takes us to fall asleep), and even when we’re finally able to drift off, being too cold — similar to being too hot — makes it harder to achieve REM sleep. (Being too cold in the morning also makes it harder to wake up.)
When it comes to thermoregulation, each of us is different, and depending on your biology and sleep environment, sleeping in the nude may mean you're not insulated enough for a good night’s sleep. While an extra blanket may do the trick for some, others are simply better off with the amount of control a pajama layer gives them over their thermal environment…and that’s okay too!
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to be reminded to check their bedroom temperature before bedtime.
We all know how being comfortable is essential for good sleep — when our mattress or pillow is past its prime, for instance, we can find ourselves waking repeatedly to shift positions, and, as a result, our sleep is restless and fractured. Or if we have poison ivy, or too many mosquito bites, we may be yanked from sleep again and again by our itching skin. In short, good sleep relies on diminished sensory inputs — nagging sensations (similar to bright light or loud noises) can easily rouse us.
It’s no surprise, then, that the clothing we wear — or don’t wear — to bed can have an effect on sleep quality. For some, no clothing at all is the pinnacle of bedtime comfort, and ensures sound sleep. For others, the feeling of being naked may not be as pleasant, for any number of reasons (including but not limited to temperature regulation), and this sensory discomfort can kill our sleep. While those in the latter camp may find they acclimate with a little practice (or after trying out different–perhaps higher-quality–sheets and/or bedding) there’s no reason to force it if pajamas prove to be the more comfortable–and therefore sleep-supportive–option.
There is evidence to suggest that restrictive clothing can negatively impact both sleep and general health. One small study found binding undergarments may suppress melatonin production and bump up our CBT (the study didn’t investigate the effects of too-tight pajamas).
While signs point to ditching any bed wear that binds, nudity, as we’ll see later, isn’t the only way to mitigate the risks.
Studies show there may be a correlation between enjoying some time in the buff each day and improved self-confidence. However, there’s no evidence to support the idea that sleeping naked makes us feel better about ourselves. If you feel it helps you with your self-confidence, go for it.
There is evidence to suggest a connection between insufficient sleep and negative perception of our own appearance (and, incidentally, how others perceive you as well; “beauty sleep” is a real thing!). Again, signs here point to the importance of meeting your sleep need generally, outfitted in what works best for you.
Both sexes could benefit from going pj-less — or at least underwear-less — overnight. Again, no studies have been done explicitly on sleeping naked. However, research has found that for women, synthetic and/or tight-fitting underwear can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections, as it fosters a fungal-friendly breeding ground by inhibiting proper air circulation. And for men, research indicates that binding underwear increases scrotal temperature, which can compromise sperm count, negatively impacting male fertility.
Skin-to-skin contact with intimate partners releases oxytocin, the “love hormone” that is also associated with trust, bonding, and even reduced stress levels. Regularly spending time skin-to-skin cuddling with our beaus can therefore make us feel closer and more connected to them, and can make our relationships feel more fulfilling. And a byproduct of relationship satisfaction is that it improves our sleep…and better sleep, as we know, has a whole slew of health benefits. There’s no research to suggest, however, any difference in benefits between cuddling in the nude and with a bit more clothing on.
Our skin is our largest organ and, like our nether regions, it’s happiest when it’s allowed ample air circulation. Tight and/or synthetic pajamas can cause us to perspire while we sleep, and when too much moisture is trapped against the skin for too long it can cause rashes, body acne, and inflammation.
Our skin is also simply healthier when we’re sleeping enough — studies show it’s more hydrated, less prone to breakouts, and signs of aging are less pronounced. So for those who sleep more soundly in fewer clothes, better skin could be an indirect benefit of the practice.
Again, no studies have been done on sleeping naked for weight loss explicitly, but we do have evidence that a cooler core temperature during sleep elevates our metabolism by way of triggering our bodies to make more brown fat. For those seeking weight loss, brown fat is of particular interest because its function is to break down glucose and fat molecules to produce heat so that we can maintain a stable body temperature (as opposed to white fat, whose job it is to store our extra energy), potentially combating obesity and preventing unwanted weight gain.
And it doesn’t have to be shiver-inducingly cold to activate brown fat synthesis, either — in one study, participants saw increased brown fat activity sleeping in a room that was a very reasonable 66 degrees Fahrenheit. While of course not everyone needs to be nude in order to keep cool at night (in fact, in the aforementioned study the test subjects wore standard hospital clothing), sleeping naked may have a positive metabolic impact for those who can’t get cool enough in pjs.
And, as with skin health, keeping your sleep debt low is an effective weight management tool in and of itself, so if sleeping naked increases your zzz’s, you’ll be in good shape for getting (or staying) in shape.
As we’ve touched on throughout, you can absolutely still support your body’s internal thermostat, and tap into the other benefits without stripping all the way down. Here are some suggestions for those who prefer a pajama layer:
Better sleep = better health and well-being, full stop. Whatever you wear (or don’t wear) to bed, as long as you’re getting enough sleep to keep your sleep debt below 5 hours, you’re primed to reap the same benefits as those who prefer a clothes-free bedtime routine.
While we are yet to come across anything suggesting there are inherent health-related drawbacks to sleeping naked, here are a few potential complications to consider:
If you’re thinking about trialing a new no-pajamas nighttime routine, the RISE app can help you determine whether sleeping naked is the best move for better sleep. As with any change to your sleep habits or environment, you’ll want to keep close tabs on your sleep debt to make sure you’re doing your body (and brain) good. While a few nights of disrupted sleep can be expected when first making adjustments, beyond that it may signify that whatever’s new isn’t quite right for you.
Luckily, you don’t have to be at the mercy of guesswork. RISE monitors how much sleep you’re actually getting each night, and calculates your sleep debt anew each morning based on this data. If your sleep debt number stays steady or goes down, you’re clearly on the right track! And if your sleep debt begins edging up, that’s a good indicator that further adjustments are required–whether that’s grabbing an extra blanket, futzing with the thermostat, or, alas, redonning your spurned pajamas.
Whether you prefer to wear your birthday suit, a sweatsuit, or anything in between to bed, as long as it’s supporting low sleep debt, we support your choice. Sleep supplements or other sleep-disturbing substances like alcohol or cannabis aside, anything that helps you drift off easier and sleep more soundly is a win in our book.
If it’s comfortable for you and helps you sleep better, absolutely! Nudity is natural, and there’s no evidence to suggest that sleeping naked is harmful to your health. If you have roommates and a history of sleepwalking, however, you might want to think twice about stripping down. And keep in mind you’ll need to launder your bedding more often.
The most important thing is to make sure we’re getting enough sleep each night. If sleeping naked helps you in this regard, then it’s a healthy choice for you! While there are more potential health benefits (not related to sleep) to sleeping nude, there are other ways to achieve potential benefits if you’d rather keep your pajamas on.
The healthiest thing you can wear to bed is what you’re most comfortable in, which will help you get lots of health-promoting sleep. Natural, breathable fibers like cotton, linen, and (non-itchy) wool are great options for temperature regulation and help support skin and reproductive health.
Possibly. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for weight control, so if sleeping naked helps you get better sleep, sleeping naked can be supportive of weight loss. While sleeping nude may assist with weight loss in other ways, too (i.e., it may boost metabolism by way of activating brown fat), there are sleep-related things you can do instead of tossing your pajamas which achieve the same effect.
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