Maybe you’ve seen the memes: “people who sleep with socks on can’t be trusted.” But — from a scientific point of view — they may be doing it right.
Sleeping with socks on can help your body temperature drop before bed, something that’s key for falling asleep. But you don’t need socks to make this happen if you prefer to sleep barefoot.
Below, we’ll dive into how sleeping with socks on can help you sleep, the drawbacks of wearing socks in bed, and which socks to choose. Plus, we’ll cover how the RISE app can help you improve your sleep hygiene to get a good night’s sleep with or without socks.
There’s not much research into sleeping with socks on, but here’s what we know about the potential benefits.
It sounds too good to be true, but socks may help you drift off.
One 2018 study asked participants to sleep with and without socks on and measured their sleep with a wearable device. The results showed that sleeping with socks on led to:
But, while this study looks promising, it only included six participants who were all male. They also slept in a room at 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) — which is above the often-recommended 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other research does show similar results, though. One study found sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) was reduced when participants wore both normal socks and heatable socks after the lights were turned out.
And on the flip side, research shows those with chronically cold hands and feet take longer to fall asleep. More on the science behind why this happens soon.
Beyond all the science, you may just feel more comfortable with socks on — either because that’s what you’re used to or because it’s cold where you live and cold feet keep you up.
If your feet are cold at night, your core body temperature may increase as your body sends more blood flow to your extremities to warm them up. If your body temperature is high, you may struggle to fall and stay asleep.
The most important thing is getting enough sleep each night, so if wearing socks helps you do this, go for it!
Raynaud’s disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome is when blood vessels in your hands and feet narrow and restrict blood flow. This can leave your hands and feet feeling cold, numb, and — when blood flow returns to normal — you may get tingling, throbbing, or pain. If this happens at night, it can be hard to fall and stay asleep.
Raynaud’s attacks are often triggered by cold, so people with it are advised to stay warm, and wearing socks in bed may help you do this.
Speak to your healthcare provider if you think you have Reynaud’s syndrome, you have chronically cold feet even when it’s warm, or you have circulation problems causing cold and painful feet.
The list of benefits of sleeping with socks on goes far beyond getting better sleep. Some believe wearing socks in bed can:
While more research needs to be done to confirm these claims (particularly the orgasm ones), there’s certainly no harm in wearing socks if you’re trying to improve your sex life, sleep better with menopause, or look after your heels. Just be sure it doesn’t stop you from falling asleep.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
Socks could help you fall asleep faster, but what exactly is causing this? Here’s a quick science lesson.
Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day and night as part of your circadian rhythm, your body’s roughly 24-hour internal clock. You're at your warmest around 6 p.m. and coolest around 4 a.m. — although the exact timing will depend on your chronotype (whether you're a natural early bird or night owl).
As night approaches, about two hours before bedtime, your temperature starts to fall and your body produces the sleep hormone melatonin. If you’re too warm, your circadian rhythm and melatonin production can get thrown off, and you may find it harder to fall and stay asleep.
One way to help promote the drop in body temperature needed at bedtime is by wearing socks.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s all part of something called distal vasodilation, or the opening of blood vessels at distal locations like your hands and feet. When blood vessels open in your feet, heat is lost more quickly, and this cools down your core body temperature.
The 2018 study we mentioned earlier found when participants wore bed socks to sleep, their foot temperature was about 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.34 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than without socks.
The value in the distal-proximal skin temperature gradient (DPG) was also higher for those in socks. In non-science speak, DPG measures blood flow and temperature in proximal body sites (like the head or stomach) and distal sites (like the hands and feet). It essentially shows heat loss from your core to your extremities.
There’s plenty of research showing how a drop in body temperature can help you sleep. For example, research from 2019 states that direct skin warming can help you fall asleep faster and promote NREM sleep, or non-rapid-eye movement sleep, which includes light and deep sleep. The research states these sleep benefits may be due to vasodilation and body cooling.
And other research states, “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.”
Distal vasodilation runs on a circadian rhythm, increasing in the early evening to promote sleep. But this can be promoted further with warm showers, footbaths, and socks, as they warm up the feet.
Even the simple act of lying down promotes distal vasodilation as heat is redistributed from your core to your extremities. Turning out the light is a signal for vasodilation, too. And, finally, as natural melatonin production is associated with vasodilation, taking melatonin supplements may also promote it.
On the other side of things, research shows those with vasospastic syndromes such as Raynaud’s syndrome, where blood flow is limited to the hands and feet, take longer to fall asleep, both at the start of the night and fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that impaired thermoregulation, especially a reduced ability to dissipate body heat from your hands and feet, could be behind some types of insomnia. More research is needed on this theory, though.
Want more science behind temperature and sleep? We’ve covered why you get so hot when you sleep here, and why it’s so important to stay cool at night.
While it looks promising that sleeping with socks on could help you fall asleep, we can’t say for sure.
There’s not a lot of research on the topic, and the studies that have been done are small (this study only has six participants!), use subjective data or different sock materials, or were done on subpopulations like older adults. So, it’s not clear whether socks could help everyone.
There’s also the simple fact that the perfect temperature is subjective. Sleeping with socks on may cause some to overheat and others to cool down enough for sleep.
Our best advice? Experiment. We know you need a drop in body temperature to fall asleep at night. If wearing socks helps make that happen, and you find them comfortable, great!
But if you find socks make you feel too warm, or you just don’t like the feel of them, it’s not worth sacrificing sleep by wearing them. Instead, you can have a warm bath or shower before bed and focus on good sleep hygiene (more on that soon) to get the temperature drop you need for a good night’s sleep.
And finally, for a sleep doctor’s take on the matter, we asked our sleep advisor and medical reviewer, Dr. Chester Wu, what he thinks about socks in bed:
“Sleeping with socks on could help you fall asleep as warming your feet helps to reduce your core body temperature. But this can be done with a warm shower or bath before bed. My advice is to wear them if you like them, and skip them if you don’t.” Rise Science Medical Reviewer Dr. Chester Wu
Once again, there’s not much research into sleeping with socks on, but there could be some drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know before you don a pair of socks to bed.
As we’ve covered, body temperature — and the drop of it — is key for falling asleep. If you wear thick wooly socks at night, especially in a warm bedroom, this may make you too hot and make it harder to fall asleep.
Heat can also affect your sleep after you’ve drifted off. Research shows heat exposure can decrease slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep) and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM sleep).
To reduce the risk of overheating, set your thermostat to 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the ideal room temperature for sleep.
Falling asleep can be hard to do at the best of times, so you don’t want uncomfortable socks adding to the problem. You might find certain materials itchy, feel too restricted in socks, or just prefer the feeling of wearing nothing at night.
If socks make you uncomfortable, and therefore keep you awake, they’re not good for you. You can get a good night’s sleep without them.
Wearing socks and heating your feet before bed may not help everyone get to sleep.
For example, research shows that while socks help some fall asleep faster, this benefit isn’t seen as much in older adults.
Older adults without sleep problems could fall asleep faster if they slept with socks on after lights off or had a warm footbath before bed. But for older adults with insomnia, socks (both heated and normal) and warm footbaths didn’t make a difference in their sleep.
Heads-up: If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder or any sleep problem, you’re better off examining your sleep hygiene as a whole (more on that soon) and getting medical advice than relying on socks.
The best type of socks to sleep in are whichever socks you find most comfortable. Experiment with different thicknesses, styles, and materials to find socks that help keep your feet warm and don’t irritate your skin.
Wool socks may be better than polyester or cotton socks, however. One study found Merino wool sleepwear — so, importantly, not socks — reduced the time it took to fall asleep.
This benefit was also seen in older adults, and wool improved their sleep fragmentation, or how much they woke up during the night. For poor sleepers, they woke up less often when wearing wool compared to cotton.
But this study was in sleepwear, not just socks, so it’s not clear whether woolen socks would be the winner.
Wool can be itchy for some people too, so be sure to go for Merino wool socks, or experiment to find the most comfortable material for you.
Materials to consider include:
Beyond material, choose socks that aren’t too tight. Avoid wearing compression socks to bed as they’re not designed for sleeping in and wear a fresh pair of socks to bed each night to avoid bacterial build-up and odor.
Want to skip the socks? There are other ways you can get the benefits of warming your feet for sleep and still enjoying sock-free toes in bed.
Studies show that immersing yourself in warm water can reduce sleep latency, increase deep sleep, and increase NREM sleep consolidation, so you wake up less often throughout the night.
This works through the same method of wearing socks. Blood vessels dilate in your skin, which promotes heat loss and a cooling of your core body temperature.
Aim for a shower or bath of 40 to 42.5 degrees Celsius (104 to 108.5 degrees Fahrenheit). A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found that this temperature water was associated with improved self-rated sleep quality and sleep efficiency (the time you spent in bed actually sleeping).
And you don’t need a long bath to see the benefits. A bath or shower of as little as 10 minutes taken one to two hours before bed was associated with a significant shortening of sleep latency.
Other research looked at women who took either a warm bath or cool bath in the afternoon. It found that there was no significant change in sleep after a cool bath. But after a warm bath, participants felt more sleepiness at bedtime and got more deep sleep.
Trying to decide between a shower and a bath? Research from 2018 found baths, but not showers, increase blood flow and metabolic waste elimination. Baths may also help reduce stress more than showers, which is useful if you find anxiety keeps you awake.
Don’t want to get your hair wet or run a full bath? A footbath can have the same sleep-boosting effects.
A 2023 study found footbaths can lead to an increase in skin temperature and a decrease in core body temperature. The research states the ideal time and temperature was 42 degrees Celsius, or about 108 degrees Fahrenheit, for 24 minutes.
Footbaths are promising for groups where sleep is harder to come by, too. A 2020 study found footbaths improved the sleep quality of menopausal women, and a 2013 study found they helped older adults get more sleep overall and have improved sleep quality.
Although one thing to be aware of, there’s no set definition for sleep quality yet.
You can also use a hot water bottle on your feet to warm them up before bedtime. One benefit of this is it’ll naturally cool throughout the night, so you’re less likely to wake up feeling too hot.
A heating pad at the bottom of your bed helps to warm up your feet, too. Just be sure not to sleep with a heating pad on all night as this can be dangerous.
Finally, you can try throwing an extra blanket across your feet at night for added warmth without the constricting feeling of socks.
Whether you’re wearing socks or not, warm feet is just one part of the puzzle of good sleep. It’s one aspect of something called sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night.
Here’s what to do to improve your sleep hygiene:
Stay on top of sleep hygiene with RISE’s timed reminders. The app can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day depending on your individual circadian rhythm.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
Socks may help you fall asleep faster as they promote a drop in your body’s core temperature. But you can still get a good night’s rest without them. So, if you’re not a socks in bed kind of person, you don’t need to switch up your routine.
Try wearing a pair of socks to bed if that’s comfortable for you, or turn to a pre-bed shower or bath, footbath, or hot water bottle to get similar sleep-boosting effects.
And beyond warm feet, don’t forget about your overall sleep hygiene. The RISE app can help you keep your sleep hygiene on point by reminding you when to do 20+ healthy sleep behaviors each day at the ideal time for your circadian rhythm, which makes them even more effective.
Yes, it’s OK to sleep with socks on at night. In fact, they may help you fall asleep faster as wearing socks can promote a drop in core body temperature, which is needed for sleep. Just make sure socks aren’t making you too warm or uncomfortable, and they’re not too tight.
Yes, it’s good to sleep with socks on. Socks can promote a drop in core body temperature, which can help you fall asleep faster. Just make sure socks aren’t making you too warm or uncomfortable, and they’re not too tight.
Sleeping with socks on can help you fall asleep faster as they promote a drop in core body temperature, which is needed for sleep. But you can do this with a pre-bed bath or shower, footbath, or hot water bottle. Socks may also keep some people up as they can be uncomfortable.
There are superstitions that sleeping with socks can cause bad luck or nightmares. But there’s no scientific evidence behind this. In fact, sleeping with socks on may help you fall asleep faster as they promote a drop in body temperature needed for sleep.
RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential
RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential