Everybody has their go-to bedtime outfit, whether it's a cozy pair of PJs, underwear, or nothing at all. But several doctors on TikTok now say you should consider adding something a little extra to your sleep gear: a pair of socks.
Jessica Andrade, D.O., a resident physician in Massachusetts, went viral after suggesting the hack. "So let's talk about people who wear socks to bed," she said in the video, which has now amassed nearly 20 million views. It may seem counterintuitive, but "wearing socks makes your feet warm and this opens up the blood vessels that cools the body down." When your body is cool, it "tells the brain that it's time for bed," explained Andrade. "So actually, people who wear socks tend to fall asleep faster."
Karan Rajan, MRCS, MBBS, a surgeon and lecturer at the Imperial College London, also talked up the power of sleeping with socks on TikTok. "Wearing socks to bed increases blood circulation to your feet," he explained in a recent video. "This causes your blood vessels to vasodilate — they widen. When the blood vessels widen, they can get rid of heat much faster." This lets your core body temperature cool down at a speedier rate than normal, and "a low core body temperature is needed for optimal sleep," explained Rajan. "If you want better sleep, cover your feet." (Related: How Sleeping Can Help You Build Muscle)
People on TikTok have had mixed reactions in the comments, with a clear line drawn between those for and against wearing socks to bed. "I can't sleep with socks on, my body won't let me," commented one user. "I actually cannot go a minute without socks," said another. "I wear socks 24/7. Even to sleep," added someone else.
Why Wearing Socks to Bed Can Help You Fall Asleep
Experts confirm that wearing socks to bed can increase blood circulation to your feet and, as a result, lower your core body temperature. But why does a lower core body temperature translate to better sleep? Your circadian rhythm (i.e. your internal body clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle) helps to regulate several bodily functions, including your internal body temperature, "which is generally set by the environment," according to the American Sleep Association. So, since wearing socks to bed can cause blood vessels in your feet to widen and release heat from the body, that means sleeping with socks on can essentially encourage your body to initiate the cool-down process for your circadian rhythm that ultimately gets the job done. (Related: How to Sleep Better When Stress Is Ruining Your Zzz's)
Even though this bedtime hack is suddenly all over TikTok, sleeping with socks on to promote rest "is not a new concept," adds Andrea Spaeth, Ph.D., a sleep researcher at Rutgers University.
In fact, there's plenty of research to support the idea of wearing socks to bed, says Spaeth. A 1999 review published in the scientific journal Nature, for example, found that "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." Meaning, people who have not only warm feet but also warm hands, are more likely to fall asleep quickly compared to people whose hands and feet aren't warm, according to the paper. The study's authors also pointed out that the room temperature needs to be cool for this to work.
In another small study published in 2006, researchers tested different sleep interventions in people with and without sleep health issues (such as insomnia) and found that young adults who wore socks to bed, regardless of sleep issues, fell asleep faster than those who didn't wear socks to bed. In elderly study participants without any sleep health issues, researchers found that having a warm footbath before bed or wearing socks to bed helped them fall asleep more quickly. However, in elderly participants who had pre-existing sleep issues, neither of these strategies helped, according to the research.
Yet another small study published in 2018 analyzed the impact of wearing socks to bed on six young men. The researchers discovered that the men went to bed an average of 7.5 minutes faster and slept 32 minutes longer compared to when they went to sleep without socks on. (Related: How and Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Messing with Your Sleep)
Now, to be clear, the simple act of putting on a pair of socks, whether in the daytime or before bed, isn't going to knock you out automatically. Rather, wearing socks to sleep can be "one of a series of cues for bedtime," explains board-certified sleep medicine researcher W. Christopher Winter, M.D., of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It. Spaeth agrees, noting that sleep is "the coordination of multiple signals," including the level of the sleep hormone melatonin in your body, your core body temperature, and your skin temperature.
Tips for Wearing Socks to Bed
If you think wearing socks to bed might help you fall asleep faster, begin making it a part of your bedtime ritual. "Have a pair of big, fluffy socks that you designate for sleep," suggests Dr. Winter, noting you can put them on an hour or so before bed, or just before you climb in — it's up to you. Try slipping on these luxuriously soft Mongolia Pure Cashmere Socks (Buy It, $15, amazon.com) around bedtime to help you get in the snooze zone. "These socks were purchased to use in bed to keep my feet warm while sleeping," wrote a five-star reviewer. "They are actually working better to keep my feet warm than I had anticipated. A great buy for my cold, cold feet!"
You'll also want to make sure your bedroom temperature is cool as well. Spaeth defines "cool" as between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, BTW. "If the room is hot, wearing socks won't help," as the vasodilation in your feet won't be enough to counteract the warmth of the rest of your bedroom environment, says Spaeth.
It goes without saying, but general sleep hygiene is still important — the act of slipping on socks alone won't overshadow poor nighttime habits. Spaeth recommends making sure that your room is dark and quiet, only using your bed for sleep (as opposed to working in bed), avoiding screens before bed, and keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule. (Related: 5 Things I Learned When I Stopped Bringing My Cell Phone to Bed)
Keep in mind that sleeping with socks on simply might not be your thing — and that's OK. "There is a style or comfort level in the way some people sleep that might be at odds with bedtime socks," says Dr. Winter. "Personal preference can trump the science," in this case.
And, if you're already sleeping great sans socks, don't rock the boat, says Spaeth. You "shouldn't worry or change your behavior," she says. But, if you're into the idea, "there's no harm" in trying this sleep hack, says Dr. Winter. Sounds like now's the time to bust out those fuzzy socks your mom gifted you last holiday season.