Ever heard the old advice that wearing socks can help you fall asleep? Now there is evidence that there is some truth to this advice. Warm feet lead to better (and faster) sleep!
Many Americans need all the help available to get a good night’s sleep. One recent Consumer Reports study found 68 percent of us had sleeping difficulties at least once a week, and an estimated 27 percent of Americans suffered chronic sleeping problems.
Experts offer many possible reasons for this phenomenon: We’re working longer, and make longer commutes. Many of us stay inside all day and stay up late with blue-light-emitting energy-efficient bulbs and devices, which alter our 24-hour circadian rhythms. Failing to follow the natural cycles of light and darkness suppresses the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which helps promote sleep. We’re stressed from trying to fit the many demands outside of paid work into a meager 24-hour day, which puts our brains into hyperarousal that makes it impossible to relax.
But one simple trick might help many of us: Pull on a pair of soft, loose-fitting socks before you tuck in for the night. Maybe add a pair of soft, cotton gloves.
Wearing Socks to Bed
Our bodies naturally cool a degree or two during sleep, and research has shown that the faster the cooling occurs, the faster we fall asleep.
Putting on socks before we crawl into bed improves all-over circulation by opening up the blood vessels in the feet (a process called vasodilation). When the blood vessels dilate and open up in the feet, they release heat that redistributes throughout the body, allowing more rapid decrease of core body temperature.
(It's not necessary to wear socks; but socks are warming up the feet and hands.)
The same was true for warming up hands with gloves. This heating of the feet and hands seems to send a signal to the brain that it's time to sleep.
Interestingly, the age-old practice of placing a hot water bottle near the feet may have had the same effect.
Which Socks Are Good for Sleeping?
Sleep specialists suggest:
Choose clean, loose-fitting socks without any tight spots around feet or ankles that might compress your blood vessels or nerves.
Some experts suggest natural fibers with a touch of Spandex, or lightweight fleece, but probably any fiber will do, as long as it doesn’t pinch or overheat. I use a stash of cheap cotton socks without a cuff.
Put on a clean pair just before bedtime to prevent any buildup of grime and sweat that could cause athlete’s foot or some other skin problem.
Adding a pair of loose-fitting cotton gloves may accelerate the process further.
Maintaining the bedroom temperature between 60° and 65° will also help the body maintain its core temperature.
Additional Benefits to Warm Feet and Hands
It turns out, wearing socks and gloves provides benefits other than promoting sleep. For example:
The temperature regulation provided by the socks helps minimize nighttime hot flashes and night sweats.
The improved circulation may help prevent an attack of Raynaud’s Disease in susceptible people. People suffering from Raynaud’s have narrower arteries in their feet hands causing their extremities to overreact to cold temperatures.
Socks help retain the natural moisture of your feet, helping prevent or minimize drying and cracking.
Feeling exhausted, but unable to sleep? Hey! You probably aren’t too tired to get your socks on.