If you’ve ever slept in the same bed with someone, you’ve likely noticed their specific preferences ― whether they like the sheets tucked in at the foot of the bed, what kind of pajamas they sleep in (if any), and whether they wear socks or go barefoot in bed.
In the case of socks, we’ve found that people tend to dig in their heels, convinced they simply can’t fall asleep with or without socks. You’re either all-in or all-out when it comes to socks at night.
So, is one side right and the other wrong? We spoke with experts to tread into the science.
The case for sleeping with socks on
There are many benefits to wearing socks in bed, explained Mar De Carlo, author and founder of the International Parenting and Health Institute Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. Socks can help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer because of a process called distal vasodilation.
“Changes in skin temperature may causally affect the ability to initiate and maintain sleep,” a 2007 study found. Wearing socks in bed has been shown to increase circulation and blood flow to the feet, De Carlo said. That can help lower the body’s core temperature, signaling the brain that it is time for bed.
Other studies prove the point further. One study involving a small number of subjects found that young men wearing socks fell asleep 7.5 minutes faster, slept 32 minutes longer, and woke up 7.5 times less often than those not wearing socks.
The concept of socks in bed seems related to circadian rhythms — the internal clocks that manage our functions based on a 24-hour day.
“Lower body temperatures usually precede sleepiness and evidence suggests that utilizing socks or other foot warming methods may lower your core body temperature and help you fall asleep faster,” the Sleep Foundation says.
Another benefit of going to bed all cozied up is the decreased chance of a Raynaud’s attack, according to De Carlo. Raynaud’s is a disease that usually affects toes and fingers in which the skin loses circulation and starts swelling and hurting. A variety of studies have shown that wearing socks at night may help prevent an attack by keeping the blood circulating and the limbs warm.
Though Raynaud’s is usually triggered by cold temperatures (or anxiety or stress), wearing socks won’t prevent Raynaud’s from developing as a disease. But socks can mitigate the chance of a flare-up.
Other benefits to sleeping with socks include the potential improvement of cracked heels (moisturize your feet and don cotton socks for a week or so and you’ll notice less-dry skin), the prevention of hot flashes (connected to better control of core body temperature) and, believe it or not, increased orgasm potential, according to De Carlo.
Regarding that last point: Wearing socks to bed increased the probability of achieving an orgasm by a hefty 30% in a University of Groningen study involving 13 couples. Given that orgasms are the result of increased blood flow to sexual organs and that wearing socks to bed contributes to healthier blood circulation, the discovery shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Despite the benefits related to sock-wearing in bed, De Carlo noted that socks aren’t a cure for some conditions. For example, although wearing socks may help you sleep better, it’s important to understand why your feet are cold to begin with.
“Cold feet can be due to a number of reasons like anemia, diabetes and hypothyroidism, which are important to address,” De Carlo noted. “If the root cause of your sleep challenge is due to a deeper-rooted issue that has not been uncovered and addressed — for example, if you’re dealing with anxiety and mental overstimulation — wearing socks to bed will not be your solution.”
The case for sleeping with bare feet
The pros of getting into bed without socks are not as well-defined. Studies mostly suggest that, if you’re not experiencing issues related to body temperature, sleeping without socks may feel better to you. If anything, putting on a piece of clothing may actually lead to overheating.
In addition, going sockless in bed helps avoid “poor hygiene, skin infections and unpleasant odors” that can be associated with unclean or even fungus-infested socks, De Carlo noted.
“Some people will sleep better without socks on, while others won’t,” De Carlo observed.
Are certain socks better than others?
Turns out, not all socks are created equal.
“You want to wear clean socks to bed that are made out of natural fibers like cashmere, merino wool, bamboo or cotton,” said De Carlo, who explained that these materials will provide proper warmth, breathability and support overall skin hygiene.
One type of sock to avoid in bed: compression socks. “They are off-limits unless prescribed by your doctor,” De Carlo said.
Compression socks are often recommended for people with chronic venous insufficiency, a condition that causes poor blood circulation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They can help counteract increased pressure in leg veins when people are standing — but that’s not the case when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep.