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Looking For The Perfect Sleep Outfit? Here's What An Expert Recommends

Sleeping Young Woman In Bed With White Linen
Image by Dreamwood Photography / Stocksy
January 3, 2022

You hear a lot about what to put into your body to promote sleep—from soothing nighttime tea to relaxing supplements—but what about what to put on it?* Do the clothes you wear to bed affect sleep quality one way or another? Nishi Bhopal, M.D., says that while it largely depends on the person, there are a few ways you might be able to optimize your sleep uniform for better rest. Here are the tips the sleep medicine specialist has up her pajama sleeve.

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Opt for natural fibers.

First and foremost, Bhopal says, comfort is key. As long as your sleepwear (or lack of sleepwear, if that's your jam) feels good to you, chances are it's not impeding your rest.

When it comes to choosing materials, Bhopal does say that most people will have more luck with natural fibers. Materials like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, and wool will be breathable and naturally moisture-wicking. "They allow your body to regulate its temperature more readily," she tells mbg. Your core body temperature naturally dips at night as a way of preparing for sleep, so keeping that temperature low is key. Any constricting clothes that make you sweat can throw off your temp and make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Bhopal adds that naturally cooling bedspreads and mattresses tend to be best for the same reason—especially if you're a hot sleeper.

While research on the ideal sleepwear fabric is limited, one small study on 36 older adults1 found that wool was better at improving sleep time and quality than cotton and polyester.

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Bring on the socks—but wear them halfway.

If you're someone who likes wearing socks to bed, either because your bed partner prefers a colder room than you do or you just find that they help you sleep better (hey, there's some research to back this up), Bhopal says to go for it. However, you might want to change the way you wear them. By pulling them only halfway up your foot, she says, "you're keeping your extremities warm, but as you get warmer, you can easily discard that layer." With a quick midnight kick, you'll be able to flick your socks off and cool down to that ideal temp once again.

Make your sleepwear special.

Lastly, Bhopal notes that investing in actual pajamas may pay off in deeper zzz's. From personal experience, she's found that slipping on clothing that is specifically for sleep is a quick way to get yourself into rest and relaxation mode. "I used to wear just sweats, but I shifted to actually having proper sleeping clothes... Once I have my PJs on, I'm done for the evening. It's almost like a psychological cue," she says.

Once the PJs or sleep set of your choice is on, you'll know that it's time to stop daytime activities that might keep you awake (like looking at your phone or checking emails) and ease into your wind-down routine. In turn, it might be easier to stick to a consistent bedtime.

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The bottom line.

While your pajama choice probably won't make or break your bedtime, wearing a sleep-supporting outfit can only help. Once you get your electronic use, diet, and stress levels in check, consider natural, breathable sleepwear the cherry on top of your ideal nightly routine.

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.