The Simple Trick That Can Help You Sleep Better

A good night’s sleep is something we all enjoy, and feeling rested the morning after is just one of its benefits. Sleep is definitely one of our most critical bodily functions. Scientific research has found that sleep impacts almost every system in the body, including the brain, heart, lungs, metabolism, and immune function.¹

Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting enough sleep. Nearly half of Americans surveyed say they feel sleepy during the day three to seven days per week,² while 35% of adults in the US report sleeping less than seven hours per night on average.³

For those who lack sleep, one simple trick might help. Studies have found that warm feet may be the answer to both falling asleep faster and having a longer sleep overall. 

Warm feet can help you get better sleep

As humans, we need plenty of good quality sleep. The National Sleep Foundation guidelines⁴ recommend that adults should aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Even more sleep is required for babies, children, and teens to help them grow and develop.

Individuals who regularly sleep outside the normal range may develop serious health issues and may compromise their well-being in the long term.⁴ Getting enough sleep, then, is critical for healthy functioning. 

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, there are many techniques you can try. You can establish a sleep routine, drink tea, turn off technology well before bed, meditate, do some breathing exercises for relaxation, use an eye mask, reduce stress in daily living, or, as a last resort, take prescribed medication. 

It turns out that one of the most simple techniques — warm feet — may be very effective. In fact, researchers have known for decades that warming a person’s feet can help an individual sleep better.⁵

A 1999 review⁵, for example, found that increased heat in the hands and feet can increase the chances of falling asleep quickly. The reason appears to be down to the relationship between body temperature and sleep. 

The researchers in the study said, “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.”

The study’s authors did point out that the room temperature needs to be cool for this to work.

Socks can help you fall asleep significantly faster

While warm feet might help, wearing socks specifically might be even better. It’s been found that socks can assist a process known as distal vasodilation — an increase of blood in the feet and hands. Significantly, this process reduces the core body temperature, something that’s critical for a good night’s sleep.⁶

There’s plenty of scientific research to support the idea that socks can help a person sleep better. In 2007, a study⁷ with a small research group found that subjects fell asleep 5 minutes faster when they wore socks to bed than when not wearing them. Wearing socks also worked better than a warm foot bath before bed.

The researchers found that “sleep-onset was accelerated by warm and neutral bed socks after lights-off and correlated to increased foot temperature.”

A 2018 Korean study⁸ has similar results. It showed that young men who wore socks to bed fell asleep 7.5 minutes faster, slept 32 minutes longer, and woke up 7.5 times less often than when not wearing socks.

Wearing socks to bed might even help with insomnia. Research has found that warming the feet is beneficial for those who experience sleep challenges.⁹ A study¹⁰ found that people with insomnia experienced better sleep after warming their hands and feet. 

However, it’s important to note that for elderly subjects who were suffering from insomnia, the study⁷ showed no benefit. 

The results, however, are promising. Although many of these sleep studies include relatively small participants, these findings suggest that a simple technique can improve sleep quality. Given that it’s appropriate for most people, it’s a simple, low-cost solution to try. 

The best body temperature for sleep

The correlation between warm feet and wearing socks to bed appears to be intrinsically linked to the body’s optimum temperature for sleep. 

It’s interesting to note that core body temperature and skin temperature differ. Warming a person’s skin can result in a drop in core body temperature. This process happens by expanding blood vessels near the skin, which allows heat to escape.¹¹

Sleep is associated with a drop in core body temperature.¹² Warming the feet can drop the core body temperature and signal to the body that it’s time for sleep. 

The reason is down to the circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythms manage our sleep cycles and core body temperature; they are otherwise known as our internal clocks that regulate bodily functions, including the sleep-wake cycle across a 24-hour period. Our body temperature naturally drops overnight, and wearing socks (and warming the feet generally) may help drop that core temperature, helping ready the body for sleep. 

Room temperature is another key factor that can influence your sleep. A poll from the National Sleep Foundation¹³ found that a cool room temperature was important to four out of five respondents. According to the Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleep is 65°F (18.3°C).¹³ Setting the room temperature accordingly is another technique that can help improve sleep quality. 

A person’s choice in bedding and clothing will impact skin and body temperature and, therefore, the ideal room temperature as well, so these factors are worth considering. 

Cotton vs. wool: Which socks are best?

It’s important to note that some socks are better for sleep than others. When looking for the right socks, there are a few factors to consider: 

Fabric choice

Choosing the right fabric could make a world of difference. Wool socks can be beneficial because they allow heat to build up and be released through the small fibers. These socks can be very comfortable to wear, and wool has been shown to reduce sleep onset time in studies.¹⁴

Cotton socks are breathable, ensuring that moisture isn’t trapped in the socks — something that can lead to bacterial growth. Cotton socks have also been shown to be effective in warming the feet. 

Bed socks are also beneficial, designed especially for sleep. They warm the feet while being breathable, and they tend to be comfortable too. 

The right fit

Fit is just as important as the fabric you choose. To allow proper blood circulation, the socks need to be a relatively loose fit — they should not press firmly into the skin — and should be comfortable to wear. 

Avoid compression socks

Compression socks are designed specifically for blood circulation issues and are not appropriate for sleeping in. 

While compression socks can be useful during the day when a person is up and moving (the socks gently squeeze the legs to promote circulation), they are not effective at night. That’s because compression socks could restrict blood flow to the extremities. 

Socks aren’t appropriate for everyone

While socks are a very simple, low-cost option that can be useful for most people, some should apply caution. 

Individuals who experience circulatory issues, swelling of the legs or feet, or continually cold feet, may not benefit from wearing socks. Wearing socks — mainly if they are a tight fit — may reduce blood flow to the legs and feet, worsening pre-existing conditions. 

If you experience these or similar conditions, chat with your doctor about your particular situation to see if wearing socks to bed might be a good option. Wearing looser socks without an elasticated top could be one solution to discuss with your physician. 

Fortunately, socks aren’t the only option. For those who can’t wear socks or don’t like the feeling of wearing socks to bed, there are other ways to warm the feet and benefit from a better night’s sleep.

Here are a couple of examples:

Extra blankets

Extra blankets, especially at the end of the bed or around your feet, could arguably offer similar benefits without the restriction of socks. 

Warm baths

Warm foot baths before bed have been found to relieve insomnia and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.¹⁵ To get the benefits, the participants soaked their feet in 106°F to 108°F (41°C to 42°C) warm water for 20 minutes every evening before bed.

A hot bath can also be beneficial; it increases body temperature, which has been shown to help individuals fall asleep more easily.¹⁶

If the above options are not feasible, you can have a warming foot massage instead. It may be relaxing and help increase your body temperature. 

Could wearing socks improve sex too?

Keeping your feet warm can have many other benefits beyond just falling asleep faster. From reducing hot flashes to bettering Raynaud’s and increasing orgasms, socks might be the unexpected answer. 

Prevents hot flashes

For those experiencing menopause, hot flashes can be an unpleasant reality. Hot flashes occur due to increased core body temperature, which can happen at any time of the day or night. For some women, hot flashes can affect sleep quality.¹⁷

While many factors affect the occurrence of hot flashes, especially hormones, the simple technique of wearing socks can help. Socks can help increase the temperature in the feet while reducing core body temperature, which may help reduce hot flashes throughout the evening.⁷

Reduces Raynaud’s attacks

Raynaud’s is an uncomfortable condition whereby smaller arteries in certain areas — typically in the hands and feet — constrict excessively in response to cold, which limits blood supply to the site. It affects more people than you might think, with an estimated 15 to 30 million people in the US experiencing the condition.¹⁸

Typically, the toes and fingers will lose circulation and start to throb or swell. The extremities can even turn white or blue. Wearing warm socks at night can help keep feet warm throughout sleep and keep blood circulating to avoid an attack. 

Increases orgasms

A better sex life due to socks? One research study¹⁹ found that this could be true. In the study, 80% of couples who wore socks had an orgasm during sex, compared to 50% without socks. 

While more research is needed in this area, it could be that the increased blood flow and raised skin temperature help achieve orgasm. 

The lowdown

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for almost every function in your body. And long-term sleep issues can lead to a range of health issues. Fortunately, a very simple technique of wearing socks to bed can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Socks can warm the feet, helping a person fall asleep faster with fewer interruptions and a longer sleep overall. Cotton, wool, and sleep socks are all great choices but avoid compression socks (or socks that dig into your skin) at night, which can worsen circulation issues.

Socks aren’t just helpful for sleep; they can also assist with Raynaud’s attacks and hot flashes and might even improve your sex life.

Anyone with circulation or swelling issues should consult their doctor before wearing socks to bed, as socks could make some circulation issues worse. If you can’t or don’t like wearing socks at night, there are other ways to keep your feet warm. A footbath or blanket can create similar results.

Given wearing socks is a simple and easy technique for those who could use a little more sleep, it’s worth giving it a go. Better sleep could start today.

The information provided is designed to support, not replace, the relationship between a patient/site visitor and their existing health care professional(s).

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Sources:
  1. Brain basics: Understanding sleep | NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

  2. Sleep hygiene | Sleep Foundation

  3. Sleep and sleep disorders: Data and statistics | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  4. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: Methodology and results summary (2015)

  5. Warm feet promote the rapid onset of sleep | Nature

  6. Is it bad to wear socks to bed? – Will it help me sleep? | Sleep Advisor

  7. Skin temperature and sleep-onset latency: Changes with age and insomnia (2007)

  8. Effects of feet warming using bed socks on sleep quality and thermoregulatory responses in a cool environment (2018)

  9. The effects of warm-water footbath on relieving fatigue and insomnia of the gynecologic cancer patients on chemotherapy (2010)

  10. Attenuated thermoregulatory response to mild thermal challenge in subjects with sleep-onset insomnia (2006)

  11. Effect of a warm footbath before bedtime on body temperature and sleep in older adults with good and poor sleep: An experimental crossover trial (2013)

  12. Sleep and thermoregulation (2020)

  13. The best temperature for sleep | Sleep Foundation

  14. The impact of sleepwear fiber type on sleep quality under warm ambient conditions (2019)

  15. The effects of warm-water footbath on relieving fatigue and insomnia of the gynecologic cancer patients on chemotherapy (2010)

  16. Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis (2019)

  17. Sleep problems and menopause: What can I do? | NIH: National Institute on Aging

  18. Raynaud’s Association

  19. Scan spots women faking orgasms | BBC News

Chloe Garnham is a writer exploring a broad range of topics, including healthcare, education, and technology.

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