Is it bad to sleep with wet hair?

by | sleep wellness

One of the most common questions when it comes to the connnection between sleep and the health of your hair is whether it’s bad to sleep with wet hair.

In the guide below we address the issue from a few different angles, since the answers are not simple. We’ll also do our best to provide answers to the all-important question of how to sleep with wet hair if you can’t avoid it.

People who are asking the questions can be crudely separated into two groups – those who are concerned with damaging their precious locks and those who were concerned with the health related issues (like getting a cold).

young woman sleeping with wet hair
That’s how we’ll structure the guide

We’ll address the issue of whether moist or wet hair gets damaged during the eight hours of sleep, and then we’ll move on to the health implications.

We’d love to be more straightforward, but we need to dig a bit deeper.

Is it bad to sleep with wet hair?

Yes, the simplified answer would be that there are reasons why it’s considered a no-no.

For two reasons – the damage to your hair maternal arises from the friction of interlocking follicles and the health-related concerns (colds, headaches and, in the worst scenarios, rare cases of brain inflammation and damage to the facialis nerve).

Opinions do vary and you might even find people saying that it poses no risk, a data-driven answer suggests otherwise. Let’s take a closer look.

Hair damage concerns

Tossing and turning in bed will make your dry hair tangled, not to mention wet one.

The actual hair shaft looses its strength when it’s wet. Literally the core of your hair becomes weaker, and that’s why the wet hair is easier to stretch.

Friction

Stretching and friction from pillowcase fabrics lead to damages, reakages, split ends, frizz, knots… you name it. It’s not going to happen instantly, but in long terms, these are the real dangers.

Generally, the healthier your hair is, the more “abuse” it can take in the short term (see graph).

But long periods of this can make your scalp prone to dandruff, or cause serious case of seborrhea and fungal infection.

Moisture that is being captured between the pillow and your head, made from oils and absorbed water from your hair, warmed by your body heat and in contact to bacteria, makes a really unhealthy environment for your scalp.

girl damaged hair from sleep
subeam reveresible heated throw

How to sleep with wet hair

Not exposing your hair to the high temperatures of a hair dryer and letting it dry naturally is one of the simplest, yet super-beneficial ways you can keep your hair healthy. This way your scalp doesn’t get dry and it keeps in all those nourishing oils that are feeding the follicles of hair.

This is easy to do on the hot summer days, but there are all other nights when you need to wash you hair and go to sleep quickly, leaving you with nothing else but letting it dry while you sleep.

If you really don’t have time to blow dry it and choose to go to bed with wet hair, please don’t ever do it with your hair being soaking wet. Below are some pointers on how to sleep with wet hair and minimize the potential damage and risks.

Protect your pillow and your hair

Use a towel to squeeze excess water without putting much pressure, gently comb it with a wide tooth comb, untangling any knots that you may find without pulling hard, and apply a bit of a leave-in conditioner.

You can also use heat protectants, anti-frizz products, or if your hair is curly try some smoothing serum, it will save you time fixing your locks in the morning.

If there is any time, try to blow dry your hair a little, just to move away from being completely wet to slightly wet. Focus on getting your scalp dry.

woman applying hair conditioner before sleep
Get rid of some of the moisture

Consider putting clean towel over your pillow, so it can absorb the moisture from your hair. The wet pillows are perfect place for bacterial growth, which can cause acne (and a nasty smell).

Silk and satin pillowcases are also good alternative, since those fabrics cause less friction, regardless of your hair being wet or dry. Wrapping your hair in a silk scarf will also do the trick – you can see our guide on best silk pillowcases here.

Let your hair down or tide it?

Braiding your hair slightly or putting it into a bun, may give you a nice, wavy look in the morning. You can even wrap your strands around pieces of cloth to take it to the next level of curly.

However, if you do this on hair that hasn’t been dries at all, the chances of damaging it will get high.

If you really want to do something with it, choose a loose braid, and avoid any tight alternatives or high ponytail. Scrunchies will work better than elastic bands, so go with them.

Styling it after waking up

In most cases, you will have to re-do your hairstyle in the morning, because often it needs some tiding up and blow drying.

If you like what you see when you get up, go on with your day.

If not, you can shake it out to get volume, and add some styling product or diffuse it. You may even have to re-wet some part of your hair to get the look you want.

This can actually take more time than if you just wash it a bit earlier in the evening so you have the time to dry it out.

Health-related concerns

Opinions vary

Some doctors say the practice has nothing to do with getting ill, other ones (and your mum, probably) are strongly against it.

We are going to follow our common sense and say that it’s never wise to to it in a cold or windy place.

Sure it doesn’t mean you are going to get ill just because you are cold, but your body acts differently in these conditions – most experts lean towards the opinion that in can, in fact, indirectly cause a cold.

woman with a headache

Sleeping with wet hair and headaches

When sleeping in a cold climate, the blood vessels in your body and head, especially the ones in your nose and throat, will constrict. When that happens there is a less space for white blood cells (which are responsible for fighting the viruses), to come through and do their job. Having your head wet for number of hours in a cold environment, sure doesn’t help.

We don’t catch a cold, we catch a virus, but by getting our body in this state our immune system can become weaker, making our body an easy target. That can be a reason for an onset of headaches.

The indirect connection to temporary immunity drop

Our body temperature drops during the night, and because we are sleeping, we can’t control it by getting ourselves warmed. Since we loose our heat mostly through our head, it will cause some dehydration.

Any extreme change in temperature can be dangerous to our body and cause problems more serious than a fleeting headache.

If you choose to do it anyway, let it be damp instead of soaking wet, and keep your room warm and your pillow protected. Bottom line – the connection to headaches or immunity is not clear-cut. You can see some more opinions on that here.

Share your thoughts

We did our best to address some of the most common concerns, but the more opinions and experiences the merrier.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Is it OK to sleep with wet hair?

Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.

Sleep tight and dry