With approximately one in six adults in England suffering from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, World Mental Health Day, earlier this month, sort to raise awareness and advocacy against the social stigma of talking about our mental wellbeing.
A recent study found that living by the sea is linked with better mental health. But there are also lots of little things we can do to improve our overall quality of life and state of mind.
One of those things is getting enough sleep—something which I’m sure you’ve heard lots of times but is surprisingly hard to do given the pressures of modern life. Well, what if I told you that sleeping with socks could make all the difference?
Cold feet, can’t sleep
To understand why sleeping with socks can help you get a better night’s sleep, we first need to understand how thermoregulation works in the human body. As endotherms, our thermoregulation mechanisms work throughout the day to maintain a core temperature of around 37.7°C (98.6°F).
As outlined by the National Institutes of Health, this doesn’t stay the same throughout the day, though. Our core temperature drops during the night, reaching its lowest point during deep sleep, before starting to rise again in the early morning before we wake up.
Interestingly, this fluctuation persists even in the absence of sleep. However, activity throughout the day and sleep patterns during the night reinforce this cycle.
Aiding the body’s thermoregulation systems throughout the night is key, then, to ensure a smooth night of rest—wearing socks in bed does just that.
Warming your feet before sleep also facilitates vasodilation (the dilation of blood vessels in your extremities). This aids in the redistribution of heat throughout your body, reducing your core temperature and giving your brain a clear sleep signal that it’s bedtime.
In fact, a study published in the journal Nature found that vasodilation in the feet, by wearing socks, shortens the time it takes to fall asleep by a full 15 minutes.
What socks to wear for better sleep
Socks made of natural soft fibres such as merino wool or cashmere are best. These provide good insulation whilst also being breathable—supporting your body’s natural thermoregulation.
They usually cost more than cotton or artificial fibre socks, but they are well worth the extra money. Make sure the socks you choose are not tight-fitting, which might constrict circulation and hinder proper warming of your feet.
Can children and infants sleep with socks on?
For infants and children, it’s important to prevent overheating. For this reason, avoid electric blankets or heat socks. The safest way to encourage sleep is a nice warm bath as part of their bedtime routine, followed by dressing their feet in pre-warmed socks.
If you choose to use a hot water bottle, make sure the temperature is safe and place a soft cotton blanket around it so there is no direct contact between the bottle and skin.
Always check your baby or child for signs of:
- red flushed cheeks
- crying and fidgeting
If you notice these signs, remove additional layers of clothing or blankets right away.
So, should you wear socks in bed?
Warming up your feet before going to bed can shorten the amount of time needed to relax and doze off. This, in turn, can increase the quality of your sleep. Make sure the socks you wear are soft, comfortable, and not too bulky. Consult a doctor if you have circulatory problems that cause pain and cold feet, or if you often have cold feet even when it’s warm.
Featured image: Haley Powers/Unsplash