Is Sleeping with Wet Hair Bad for You?

Experts say yes, but their reasons may surprise you.

By Nicole Gleichmann

You hop out of the shower, slip into your comfiest PJs, and head straight to bed. How much damage could it really do, right?

Wrong.

Going to bed with wet hair poses risks for your health and beauty. So, why is it that experts advise against sleeping with wet hair? The answers may not be what you’d think.

Wet Hair and Your Internal Health

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The chances are that you’ve heard going to bed with wet hair could result in you catching a cold. No one wants to spend days on end in a foggy-headed, mucus-drenched daze.

According to experts, you need not worry about catching a cold because you go to bed with wet hair…or because you go outside in the cold with wet hair. In spite of what most of us have been told since a very young age, being cold doesn’t increase your chances of catching a cold.

Colds are viruses. We pick up colds when we come into contact with virus-rich droplets left by cold sufferers. All of those sneezes and mucus are to blame, not the temperature.

So, why are colds more common when it’s cold out? It’s simple—people spend more time indoors with other people when the temperature drops. That proximity results in increased exposure to the virus.

But, there is an undesirable health consequence of sleeping with wet hair: fungal infections.

Fungi love moist conditions. When certain fungi thrive, they can cause allergies, asthma, dermatitis, or dandruff. And, for people with compromised immune systems, fungi can cause dangerous infections.

Another microorganism enjoys damp pillows and pillowcases—dust mites. Dust mites, too, can cause allergies or asthma in certain people.

The Cosmetic Effects of Sleeping with Wet Hair

You may have heard that hair is particularly prone to breakage when it’s wet. Because hair is weakest when wet, going to bed with wet hair can lead to less healthy hair. As you toss and turn at night, some of your hair may be pulled out. The stretching can also result in damage to your hair shaft, causing weak, brittle hair.

The harmful effects of sleeping with your hair wet are exacerbated if you braid it or put it in a bun. The extra bends, kinks, and pressure on the hair follicle caused by both the position and the hair tie can result in increased hair breakage.

For your hair’s health, opt for a silk pillowcase if you sleep with wet hair. This can reduce breakage thanks to less tension between your hair and your pillowcase. And leave your hair down or in a very loose braid.

This begs the question, is blow drying your hair better than sleeping on it wet? The jury is still out, but probably yes. Just be gentle and blow dry with cold air. But if you have the time, air dry your hair, and use a leave-in conditioner to protect the health of your hair.

A Potential Benefit of Sleeping with Damp Hair

Now that you’ve read about all of the potential negatives that come from sleeping with wet hair, it’s only fair to go over the one positive: going to be with wet hair may help you sleep better.

A warm bath or shower before bedtime can help to ease you into sleep. The reason is that the rapid decrease in body temperature that comes from leaving warm water results in a melatonin release. Melatonin is your body’s sleep hormone, and its release can lead to better sleep.

Studies have also found that patients with insomnia benefit from wearing a cool cap to bed. Evaporative cooling that occurs from damp hair may provide a cost-effective alternative to a cool cap for those who have trouble sleeping at night.


Conclusion

Even though wet hair is not going to cause a common cold, it is still a good idea to dry your hair before bed. To keep your hair healthy and to protect your overall health, try to allow your hair to dry completely before you hit the hay.


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