May 14th 2020
Do we sleep better naked? Here’s what happened when I tried it for a week
September 3rd 2021 / 0 comment
The sleep hormone melatonin is released when our temperature drops, so will wearing nothing to bed mean I sleep like a baby?
Normally I'm out like a light at bedtime, but for the last month, sleep has been eluding me. I've been tossing and turning for at least an hour after lights out, with my mind buzzing and my brain unable to switch off. According to supplement brand Formulate Health, 36 per cent of UK adults struggle to get to sleep on a weekly basis, so at least I'm not alone in my struggles.
All the usual bedtime rituals (think CBD baths, pillow mists and magnesium supplements), haven't made the slightest bit of difference, so when I heard that sleeping naked could be the key to a good nights sleep, I decided to give it a go, even though it sounded like an outlandish claim. But what did I have to lose, other than my pyjamas?
I couldn't see how abandoning my beloved bedwear would help with my sleeplessness, but bedsheet brand Mela claimed that it would. "Sleeping naked helps naturally cool down your body temperature, letting your body know it’s time to sleep," Samuel Hochland, Mela's founder told me. Going PJ-free can also encourage airflow and stop you from overheating, he says, based on independent research conducted by the brand.
One doctor even validated this theory. Dr Frankie Jackon-Spence, NHS doctor and TV medic says: "Staying cool at night can help you get a better night's sleep and sleeping naked is a practical tip to help improve the quality of your shut-eye."
How does sleeping naked improve sleep?
Keen to understand just why staying cool means better sleep (I can't abide being cold) I turned to the nutritionist and sleep expert Rob Hobson who struggled with sleeplessness for decades and is author of The Art of Sleeping. He explained that it wasn't actually being cold that I was looking for but for my body temperature to drop. "Our circadian rhythm is governed by light and temperature," he told me. "The release of [sleep hormone] melatonin occurs when our body temperature drops and this prepares us for sleep,” he says. “Getting too hot during the night can interfere with your sleep, and for this reason, some people believe that sleeping naked can help keep you cool.”
Sleeping naked can also boost intimacy. Research from the journal Frontiers in Psychology said that partners who spend time engaging in skin-to-skin contact are likely to feel less stressed and closer to their partner so this is another argument for sleeping in the buff, Rob tells us. “Skin to skin contact also stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin and this can promote a safe feeling and love so reduces stress and anxiety,” he explains. In fact, a lack of skin contact known as skin hunger' can cause sleep disturbance.
My week of nude sleeping
Full disclosure: I'm not entirely new to nude sleeping. I normally go without pyjamas the day after a wax, to stop my skin from getting irritated by tight fabrics, and during my period because I can't deal with a waistband when my stomach is cramping (don't worry, I wear a tampon or period cup to save my sheets being spoiled!). Being naked at night isn't completely alien to me, but this is the first time I've tried it as a remedy for sleeplessness. I don't share my bed with anyone, so am purely testing out nakedness from a sleep POV, rather than an intimacy enhancer.
The first night of my experiment I slept in my normal Aldi bedding (nothing luxury about it, but it is a pretty print). I felt a bit saucy sliding into bed with nothing on, but also liberated and more comfortable than when I wear my usual pyjamas, which have elasticated cuffs on the wrists. When I wear short pyjamas, I find they ride up a lot in the night, ending up almost around my ears, so having nothing making me uncomfy was a definite win when it came to drifting off and sleeping through the night.
I was concerned that first night that I'd be chilly sleeping naked, wary of that temperature drop I'd heard so much about, but I didn't feel any colder than normal, just more free. I can't claim I was back to my baby sleeping ways straight away, but I did fall asleep quicker than I had been recently, probably within about 20 minutes. So far so good!
I encountered a small problem when I woke up in the night and wanted a glass of water, scrambling around for my dressing gown so I didn't give anyone in my house an eyeful on my way to the kitchen. I slept around eight hours that first night, which is much improved on the six or so I'd been surviving on lately.
Day two was much the same; I fell asleep quicker and the main thing I thought about was how much easier it is to sleep when you haven't got a waistband to worry about. By day three I decided to switch up my bedding, to the silky eucalyptus set of bedding I have from Mela, from £84 (pictured above), and that was when I really thought 'I could get used to this nakedness!' Luxuriating in silky sheets without clothes on is certainly a decadent feeling. Eucalyptus silk is naturally sweat-wicking, so is good for that all-important bedtime temperature drop, plus it's not as slippy as normal silk sheets so you don't slide out the bed.
On day four I encountered a problem; I had a bath and applied body oils LINK afterwards. And then realised they'd be all over my posh bedding. I sat beside my bed reading for half an hour until I was confident they'd sunk in enough. This is something to consider as a fake tanner, too.
At the end of the week, the air temperature dipped and I was concerned about being too cold, which can be as bad for sleep as being too hot, according to Rob. Research from The Journal Physiological Anthropology found that people who slept semi-nude were more susceptible to changes in ambient temperatures which can disrupt sleep.
As I shivered a little in bed that night, thinking fondly of my fleecy jimjams folded up, neglected in my drawer, I remembered a TikTok hack I'd seen earlier in the year of a doctor saying that sleeping with socks on was key to sleeping well. And it would keep me cosier. So on my final naked night, I slept only in fluffy bed socks.
I wear socks to bed so don’t come at me im not weird♬ presleywalker - PresleyWalker
Rob says there is something in this, explaining that the same study found people who wore socks to bed fell asleep quicker and stayed asleep longer.
“Wearing socks to bed helps increase blood flow to the hands and feet, which helps to reduce your core body temperature more quickly, which can impact how quickly you get to sleep," says Rob.
I'm happy to report it worked. Once my feet were warm, I had a good sleep, notching up another solid eight hours.
It's worth noting that if you have the opposite problem of getting too hot at night, and suffer from night sweats, sleeping naked might not be for you. Yes, it’s tempting to whip off your nightwear when the heat starts to creep in, but this means there’s no barrier between you and your bedding, cautions Rob. “Your sheets will get damp and stick to you which is just unpleasant to sleep in. In this instance, investing in loose-fitting good quality sweat-wicking pyjamas is the best option to try and help you to keep cool,” he advises.
By the end of the seven days, was I a nude-sleeping convert? Sort of.
Sleeping naked: the final verdict
Being in bed naked does feel liberating, especially compared to long-legged, long-sleeved pyjamas. I felt sexy and mature, like the glam ladies in Sex and The City, as if I had a special secret, sleeping without my pyjamas. If I'm ever in need of a quick way to feel body confident, you'll find my PJs slung aside in favour of sleeping as nature intended.
I did sleep fall asleep much quicker on the nights I went nude, but think this was because my skin felt freer without waistbands and cuffed legs to irritate me while I got comfortable. I've generally been fine sleeping through the night once I drift off, so I didn't see a difference there with sleeping naked, but I can imagine if you do wake a lot in the night, it might be chilly waking up naked in the middle of the night.
With autumn on the way and Rob pointing out being cold is as much a sleep disrupter as being too warm, I think I'll be back in my pyjamas before too long, but if I ever go through a bad sleep spell again, you'll find me nude in bed for sure.