Pajamas have been around since the Ottoman Empire. They were so fancied by Europeans who visited the area, they quickly spread to Europe and were adopted as exotic loungewear. But the idea of wearing PJs to bed didn’t really catch on and spread to the Western world until the 20th century. In the decades since, nightwear has become a nighttime staple.
Whether you go to bed wearing traditional pajamas, a comfy T-shirt, or nothing at all can depend on a lot of factors, including your age, the season, or simply your personal preference. What you may not know is that your PJs can greatly affect the quality of your sleep.
It’s nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep if you’re tossing and turning and having a difficult time getting comfortable. Perhaps the problem is that you’re not wearing the right sleepwear.
Read on to see how your nightwear may be the cause of your discomfort and what changes you can make to better ensure a good night’s sleep.
What to Wear to Bed
The key to good sleep is comfort. If you’re not comfortable in your nighties, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate what you’re wearing to bed. Here are some things to consider when you dress for bed:
Types of Pajamas
- Sweatpants & T-shirts
- Shorts & tank tops
- Thermal underwear
- Oversized sleep shirt
- Boxers/gym shorts
- Romper/onesie/footie pajamas
Check out some of our favorite pajamas for a great night’s sleep.
Fabrics to consider
- Cotton: This breathable, all-natural fabric is soft and naturally cooling, making it a great option for warmer nights. However, cotton doesn’t do a good job of wicking away moisture and may become uncomfortable if you’re prone to night sweats.
- Silk: This luxurious fabric is soft and comfy, and it’s great at regulating body temperature. It can keep you warm on cool nights and cool you up on warm nights. The downside, though, is that silk can be slippery, expensive, and require dry cleaning.
- Linen: Pure linen pajamas are super soft and breathable. This fabric also has natural heat and moisture-wicking properties, making it ideal for hot sleepers. However, linen wrinkles more easily and is generally more expensive than cotton.
- Flannel: An excellent option for cold nights, flannel keeps you warm and cozy. It’s also soft and breathable. If you sleep hot, flannel PJs might be too hot for you to handle.
- Bamboo: When the fibers of this hearty plane are spun down and treated, they create a surprisingly soft, naturally wicking fabric. Bamboo is also hypoallergenic and may have antibacterial properties.
- Wool: Known for keeping you warm in cold weather, wool can also keep you cool on warm nights and prevent you from overheating. Naturally wicking, wool PJs are also soft and smooth to the touch.
- Eye masks: Eye masks are great to block out light, whether you’re trying to snooze while the sun’s still up, or need to block out light filtering into your bedroom. They’re designed to fool the brain into thinking it’s time to go to sleep, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and fabrics.
- Earplugs: Is your bed partner’s snoring or your neighbor’s new drum set keeping you from falling asleep at night? Consider blocking out the noise with a good-quality pair of earplugs.
- Socks: Having a case of cold feet? Sliding on a pair of lightweight socks at bedtime can keep your tootsies cozy. A study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that wearing socks to bed2 in a cooler space led to shorter sleep onset, fewer nighttime awakenings, and more time spent asleep overall.
What You Shouldn’t Wear to Bed
If the key to good sleep is comfort, then it should go without saying you shouldn’t wear uncomfortable clothes to bed. For more clarity, here are some suggestions on what to avoid wearing to bed.
Clothing to Avoid
- Tight clothing: Binding clothes are barely tolerable when you’re awake, so why would you want to wear them to bed? This is especially important since some tight clothing can cut off circulation3 and lead to achiness, swelling, and varicose veins.
- Buttons, snaps, and tags: These items may seem innocent enough, but buttons and snaps can press into your skin, and tags can be itchy — neither of which promotes good sleep.
- Elastic that’s too tight: A lot of pajama bottoms are cinched at the waist with elastic. If the elastic is too tight, it can cause soreness and chafing.
- Scratchy lace on lingerie: Sexy, lacy lingerie is great for bedtime with your honey, but when you’re ready to sleep, it might be more comfortable and less itchy to slip off the negligee.
- Underwear: Not wearing underwear is better for your overall hygiene. That’s because your underwear can become a hotbed for bacteria and cause irritation and yeast infections. So, consider slipping them off and going commando to bed.
- Bra: Years ago, women were encouraged to wear bras to bed to prevent their breasts from sagging, but this theory has long been debunked4. If anything, a bra can cause discomfort that can make it harder to doze off.
Fabrics to Avoid
- Synthetic fabrics: Natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and bamboo are great for sleeping in. Conversely, synthetic fabrics, like polyester, spandex, and nylon will trap heat and moisture, which can make you feel hot and clammy.
- Low-quality fabrics: Generally speaking, the higher the quality of fabric used to make your sleepwear, the more comfortable. For example, high-quality cotton fabric with a low thread count is softer and more durable than low-quality cotton fabric with a high thread count.
- Wrinkle-free fabrics: If you toss and turn at night, you might wake up with wrinkled jammies and be tempted to buy PJs made with wrinkle-free fabric. However, you’ll want to reconsider that idea if you have allergies or sensitivities. The wrinkle-free agent used on fabric to make it resist wrinkles is a hazardous chemical called formaldehyde. Yep, the same probable human carcinogen used by morticians on cadavers.
Other Sleep Hindrances
- Makeup: Going to bed without washing off your makeup does more than stain your pillowcase; it can clog your pores and cause acne. Also, sleeping in mascara, eyeliner, or false eyelashes can irritate your eyes and could scratch your cornea.
- Dirty PJs: When you sleep, you shed dead skin cells, sweat, drool, and release body oils. If you don’t clean your PJs regularly, they can irritate your skin and make you sick.
- Harsh detergents: Speaking of washing your pajamas, you may want to steer clear of fragrant detergents and fabric softeners. An overpowering aroma — even if it’s pleasant — might trigger allergies or rashes and interfere with your sleep.
How to Keep Warm in Bed
If you find yourself shivering in bed at night, regardless of how many blankets you put on, then you may be missing one critical item of clothing – socks.
As you lose body heat through your feet, ensuring that these are covered up at night is essential to staying warm under the duvet. Investing in bed socks or thermal socks is an easy way to keep your temperature up.
You may also want to choose pajamas that cover more of your body and are made with fabrics that help keep you warm, like wool, flannel, or even silk.
Always sleep cold? Consider a memory foam mattress, as memory foam is known for retaining heat.
How to Stay Cool in Bed
If you sleep hot or sweat at night, your pajamas could be to blame. PJs made of synthetic fabrics can trap body heat and moisture and make you feel hot and clammy.
Switching to clothing made from natural fabrics like 100 percent cotton or bamboo are much more breathable than synthetic fabrics and can help to keep you cool and dry.
However, you could be experiencing night sweats, a condition caused by an underlying medical condition, illness, or, depending on your age and gender, menopause.
Sleep hot often? Consider exploring cooling mattresses.
As long as you feel comfortable, choosing to sleep in your birthday suit has many benefits.
Sleeping naked allows your skin to breathe and eliminates anything that could be constricting your blood flow. As a result, sleeping in the nude can help improve circulation throughout the body which benefits your heart and muscles, and reduces your risk of developing fungal infections or skin irritations.
Sleeping naked also keeps you cool, which in turn could improve your metabolism5. If you are still experiencing discomfort or night sweating after making these adjustments, your sleeping environment could be the problem rather than your sleepwear.
Our Final Thoughts
Whether you wear pajamas to bed, a favorite T-shirt, or sleep in the buff, comfort is the key to a good night’s sleep. Choose loose-fitting clothing made with breathable fabrics. (Unless you prefer your birthday suit.) Avoid harsh detergents, and don’t forget to keep your pajamas, bed linens, and body clean to prevent the buildup of bacteria or other irritants.
Along with sleeping in the right attire, fresh bed sheets or even a new mattress could increase comfort at night. Ultimately, it’s about making your sleep space as cozy and comfortable as possible.
Explore our picks for the best mattresses of 2024 here.
Lead Product Tester
Loren is the Lead Reviewer at Sleep Advisor. She has prioritized sleeping for as long as she can remember, rarely deviating from seven to nine hours each night.
Education & Credentials
- Certified Sleep Science Coach
- Domonoske, Camila. “From Foreign Garb To Fashion Fad, Pajamas Have Traveled Far”. NPR. 2014.
- Ko, Yelin., Lee, Joo-Young. “Effects of feet warming using bed socks on sleep quality and thermoregulatory responses in a cool environment”. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2018.
- “ASK DR. WISHNEW: DOES TIGHT CLOTHING CAUSE VARICOSE VEINS?”. LAM Vascular Associates. Webpage accessed February 8, 2024.
- “Is It Bad to Not Wear a Bra?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
- “Cool Temperature Alters Human Fat and Metabolism”. National Institutes of Health. 2014.