Can you sleep on wet hair?

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

Can you sleep on your hair wet without it turning into an overnight disaster?

We’ve all been there, you’ve had a long day at the office, went straight to after-work drinks, and by the time you get home its 11 pm and you need to wash your hair before bed but you don’t have the time to blowdry or airdry. Surely one night every now and again of sleeping on wet hair won’t hurt, right? You jump in the shower, rough dry your hair with your normal towel and jump into bed vowing to “deal with it” in the morning.

The nightmarish reality of sleeping with wet hair means waking up with flat, frizzy, fluffy, crumpled hair that can take forever to tame. Curls are crushed, straight hair is squashed and it can be a nightmare to get unruly frizz back under control.

So can you sleep on your hair wet without it turning into an overnight disaster? While it’s not a good idea and not something you should do on a regular basis, there are a few tricks to minimising the damage.

Is sleeping with wet hair bad for my hair?

Wet hair is hair in its most fragile state. When your hair is wet, the water molecules cause your hair strands to swell which weakens the internal structure. This makes your hair much more susceptible to breakage. If you move around a lot during the night, this will cause your hair to become tangled and knotted. So while sleeping with wet hair might not be putting extra strain on your hair per se, sleeping with your hair wet loose can cause more tangles and knotting.

woman-in-towel-with-wet-hair

How to sleep with wet hair without ruining it

Firstly, when we say wet hair, we mean damp, towel-dried hair. you should at the very least, towel dry, air dry or blast your hair with a hairdryer on a medium setting to get some of the excess moisture out of it. The drier it is, the less damage it is susceptible to. Going to bed with soaking wet hair will just mean your pillowcase will absorb all the excess moisture. This, plus the warmth of the environment makes it the ideal place for bacteria to breed. This can lead to skin issues, dandruff, scalp dermatitis and fungal infections if you sleep with your hair wet night after night, which can lead to hair loss.

Second, don’t forgo a leave-in product. Creams, sprays, leave-in conditioner or oils depending on your hair type will help to keep bedhead and frizz to a minimum. Once you have applied your product, make sure your hair is brushed through thoroughly to detangle and smooth your hair.

Once you have applied your leave-in treatment, prep your hair for sleeping in a protective style. This will prevent it from getting tangled overnight. Loose french or dutch braids, two-strand twists and buns are the most popular. Remember to use fabric hair ties or silk scrunchies as these will be gentler on your hair. and won’t leave any marks or dents in your hair. Finally, investing in a silk hair wrap or silk pillowcase to reduce the friction against your hair. This will help to keep your hair in place overnight and reduce frizz and dryness while your overnight treatment moisturises your hair.

Braids

If you want soft waves that make it look like you spent the day on a beach, apply a  mousse to your hair from roots to tip, and then split your hair into two sections. Braid each section and secure it with snag-free bands. Loosen the braids a little by pulling them apart. In the morning, unravel the braids and run your fingers through your hair until you get it where you like it. Set with a sea salt spray.

Buns

The bun is a tried and true practice for giving you easy volume and a soft wave, as well as protecting fine hair. The best way to do the bun is to pull your hair back as you would for a ponytail, and then twist it around itself. Secure it with a scrunchie and a few bobby pins depending on the length of your hair, and then cover your head with a silk wrap to keep it in place.

Plopping

A not-so-secret curly girl method to keeping your curls looking their best. Flip your hair over and pile it on top of your head. Wrap everything tightly with a microfiber towel, and secure it with a fabric hair tie or scrunchie if needed. In the morning, release your hair and fluff. Avoid using a brush as this can cause your hair to frizz. This method isn’t well-suited for those with long, thick hair.

Can sleeping on wet hair make you sick?

In short, no. Despite the myths, going to bed with wet hair will not cause a cold. This stems from the idea that you can catch a cold by physically being cold. But, to get sick or get a cold is the result of exposure to a virus or viral infection, so sleeping on wet hair won’t give you a cold. However, hair experts agree that it’s always best to sleep with thoroughly dried hair to protect your strands. If you prefer to sleep with wet hair, apply a deep conditioner to treat your hair while you sleep, then wrap it with a protective fabric or style it in a braid to prevent potential damage.

Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.