Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 30th Oct 2020

Is sleeping with wet hair harmful? Read on to find out

Is sleeping with wet hair harmful?

After a long tiring day, what could be better than a hot steamy bath, followed by falling into bed for some much-needed sleep?

A long, warm shower doesn’t just get you clean but also washes away the stress and exhaustion, helping you relax and fall asleep quickly afterward.

But in your hurry to jump into a cozy bed after a long-awaited shower, you often notice that your hair is still wet, and drying them up before hitting the sack may feel like an uphill task because it takes an eternity and you’re too lazy to do it.

And you end up sleeping with a sopping wet head, without giving it a second thought because after all, it’s going to dry by itself overnight anyway, right?

Although you won’t wake up with a cold or flu by simply going to bed with wet hair, other consequences can have mainly pertaining to hair health.

This article will give you the lowdown on why it is a bad idea to sleep with wet hair and what problems it can cause.

Just read until the end to know why it is widely considered a no-go! 

Side effects of sleeping with wet hair 

If you somehow forgot to dry your hair once, you needn’t worry too much as it won’t do any harm. But don’t risk into the habit of sleeping with wet hair without considering the possible dangers this habit may lead to.

Here are some of the significant downsides of hitting the pillow with damp strands. 

1). Catching a cold 

You may have often heard your protective mothers and grandmothers warning you against going to bed straight after washing your head.

While you may believe that sleeping with dripping wet hair will make you wake up sick the next morning, it turns out there is hardly any truth to it.

And to quash this common myth about wet hair and colds, Dr. Chirag Shah, MD, a board-certified emergency physician and cofounder of Push Health quotes, 

There is no evidence that one can catch a cold from going to bed with wet hair, and when one gets a cold, it is due to being infected with a virus.

Therefore, in reality, there’s no connection between falling sick with being cold. Instead, you need to be exposed to one of over 200 cold-causing viruses to catch a cold. 

2). Hair breakage 

Hair is most fragile and prone to breakages when it’s wet as its structural integrity weakens. It can swell up and absorb up to 45% of its weight in water, making the damp hair weaker than dry hair.

Furthermore, the outer cuticle layer of the hair provides protection and moisture retention. Typically, the cuticle is smooth and closed, but it gets raised when washed.

With raised cuticles, your strands become more pliable, and when they are overstretched, which often happens involuntarily during sleep as you toss and turn around, it provides tension to the hair shaft, and they break off.

This is the main reason why experienced hairdressers don't recommend sleeping with wet hair if you want your tresses to look lush and beautiful. 

3). Promotes bacterial and fungal growth 

When you go to bed straight after a shower, your pillow absorbs the moisture from your wet hair. And while your hair may dry up after some time, the pillow stays damp throughout the night.

If you are a night showerer, your poor pillow never actually gets time to dry out completely, and some moisture will always remain in its depths.
The warm and humid environment that develops inside your pillow becomes ideal for the bacteria and fungi to flourish.

According to an older study, synthetic and feather pillows contain a substantial fungal load that thrives in moist and warm environments.

Therefore, the pillows can be the primary source of infection, which may easily provoke allergies and severe health issues, including itchy eyes, bronchial asthma. 

4). Acne 

How often have you had to defend your skin against acne? 

There’s probably not a single person who hasn’t faced this very unpleasant phenomenon at least once in their lifetime!

Did you know?

Non-pubertal acne is caused by subcutaneous mites called Demodex folliculorum. They are permanent inhabitants of your skin & hair follicles and are often responsible for exacerbating the preexisting skin conditions, including rosacea

Don’t freak out though!

Demodex folliculorum mites are generally inactive. Skin problems only appear when they begin to multiply, and that happens when these insidious creatures find places that are warm and damp.

The skin near wet hair seems to be an ideal place for them, and sleeping with a wet head will only accelerate their infestation. 

5). Hateful Dandruff 

Most people can’t stand the white flakes that seem to appear on their hair out of the blue, and it's not always easy to guess that the reason might be sleeping with wet hair. 

Hateful Dandruff

If you go to bed with wet hair, you'll provide them with the freedom of action. And as soon as these cunning microorganisms feel warm and cozy, they start dividing and capture the territory. No anti-dandruff shampoo could successively conquer them

6). Morning hair disasters

Today we live in a society where everyone wishes to look good and presentable in the morning as they step out of their houses. And if you’ve ever slept with wet hair, you know perfectly well what a wild disaster may appear when you wake up, guaranteeing a bad hair day, unless you spend a lot of time holding your hair in place with curlers and other hair styling tools.

And the early morning battles with your unruly hair and struggles of taming the frizz can make you end up getting late for your work. 

7). Hair follicles under threat 

Sleeping with wet hair daily can potentially damage your hair follicles as the cuticles raise open, enabling the moisture to enter into the inner layers of hair.

This causes the hair follicles to get inflamed, and as a result, this, in turn, causes hair loss, scalp irritation and redness.

Moreover, as your pillow can absorb the moisture and natural oils from your wet hair while you're asleep, your hair gets devoid of the useful content and becomes dull and lifeless in appearance.

How to safely sleep with wet hair

No time to dry your hair before bed?

You’re so longing to hit the bed and drift off to your dreams that you can't spend any time blow drying your tresses, then here are some tips to help reduce the adverse effects of sleeping with a wet head: 

  • Dry your hair with a soft towel very thoroughly (but gently!) after washing it to remove some moisture.
  • Put a thick towel on your pillow. It will continue to absorb moisture from your hair during the night. 
  • Replace your cotton pillowcase with a satin or silk one. Satin is much softer, and your hair will be less messy and break less. 
  • Change your pillow cover every other day to avoid bacterial or fungal growth in your bedding. 
  • Studies have shown that coconut oil prevents wet hair from breakage. So, if you happen to go to bed with damp hair, apply a few drops of coconut oil to your hair’s tips.

The Takeaways 

Sleeping with wet hair can lead to a whole host of problems for your hair, scalp and skin. Figuring out a new schedule for washing your hair could always be your best bet to avoid the risk of infections and hair damage.

However, if your laziness or impatience stops you from drying your hair thoroughly, try to take some simple measures to lessen the adverse effects. You can also make sure that your hair is not sopping wet, braided, or in a tight updo.