If you have long hair, you know the struggle is real when it comes to sleeping comfortably. Beyond the surface discomfort it may cause (think pulling, tugging, and getting caught on just about anything), serious damage can be done if not properly taken care of. Experts say that little tricks such as sleeping with a silk pillowcase or sleeping with your hair neatly tied up can make a big difference in the longevity of your hair health, and by proxy, the ability for the hair to grow in length.
We spoke to two hair specialists, certified trichologist and hairstylist Shab Reslan, based in New York City, specializing in hair growth and scalp health, and Eternal Hair and Esthetics owner and hair restoration expert, Abe Ayesha, to unpack the best tips and tricks to keep long hair happy and healthy when sleeping.
Sleep With Silk
You've heard it before, and we're here to remind you again. Silk is your hair's best friend. "Silk pillowcases are an absolute game-changer as they don't pull and absorb moisture from your hair and your face," says Reslan. "Unlike regular pillowcases, the smooth silk fibers don't cause damage to your hair by creating friction and roughening up your hair’s cuticles. They also maintain better temperature control that helps prevent sweating from your head or neck that can ruin any hairstyle."
Alternatively, silk and satin bonnets are a great option to protect your hair when you sleep. "Wrap your hair in [a] silk or satin turban before sleep," says Ayesha. "While sleeping, we turn our heads back and forth throughout the night against abrasive pillow covers, and this can cause moisture loss and hair breakage."
Wear Your Hair Up
Sleeping with your hair down may seem the most comfortable, but the experts agree, sleeping with your hair up is an important step in keeping your hair healthy.
"Keeping your hair up at night is crucial for two reasons," says Reslan. "One, it protects fine and fragile hair at the nape that is prone to tangling. Two, it preserves your hairstyle or blowout by preventing kinks from sleeping on and sweating on hair. Gathering your hair up in a loose bun using french hair pins is a demarcation-free method of keeping hair up in place. The key is to make the bun high enough on top of your head to not feel it when laying down."
Avoid Sleeping With Wet Hair
This one might feel obvious, but not for the reasons you think. Sleeping on wet hair is not only uncomfortable, but can also cause damage.
"We recommend that people with long hair not sleep with wet hair," says Ayesha. "Sleeping with moisture in your hair can contribute to additional breakage and damage as you move throughout the night."
Other risks include catching a cold or getting sick, or even developing a fungal infection. If you find yourself in a bind and do need to sleep with wet hair, studies show that coconut oil can protect wet hair from breakage. Sleeping with a silk pillow, detangling the hair, and wearing it in a loose bun can also help further protect the hair from the risks of breakage.
Utilize Hair Masks
The only thing better than a good night's sleep is a good night's sleep AND hair repair. "Sleep time is a great opportunity to strengthen and repair long locks with an overnight repair mask, leave-in conditioner, or hydrating serum," says Ayesha.
Ditch Elastic Hair Bands
You've heard it before and we'll tell you again, elastic hair bands are simply not it when it comes to keeping your hair healthy. Some hair ties can cause damage by pulling or harming the cuticle, but luckily, there are options to help avoid such issues.
"Using elastic hair bands always results in hair being pulled from the follicle, so it’s not recommended," Ayesha says. "Instead, try a spiral cord hair tie rather than elastic or fabric."
Stay Cool (Literally)
Sleeping in hot temperatures is generally not ideal, but it can also be unhealthy for your hair. "Sleeping in cooler temperatures is not only good for quality sleep but prevents excess sweating that can exacerbate hair tangling if your hair is left down," Reslan says.
While most of these tips are simple and easily done, they can make an impactful difference on hair health. Whether it be a silk hair tie to keep the locks out of your face at night, or turning the air conditioning up one degree to prevent night sweats, your hair will thank you for the extra TLC.