The Science Behind Wearing Socks to Bed – and its Impact on Sleep Apnea

Sleep is undoubtedly one of the most underrated daily activities that is often taken for granted -- until we develop problems when we get too little sleep. 

Perhaps you’ve developed habits to help you get a good night’s sleep. Some prefer soft pillows while others might desire white noise or a humidifier. However, what about sleeping with socks on?

Not only will socks provide a greater degree of comfort during the colder months, but researchers have discovered a host of additional benefits – especially pertinent to people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The Issue of Core Body Temperature

Sleeping allows the body to perform many important tasks even if we are unaware it’s happening. The restorative nature of sleep is vital to repair damaged tissues, to eliminate toxins, and to regulate brain functions. 

As we are at rest and burning fewer calories, our basal metabolic rate (BMR) will also slow significantly. This ultimately leads to a body temperature drop of between one and two degrees, sometimes referred to as "thermoregulation.ow is this related to our feet?

When our feet become too cold, the body will be signaled to raise its core temperature. The problem here is that higher internal temperature during the night can cause us to stay awake longer. It can also result in broken sleep, hindering the natural recovery processes that would otherwise occur. 

In other words, covering our feet with socks will keep them at the optimal temperature. This also helps to augment blood circulation and ultimately, to lower our core temperature at a more efficient rate. 

Additional Benefits to Appreciate

Now that we have addressed the relationship between warm feet and core body temperature, we can move on to discuss other advantages of sleeping with socks on. 

For example, did you know that those who suffer from Reynaud's disease (a condition associated with poor circulation to the extremities) are less likely to experience discomfort if their feet are covered? 

Women who regularly experience hot flashes may also find that wearing socks to bed will help. This is once again because improved overall circulation will help the body to dissipate heat more efficiently. 

If you happen to be struggling with the side effects of menopause, a pair of socks could very well work wonders – helping you sleep better. 

Another interesting benefit of sleeping with a pair of socks involves sexual satisfaction. Several studies have found that those who wear socks to bed are up to 30 percent more likely to achieve an orgasm. Although more research needs to be done, it is thought that these results are at least partially due to increased blood circulation. 

What is the Relationship with Sleep Apnea?

We should first remember that obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that involves a narrowing of the airways during the overnight hours. This leads to symptoms such as:

  • Excessive snoring
  • Awakening on numerous occasions
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Tiredness and lethargy throughout the day

Slipping a pair of socks on could have some benefits that impact your sleep apnea severity, research shows.

One of these advantages involves the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. You might suffer from both disorders, and one will affect the severity of the other. 

However, one study concluded that warming one's feet for 20 minutes before going to bed can reduce instances of insomnia by up to 20 percent. Simply stated, this could very well represent a powerful remedy for those who might otherwise toss and turn for hours. 

Comfort is the other logical side effect that is often attributed to warm hands and feet. Individuals who can relax in bed are obviously more likely to doze off faster and to obtain a solid night of sleep. 

Since the other sleep apnea symptoms are being proactively addressed with PAP therapy, the chances are high that the restorative benefits of rest will once again be enjoyed. 

What Types of Socks are the Best?

Are you interested in leveraging the potential effects of socks? If so, what type of fabric is appropriate? 

This depends partially on personal taste. However, it is a good idea to choose a pair of socks that allow your feet to breathe. This is why porous materials such as cotton are often preferred over polyester and synthetics. 

Furthermore, it is important that the socks are not too tight. This might otherwise impede blood flow, detracting from the purpose. You might experiment with different fabrics and brand names. You can then make an informed choice.

More than Covered Feet Alone

There is indeed a relationship between sleeping with socks on and addressing common problems such as insomnia. Still, we need to recall that obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that often requires intervention. 

One common technique involves the use of a positive airway pressure (PAP) device so your airways will remain unobstructed during the overnight hours. 

Lifestyle suggestions may include:

  • Avoiding caffeine after 12 noon.
  • Adopting a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Abstaining from cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Managing your weight.
  • Getting plenty of daily exercise.

Whether you are aiming to keep your sleep apnea in check -- or you simply want to enjoy a solid night of rest -- a mere pair of socks could provide surprising benefits. Be sure to speak with your doctor or a sleep specialist if you wish to learn more.