You must have heard the old wives’ tale at some point or the other in your life about not sleeping with wet hair and that it will make you sick. While there is little evidence to back this up with any scientific explanation behind this belief, it is highly likely that most women have often ignored this warning and gone to bed with wet hair. After all, in today’s busy world where we are continuously running round the clock, it sometimes becomes challenging to find time to wash your hair.
Should You Sleep With Wet Hair & What are Its Risks?
Many times we simply have a late night shower and then go straight to bed, too tired to blow dry our wet hair. While sleeping with wet hair is not going to make you sick, but there are other risks attached to it. However, you still need to be aware of these risks before thinking that you can simply hit the bed with wet hair every night. Let us look at some of these risks.
Severe Hair Breakage
Most people generally believe that the most significant risk of going to bed with wet hair is going to make you catch a cold. However, the biggest risk of going to bed with wet hair is that it leads to severe hair breakage. Wet hair is at its weakest. This is why it is not surprising then that you end up increasing the amount of breakage when you go to bed with wet hair. As you turn in your sleep, the friction causes the hair to break more quickly than when the hair is dry.
Many people think that allowing the hair to air dry instead of using a blow drier, but with the amount of breakage going to bed with wet hair causes, it is much better to apply heat and dry the hair before you head off to bed.
Risk of Fungal Infections
Even though going to sleep with wet hair is not going to give you a cold, but it will significantly increase the risk of developing a fungal infection on your scalp.(1) Malassezia(2), a type of fungi, is known to cause conditions such as dermatitis(3) and dandruff.(4) This is why experts recommend going to sleep with dry hair as much as possible.
Remember that the risk of a fungal infection is not only limited to your scalp, but even the pillows on your bed can be a hotbed for fungus, especially if you go to bed regularly with wet hair. Fungus thrives in warm and moist environments, and a damp pillow and pillowcase are the best breeding ground for fungi like Malassezia.(5)
A study done on the amount of fungal flora found on bedding materials discovered that there were between 4 to 15 different species of fungi present in each pillow that was tested.(6) This also included Aspergillus fumigatus, which is one of the most common species of fungus known to cause severe infections in people who have a weakened immune system.(7)(8) Aspergillus fumigatus also worsens the symptoms of asthma.(9)
Other Risks Associated with Sleeping With Wet Hair
- Sleeping With Wet Hair Will Make You Feel Cold: When you sleep with wet hair in an air-conditioned room or during the winter season, then it will make you feel much colder. This is why it is better to blow dry your hair before sleeping.
- It takes more time to style your hair: As the hair dries and sets into place, it becomes more difficult for you to style your hair in the morning. During sleep, the wet hair gets twisted into all types of knots and styles, and once it dries while you are sleeping, it sets in that manner itself. The crown of the head and the ends of the hair are going to be especially troublesome. So either you will end up spending a lot of time restyling your hair, or you will have to ultimately use heat tools to style it, which beats the purpose of air drying your hair in any case.
- Weakens Your Immune System: While you cannot catch a virus from sleeping with wet hair, but going to bed with damp hair will weaken your immune system and make it more likely for you to catch a cold or flu virus.
- Dandruff: Warmth of your head, combined with the prolonged wetness of the hair creates an ideal environment for the formation of bacteria and fungi. Going to bed with wet hair also strips away the natural oils from your hair, and they get absorbed by the pillowcase. This combination of bacterial and fungal growth also increases the risk of developing dandruff.(10)
- Sleeping With Wet Hair Can Cause Hair Loss: Sleeping with wet hair increases the risk of hair loss due to more breakage of hair. At the same time, you can also start losing hair due to scalp ringworm. Scalp ringworm is a particular type of fungal infection of the scalp that thrives in warm and moist conditions. Ringworm is a highly contagious infection, so if you are diagnosed with this infection, you need to ensure that you wash everything that has come into contact with your head.(11)
- Makes Your Hair Appear Dull: Sleeping with wet hair means that the extra water from the hair will get absorbed into your pillowcase. When this happens, along with the excess moisture, the natural oils present on your scalp and hair also get absorbed into the fabric of your pillowcase. This will make your hair appear much duller, and you will even notice your hair starts looking dry and dehydrated without these natural oils. Again, dry and dehydrated hair is much more prone to damage and breakage.
- Sleeping With Wet Hair Can Also Cause An Acne Breakout: If you are regularly sleeping with wet hair, then the chances are high that your pillow is a hotbed of bacteria and fungi already. This increases the risk of developing an acne breakout due to the bacteria present on the pillow. This is why it is better to dry your hair before you go to bed. Or at least not make a regular habit of going to bed with wet hair.
Going to bed with wet hair is not a good idea. It’s not because it can make you sick, but because it can be bad for your hair and even your face. Try to go to bed with completely dry hair as much as possible to lower the risk of scalp infections and hair breakage and damage.
When you wake up after a night spent sleeping with wet hair, you will only be greeted with a tangled mess that you will have to sort out in the morning. This is why it is always better to avoid going to sleep with wet hair as much as possible.
- Starr, D. (2020). Fungal Scalp Infection (Scalp Ringworm) | Diagnosis and Treatmnet. [online] Patient.info. Available at: https://patient.info/infections/fungal-infections/fungal-scalp-infection-scalp-ringworm [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].
- Gupta, A.K., Batra, R., Bluhm, R., Boekhout, T. and Dawson Jr, T.L., 2004. Skin diseases associated with Malassezia species. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51(5), pp.785-798.
- Sugita, T., Takashima, M., Shinoda, T., Suto, H., Unno, T., Tsuboi, R., Ogawa, H. and Nishikawa, A., 2002. New yeast species, Malassezia dermatis, isolated from patients with atopic dermatitis. Journal of clinical microbiology, 40(4), pp.1363-1367.
- DeAngelis, Y.M., Gemmer, C.M., Kaczvinsky, J.R., Kenneally, D.C., Schwartz, J.R. and Dawson Jr, T.L., 2005, December. Three etiologic facets of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis: Malassezia fungi, sebaceous lipids, and individual sensitivity. In Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings (Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 295-297). Elsevier.
DANDRUFF, O., Hair care and anti-dandruff.
- Woodcock, A.A., Steel, N., Moore, C.B., Howard, S.J., Custovic, A. and Denning, D.W., 2006. Fungal contamination of bedding. Allergy, 61(1), pp.140-142.
- Latgé, J.P., 1999. Aspergillus fumigatus and aspergillosis. Clinical microbiology reviews, 12(2), pp.310-350.
- Amin, R., Dupuis, A., Aaron, S.D. and Ratjen, F., 2010. The effect of chronic infection with Aspergillus fumigatus on lung function and hospitalization in patients with cystic fibrosis. Chest, 137(1), pp.171-176.
- Bernton, H.S., 1930. Asthma due to a mold—Aspergillus fumigatus. Journal of the American Medical Association, 95(3), pp.189-191.
- Headandshoulders.com. (2020). Can wet hair damage your scalp?. [online] Available at: https://www.headandshoulders.com/en-us/healthy-hair-and-scalp/non-hair-care/can-wet-hair-damage-your-scalp [Accessed 31 Jan. 2020].
- Seebacher, C., Abeck, D., Brasch, J., Cornely, O., Daeschlein, G., Effendy, I., Ginter‐Hanselmayer, G., Haake, N., Hamm, G., Hipler, C. and Hof, H., 2007. Tinea capitis: ringworm of the scalp. Mycoses, 50(3), pp.218-226.