How To Protect Your Hair While You Sleep

Young wman wearing silk pyjamas
Photo: Shutterstock
Q: I've been having trouble sleeping lately, and I toss and turn a lot. I've noticed that my hair looks really rough and knotty in the morning when I wake up, and I'm now starting to find hair on my pillow. How can I protect my hair while I'm sleeping?
A: Well, I'm not qualified to address your sleep (or "lack of") issues, and I recommend you speak to your physician about possible causes for the interruption of what you imply is a recent development in your sleeping patterns.
I can however, make some suggestions for the interim regarding protecting your hair while you sleep. It sounds to me like in your tossing and turning, you're rubbing your head (and your hair) back and forth across your pillow and this is obviously what's been roughing up your hair. You have what is known as 'bed head', though it sounds like you may be rougher on your hair than normal.
When we toss and turn, dragging or rubbing our heads and hair across the fabric of our pillows, we can snag the cuticle layer of the hair against the fibers on the pillow. This rubbing results in roughing up the surface of the hair shaft and leads to the tangles and knots you describe. It's important that in the morning when you get ready to start your day, you use care in removing these tangles to avoid breakage. A detangling spray is a good idea, as is removing any tangles and snags before you shower or shampoo your hair.
Furthermore, if you have long hair, you should consider braiding your hair before bed. By restricting the range of movement your hair can achieve at night, you minimize the amount of damage that could occur. You can also minimize the problem by using a silk or satin pillowcase to sleep on, or a silk or satin nightcap. Nightcaps may seem old-fashioned, but served a purpose for our grandmothers.
Girl wearing red satin pyjamas
Photo: Dreamstime
Silk and satin fabrics are smooth and cause much less friction against the hair. Nightcaps have the added benefit of constraining longer hair so that it doesn't get moved around and roughed as much during the night. A silk or satin pillowcase offers similar protection without what some people consider to be a less than flattering nighttime appearance. Whichever you choose, adding one or the other to your hair care arsenal can help to minimize (if not prevent) the damaging effects of bed head.
See also:
Silk and satin for healthy hair
Sleeping with freshly straightened hair
Why do we have to dry our hair before we go to sleep?
Is it better to wear silk or satin blouses to keep your hair as healthy as possible?