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Sleeping With Wet Hair: Is It Really Harmful?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Feb 13, 2023

Sleeping With Wet Hair: Is It Really Harmful?

Going to bed with wet hair does not raise the likelihood of being sick. However, in warm, humid settings, sleeping with wet hair might increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infections on the scalp or face.

The Effects Of Sleeping With Wet Hair

Myths that have been passed down from generation to generation may lead individuals to believe that sleeping with wet hair can make them sick. For instance, some think that going to bed when the hair is still wet (or even going outside with wet hair) can trigger colds

According to authorities, simply having damp hair doesn’t make people sick. Colds are due to virus infection. And the only way to get one is to come into contact with one. In other words, there is no evidence to suggest a connection between having damp hair and the common cold.

However, a 2016 study revealed that drops in temperature and humidity over several days may raise people’s vulnerability to rhinovirus infections, which are the primary cause of colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses.

Why Sleeping With Wet Hair Is Not Good

If there’s no solid connection between being sick with the common cold and going to bed with your hair wet, what are the possible reasons why it’s not recommended? Here are some:

Increased risk for fungal infection

The malassezia fungus, which can cause skin problems, including seborrheic dermatitis, is naturally present in the scalp. The thing is, sleeping with wet hair can dampen the pillow and pillowcase. And they can serve as a breeding ground. Furthermore, reports say there are numerous species of fungus per pillow, and they, too, might cause infections. 

It can damage the hair

Sleeping when the hair is not yet dry may cause it to extend past acceptable lengths. Wet hair expands by about 30% of its original length without causing damage. However, hair stretching between 30 and 70% causes irreversible changes.

It can lead to uncomfortable sleep

According to a 2015 study, people’s heads lose more heat when exposed to low temperatures, which can happen when the hair is wet. As a result, you might have an uncomfortable sleep. 

It can increase the likelihood of having dandruff

A 2019 research claimed that the cold and damp circumstances of winter aggravate dandruff. The same study showed that a balance of bacteria and fungi may also contribute to the problem. Wet hair may cause heat loss, which could aggravate dandruff.

It may cause other skin conditions

Wet hair might harbor bacteria. Hair that is wet for lengthy periods of time, such as overnight, may raise the likelihood of problems involving bacteria. For instance, hair follicles under the skin that are full with sebum or bacteria can cause acne.

What To Do If You Can’t Help But Sleep With Your Hair Wet

If drying your hair fully before bed is just not an option, here are some things you can do to make sleeping with wet hair as safe as possible: use coconut oil or hair conditioner.  

Coconut oil can help reduce protein loss. On the other hand, conditioners facilitate hair detangling by sealing the hair cuticle, reducing friction. Frequently conditioning or chemically altering your hair can be even more advantageous. 

You can also consider using silk pillowcases. Some suggest that silk pillowcases are better for skin since they are less drying and offer a smooth surface as you sleep. Gentler surface may also aid in decreasing the damage if you go to bed with wet hair — or dry, for that matter, even though there is no proof of its benefits for hair.

Key Takeaways

Although sleeping and wearing wet hair can’t cause a cold, they do have certain drawbacks including hair breakage and a potential increase in yeast and fungal overgrowth on the hair. As a result, some people may decide to change their schedule to allow more time for drying their hair.

People might want to refrain from using tight bands, heat-based style products, and combs with narrow teeth, among other habits that could harm their hair.

Speaking with a doctor or dermatologist may help them identify the greatest hair care products on the market.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Feb 13, 2023

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