Keeping long hair protected while you’re sleeping can become a bit of a hairy situation. If you’ve ever woken up with your long hair curled up in a frizz ball, tangled up, or matted down, you know the struggle.
When you have long hair, sleeping without securing it properly can lead to more than just a bad hair day. Over time, your sleep habits can lead to hair breakage and other damage.
Let’s cover the basics of sleeping with long hair. No matter your hair type and whether it’s color-treated or chemically straightened, you’ll find some tips on how to treat your hair right while you sleep.
Most proven ways to protect long hair while you sleep center on products that you apply overnight and hairstyling strategies to prevent breakage. Environmental factors, like moisture in your hair and your bedding, can also play a role.
Use a silk or satin pillowcase
This is a big one. If you tend to toss and turn in bed, your hair is rubbing against the thread fibers in your pillow each time you move. This can stress your hair and lead to frizz. Ultimately, it can even cause breakage.
A pillowcase with silk or satin fibers may reduce the amount of friction on your hair as you sleep. As an added bonus, these types of pillowcases may reduce the stretch and stress of your skin while you sleep, helping to stave off wrinkles caused by aging. Satin and silk are hypoallergenic and cooling fibers, as opposed to cotton.
Time your showers differently
If you go to sleep with even a small bit of moisture in your hair, it may be contributing to hair breakage or matted hair in the morning. Your hair strands are at their weakest when they contain moisture. Even the soundest sleeper will move their head a bit during the course of a night’s slumber, and that movement is more likely to tangle wet tresses.
If your schedule allows, try to wash your hair at an hour when it has plenty of time to
Wrap your hair in a scarf or wrap
A hair wrap or scarf can mean that you’re not losing sleep over denting or crushing your freshly styled hair. Depending on your hair type, you might prefer to use a silk or satin material to reduce friction even more while you sleep.
By carefully wrapping your hair and tucking in any stray pieces away from your neck, you’re also avoiding any humidity or sweat that can get your hair frizzy.
Sleeping with your hair wrapped works best if you prefer to wake up with a smooth, straight hairstyle. Adding long bobby pins to your wrapped hair will make it extra secure and enhance the straightening effect. Brush your hair after you wake up and you’ll be good to go in the morning.
Brush before bed
Consider adding another kind of brushing to your bedtime regimen. By brushing out tangles or snarls from your hair before you go to bed, you’re being proactive about frizz and matted hair. You don’t have to take a long time to do it. Depending on your hair type, a simple paddle brush or a wide-toothed comb will work to brush out your hair before your style it for the night and go to sleep.
Switch to scrunchies
Elastic hairbands are the typical go-to when you’re securing your hair for the evening. But these elastics can actually put stress on your hair and scalp as they pull your hair back. This friction causes frizz and breakage. You might as well be sleeping with a rubber band in your hair.
Instead, tie hair back into a top knot using a fabric scrunchie made with, you guessed it, silk or satin. This will give your hair a break from the friction. You’ll be less likely to wake up with a visible “dent” in your hair where you pulled it back, so you’ll save valuable styling time in the morning.
Protect ends with an essential oil
The ends of your hair can bear the brunt of damage that happens while you sleep. Even if you sleep on your back, you might end up crushing longer locks without even knowing it.
You can help protect your ends by using essential oils before you head to bed. Argan oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or even coconut oil are all good places to start. Secure your hair in a braid or with a fabric scrunchie, then warm a few drops of the oil between your palms by rubbing your hands together. You only need a tiny bit. Apply the oil to your hair, focusing especially on the ends. This can help seal your hair against friction and prevent split ends from getting started.
Condition your hair while you sleep
Just because your hair should be dry when you sleep, doesn’t mean it should be drying out and dehydrated when you wake up. If you wake up often with hair that’s frizzy and hard to tame, a leave-in conditioner may be the answer. Before styling and securing your hair for the night, a spritz or two of leave-in conditioner with protein or keratin may actually strengthen your strands while you snooze.
The best leave-in conditioner will vary depending on your hair type. Hair that’s prone to drying out will thrive with a leave-in conditioner that hydrates. Hair that tends to be oily might benefit from a leave-in that’s a lighter formula with botanical extracts and not a lot of other extras. Formulas that come in a spray bottle and are meant to be applied to dry hair are your best bet.
Sleep with braids
If you want to wake up with wavy locks instead of navigating tangles, try braiding your long hair before bed. Any type of braid will do, whether it’s a single braid, several smaller braids, or even a French braid, if you want to get fancy.
Secure your braid at the bottom using a small scrunchie instead of an elastic. If you want to give your hair extra protection, you can arrange the braid as a top knot on your head or simply wrap the braid and secure it to your head, away from the nape of your neck. This will keep your hair free from sweat, moisture, and friction.
Use a hair serum or hair mask
Lightweight hair serum can help tame frizz while you are sleeping, as can a hair mask that’s safe for overnight use. Keep in mind that you’re not looking to make your hair damp or swell the follicles of your hair with any product that you use overnight. You’re simply looking to add and seal in moisture, without adding weight or friction to your hair.
Avoid anything with an acidic component (like citric acid or apple cider vinegar), as those are not safe to keep on your hair for more than 6 hours. Also, avoid heavy protein additives like egg, which can weigh down your hair and make breakage more likely. Stick with light botanicals (like peppermint oil or aloe vera) that can seal in shine, stimulate your scalp, and make detangling easier in the morning.
Plug in a fan or humidifier in your bedroom
Any form of heat can zap moisture out of the air, taking a toll on your hair. That can include the heating unit in your bedroom.
Keep the air current moving in your room with a fan so that you don’t get sweaty at night and wake up with damp hair. You may also consider a humidifier to add moisture back into your bedroom’s air.
The best way to protect long hair while you sleep is to gently secure it. Sleeping with free-flowing tresses may sound picturesque, but the reality is that you’re likely going to wake up with a sweaty, tangled mess if you don’t find a way to secure your hair overnight.
The secret is not to pull your hair so tightly against your head that it puts pressure on the scalp while you sleep. Your hair should be secure enough that it can’t snarl or tangle, but not styled in a way that encourages friction or breakage.
Good options for wearing your hair to bed include:
- a loose, functional top knot piled at the crown of your head and secured with a fabric scrunchie
- one or more loose braids at the nape of your neck
- hair wrapped in a headscarf or turban
The things that you don’t do with your hair at night can be as important as following the tips above and securing your hair gently for the evening. Since long hair is prone to breaking and getting tangled, it’s especially important to keep these things in mind when you’re trying to preserve longer locks.
- Don’t sleep with your hair in a ponytail. Use one of the other styles above, like a loose bun or braid.
- Avoid metal clips and elastics. Switch to a more sleep-friendly option, like a satin scrunchie.
- Don’t fall asleep with wet hair. And even if you can’t avoid it, at least secure your hair and brush it out before you fall asleep.
It’s possible to protect (and even nourish) your long locks while you sleep. This process can involve a bit of trial and error, so you may want to try the tips above one at a time to see what’s going to work for you.
Consider your hair type and whether your hair already has damage from chemical treatments as you decide what might work best. If you’re worried about breakage and frizz, ask a hair care professional to see if they have any other ideas for your specific hair concerns.