Growing up, we’d all heard some variation of the “don’t sleep with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold!” warning. In fact, most of us have heard this cautionary tale so many times, we’ve come to accept it as the universal truth. But is it really? Lovers of night showers, this one is for you.

Can Sleeping with Wet Hair Give you a Cold?

Okay, let’s get right down to business: is it bad to sleep with wet hair, and can doing so make you sick? Healthwise speaking, no, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping with wet or damp hair as you cannot really catch a cold from being physically cold. As you probably know by now, the common cold is actually a virus so you feeling chilly – or warm for that matter – has nothing to do with it.

But what if you or someone you know has really gotten sick the day after sleeping on wet hair? Well, if we are to believe science – which we most certainly do – the most reasonable explanation would be that they had contracted the virus beforehand.

So, long story short? The belief that the common cold can be caused by sleeping with wet hair is nothing but a myth. However, if you’re prone to sinus problems and headaches, you might want to dry your hair before hitting the hay as some research suggests that sleeping with wet hair could cause sinus headaches. Still, more research is necessary.

Sleeping woman in bed

Is Sleeping with Wet Hair Bad for Your Strands?

But what about your hair – can sleeping on it wet somehow cause damage to your locks? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. This is because when wet, hair is in its most fragile state and is therefore very prone to damage.

For the most part, hair is made of layers of a hard protein called keratin. On dry hair, keratins are safely ensconced in cuticles, providing a tough outer shell for each strand. But when wet, hair swells up, deforming the cuticle (that protective shell) and preventing the proteins from making their usual strong bonds. This, in turn, makes har much more prone to damage and breakage.

For this reason, you want to be especially gentle and careful with your hair when it’s wet. Unfortunately, this is not possible to do if you sleep on wet hair, whether you’re a restless sleeper or not.

So, what should you do with your hair when going to bed? Well, ideally, you should dry it with a good-quality blow dryer (or a bonnet dryer if you’re feeling fancy) before hitting the pillow. If, for whatever reason, that’s not a possibility, don’t despair – there are several things you can do to prevent hair breakage and ensure your strands are in tip-top shape, even if you decide to sleep on them when wet.

What to Do with Wet Hair Overnight

If you don’t want to give up your night showers but cannot be bothered with drying your thick hair for 30 minutes or longer, consider just getting it as dry as you can before going to bed. If all you have is 5 minutes, that’s okay – 5 minutes of blow-drying is still better than none. If you absolutely don’t want to use a blow dryer, take a good-quality microfiber towel to really get in there and soak up as much moisture as possible.

Take Advantage of the Situation

Okay, so you’ve dried your hair a little; what else can you do to help strengthen your hair throughout the night and make it look decent in the morning?

  • Deep Conditioning

If you’re going to sleep with wet hair, we suggest taking advantage of the situation, a.k.a. deep conditioning your hair while sleeping. There are two ways you can do this: either soak your hair with your favorite hydrating or protein-building mask and then wash and dry it in the morning, or use a generous amount of your leave-in conditioner and detangling spray and let your hair dry overnight. In either case, you’ll want to wear a protective wet hairstyle.

  • Protective hairstyle

By doing a protective hairstyle, you’ll not only protect your hair from breakage and tangles, but you’ll also wake up with stylish waves or curls. If you’re going for loose waves, twist your hair and secure it in a top knot using a silk ribbon or low-pressure hair tie. If you’d like more defined curls, braid your hair loosely. When you wake up, use a wide-toothed comb to separate the waves/curls and a little bit of your favorite curl cream for definition.