Sleep Experts Agree: The Right Pajamas Are Integral For Quality Zzzs

Here’s how to find what works for you.

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When my now-fiancé and I first started dating he invited me over for a symbolic progression in our relationship: the work night sleepover. As such firsts go, I was over the moon for this next step of intimacy. We sipped a cup of herbal tea, showered, brushed our teeth together, and retired to the bedroom. Then he did something that was shocking to me — he changed out of his clothes and slipped into a tissue thin tee with a chili pepper printed on it and adjusted a sleep mask over his forehead. The confidence with which he executed his sleepwear routine was both sweet and surprising and when I inquired about his strange ensemble he simply replied, “It’s my sleep outfit.”

Fast forward over four years and I’ve come to appreciate this peculiar tradition of his. When the chili pepper comes out, I know it’s time to hit the hay. And as it turns out, sleep science experts point to these types of nighttime rituals as key to helping you fall (and stay) asleep. From choosing which materials and silhouettes make you feel relaxed to tapping into the comforting routine of a nightly uniform, so much more goes into picking pajamas than you might think. Ahead, a primer on how to choose the best pieces for a good night’s rest (no vegetable patterns required).

Keep Things Cool

It’s that glorious moment — we all know it — when your mind and body finally reach that peak, sweet-spot level of sleepy when drifting off feels easy and imminent. In order to get there, however, a few things need to happen first. “Your core temperature needs to drop by a few degrees to trigger the release of melatonin, the sleepy hormone,” Kelly Murray says, who is a certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant. She explains that this is because our brains use body temperature as a method of telling time, so when the temperature naturally drops at night, our body temperature should be doing the same, signaling it’s time for rest. “If your body remains too warm, your sleep may be lighter and less restful, leaving you feeling less rejuvenated upon waking,” she says, adding that aiming for a sleeping environment between 60 to 67°F is a good rule of thumb. And obviously, what you are wearing to bed will impact your body temperature — more on that ahead.

Have A System In Place

As goes many things classified as “self care,” what you wear to sleep is often dismissed as superfluous. A luxe silk set or floaty cotton camisole and matching shorts can be written off as fashion indulgences rather than a wellness decision. But according to sleep experts, it’s an essential part of the evening. “PJs often get overlooked but I look to them as a cue to your body and mind that it is time to go to bed,” Sleep coach and Good Night Sleep CEO Alanna McGinn tells TZR. Loungewear is far more commonplace now, which means we’re often wearing the same thing all day. “Many of us go to bed wearing the same things that we cook our dinner in or clean up our kitchen in or write our work project in, and when we do that we’re weakening the association between sleep and our pajamas.” In short: It doesn’t matter what kind of pajamas you have, so long as they are different than what you’re dressed in the rest of the day.

Sleep Better NYC founder Teresa Power DeNike also sees the value in this and suggests integrating it into a consistent wind-down schedule. “For some, that's an hour-long routine of tea, meditation, shower, and reading in bed. For others, it might be a five-minute routine where you do your skin care and get to bed,” she says. “Consistency is key here — adding sleepwear and any small ‘task’ that you perform in the same order, around the same time, is a great way to train your brain to relax before bed."

Consider Your Sleep Position

If you’ve ever invested in a fancy pillow you’re probably aware that there are different styles of sleepers: back, stomach, and side. Interestingly enough, these snooze patterns can also inform the pajamas you should wear. “If you're a side sleeper, you'll want sleepwear that stretches and allows your arms and legs to move without restrictions,” Murray says, adding sleepwear with enough room around the shoulders and hips to snooze comfortably is key. “If you love being on your stomach, lightweight and non-restrictive pieces are your best bet. It allows for easier breathing and doesn't put unnecessary pressure on your tummy.” And if you’re a back sleeper, you’ll be pleased to know this is the easiest sleep position when it comes to finding the best nighttime styles. “Just keep comfort in mind and opt for soft, breathable fabrics that won't cause any discomfort,” Murray says.

Adjust Your PJs To The Season

Not to state the obvious, but seasonal temperature shifts can absolutely affect the best pajamas to help you fall asleep in (particularly if you don’t have central air conditioning). “I personally love organic cotton and linen for warmer months — more lightweight, breathable, and flowy fabrics,” Lunya founder Ashley Merrill says. She also points to silk as a great material for all transitional weather because it allows your body to maintain a cool temperature during sleep. “For chillier times of year, flannel, silk sweats, and cotton silk are essential cold weather layers and will help you stay cozy as the temperatures drop.”

Take Your Personal Needs Into Account

Of course, all these sleepwear expertise should be calculated into your own preferences. Here, a few factors worth considering:

If you’re a hot sleeper…

Generally speaking, Murray says that fabrics like soft cotton, silk, or bamboo are all good choices for sleepwear as they’re comfortable and offer breathability. You can even take it a step further and go for a material that’s designed to combat sweat. “More and more pajamas are being made with sport fleece like the same kind of material workout clothes are made from because they wick away perspiration for those night sweaters,” McGinn says, who adds that one of the most common questions she gets is whether or not hot sleepers should snooze naked. “Your body is going to sweat regardless and when you don’t have fabric to help wick away and hold that perspiration now you’re just kind of lying in your sweat, which isn’t comfortable or cozy,” she says. “So sleeping naked is not always the answer, sometimes choosing a great pajama can better help with that.”

If you’re a cool sleeper…

While it’s natural for your body temperature to fluctuate throughout the night, some sleepers find themselves consistently on the cooler side. If that’s the case for you, McGinn points to thicker pajamas made from flannels or fleece to stay cozy and comfy all night long.

If your breast size is larger….

Falling asleep comfortably with a larger chest size can be a cumbersome task, but sleepwear can help with that. “Breast size has been one of the more poignant areas of need that presented itself when talking to customers,” Merrill shares, adding that women cite support as a hot topic. “I had many women talk with me about the issue of their breasts going east and west when they lie on their back — they wanted support, but a very different type than in the day.” Because of this, she created soft and flexible bralette options with strap stability that prevents the annoyance of getting tangled up in the middle of the night. On the subject, DeNike also adds that if you’re choosing a supportive material to sleep in, avoid anything too restrictive or compressive. “It may hold in heat and restrict natural lymphatic drainage that is regulated by healthy sleep,” she says.

If you have sensitive skin…

For those who can easily break out into a rash by simply wearing a certain kind of fabric, finding sleepwear that feels comfortable and keeps your skin soft and at ease is essential. McGinn recommends wearing cotton above all else (plus, as touched on before, it’s also breathable enough for sleepers who run hot). Murray also adds that if you have any allergies or sensitive skin to avoid synthetic materials like polyester or nylon and use natural fibers instead. “They're less likely to cause any skin irritations,” she says.

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