Learning how to sleep with curly hair so you wake up with less tangles, curls intact, and ready to “bounce” into the morning is easy. And there’s more that you can do than sleeping on a silk pillowcase. You can adjust the moisture levels of your hair, change your diet or when you consume certain foods and drinks, and try the pineapple technique. But before you learn how to sleep with curly hair, it’s important to find out why curly hair is impacted by sleeping.
There are 3 main culprits that cause you to wake up with tangled, frizzy, or misshapen curls: pressure, friction, and moisture (too much or too little). Pressure flattens and mishappens the curls, friction pulls and tugs at them pulling artificial curls loose, and moisture levels can cause frizzing and tangling. We get into each of these in more detail below with eight solutions you can use based on your curly hair needs.
Reduce the Pressure
Pressure from your head against the pillow can cause your curls to lose their shape while you sleep or even put an unsightly kink in them. There are three ways you can help to fight the pressure on your curls so you can sleep tight, and keep your looping locks in tact.
The Pineapple Technique
Gather your curls into a loose high ponytail on top of your head and use a scrunchie or a spiral hair tie to secure it. Your hair will stay up high and roll side to side vs. being under your head which helps to reduce the pressure.
Elastic hair ties, and ones that rip add additional friction as they slide on and out of your hair. Friction can cause damage to your curls and defeats the purpose of protecting them. The goal of pineappling is to keep your hair on top of your head and away from the pillow, even when you’re deep in dreamland.
A body pillow can keep you stable and comfortable all night, and good sleep hygiene helps your body’s circadian rhythms stay in sync. This can result in less tossing and turning. With less movement back and forth, there’s less pressure being rolled out across your curly hair, making it a better way to sleep with less potential for damage. Also, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol can lessen restless sleep (tossing and turning), so skip that evening latte and go decaf if you have to have one (1).
Keep the Temperature Just Right
When you set the thermostat at night go for the perfect sleep zone. The range for optimal sleep temperature (2) is between 60-68 degrees, so experiment within that range and see what works best for you so you’re not tossing around throughout the night.
Reduce Friction to Protect Your Curls
Friction is the “root” of many “hairy” mornings. It's a double whammy because your hair can rub against the pillow and against itself. There are multiple ways to reduce friction, and some can give your hair a little more shine when you rise. Reducing friction is one of the best ways to protect curly hair when you’re sleeping, so give one of these three strategies a try.
Sleep on Satin or Silk
Switching to a silk or satin pillowcase will benefit both your curls and your skin! Silk and satin absorb less moisture than cotton, and lets your hair and skin glide across the fabric to reduce friction. And if you want to go the extra mile, you can try medical or cervical pillows that support your neck, but don’t touch (most of) your head. This helps reduce both friction and pressure.
Use Combs vs Brushes
Brushes cause more damage than combs (2) as there is more friction on your curls, and brushes can result in more breakage or shedding. Remember to use a hair spritz or conditioner before you comb out your gorgeous curls to keep them moist and healthy.
Wash with Cold Water
If you shower before bed, wash with cold water so the cuticles on your hair strands lie flat. This reduces friction when they rub together at night, and also adds an extra shine to your hair (they don’t actually make your hair shinier, but they make the light reflect off of it in a way that makes it appear shinier).
Find the Sweet Spot for Your Hair’s Moisture
Learning the right moisture balance is key when finding the right way to sleep with curly hair. And by not being too moist or too dry, you can avoid some health issues for your scalp and work to prevent excess shedding and breakage.
Avoid Sleeping with Wet Hair
Wet hair can stretch up to 50%, and then shrink as it dries. When it does this, you risk breakage to your curls. Besides, wet hair at night combined with the heat of your head can cause fungus and even mold to grow on your head (1.). And don’t believe the myth that towel drying or air drying is better than blow drying.
Air drying can cause moisture in your hair to evaporate, causing damage to the inner cell matrix of your hair, and towel drying causes friction. Instead, use a blow dryer set to a cool breeze, and keep it at least 6 inches away while moving it around to prevent damage.
Use Coconut Oil for Your Curls
Your hair naturally swells and contracts from any kind of moisture, from a shower to the humidity in the air. Too much of this swell/contract cycle causes damage called “hygral fatigue,” which leads to breakage and frizz. Fortunately coconut oil does double duty to hydrate and protect your hair. While most oils only cover your hair, coconut oil (2) penetrates the hair shaft helping to keep it moisturized and preventing protein loss (your hair is made of Keratin, which is a protein). But remember, moderation is key. Too much of anything on your hair can weigh down your curls, causing them to lose their bounce and volume.
With these tips on how to sleep with curly hair you can drift off into dreamland knowing you and your curls will bounce right up in the morning after a well rested night.