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Bedhead: Is it OK to Sleep With Wet Hair ?

By Amalah

Dearest Amalah,

I work an irregular schedule, with shifts ranging anywhere from 7 AM to 11 PM, with a 30 minute commute. I just cannot bring myself to wake up early enough to shower in the morning. My hair is long-ish and extremely thick and even in winter it can take anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes to completely blow dry it. Add in the actual shower, skin care regimen, makeup application, and getting dressed and I’m looking at over an hour to get ready, and I haven’t even eaten breakfast!

Obviously I prefer to shower at night, but I do not prefer what that does to my hair. Is it better to shower at night, sleep with wet hair, and dry it in the morning? Or dry it at night? If I dry it at night, how do I use product in the morning and not look like, you know… I slept with wet hair?

Please guide me, as you have never failed me in the past.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of sleep or caffeine or what, but I keep rereading this question and…coming up with nothing. Even though I feel like I should have something. I feel like one time, long ago, I read a whole thing about haircare tips tailored for those who shower at night. But since I simply cannot shower at night, I didn’t retain any of the information. (When I sleep my hair — even ultra-clean and freshly showered hair — gets crazy oily. I have never found any solution to this problem, other than to shower and shampoo every morning and to marry the first man who ever said my oily gross bedhead looked “cute.”)
Some cursory online searching and reading mostly came up with warnings against sleeping on wet hair — your hair is so very very delicate when it’s wet, so even the slightest tossing and turning on your pillow will cause breakage and frizz. One haircare forum suggested loosely braiding it before going to bed, but I cannot advocate using hair bands or fasteners on wet hair, even at the very ends, no matter what.

(I also found a lot of sites arguing about whether sleeping with wet hair gives you headaches, which definitely strikes me as an old wives tale, with possibly a grain of truth for those who pull their wet hair into ponytails at night. Ouch to that, for both your hair and scalp.)

Of course, when I was growing up, my mom used to put my wet hair in sponge rollers at night and wrap my head in a kerchief for holidays and special occasions. I woke up with bouncy soft curls (and maybe a few dents in my head) and my hair survived just fine. If your hair is overall pretty healthy and not processed or overly fine, sleeping with wet hair probably isn’t going to immediately equal doom and breakage. But I’d still advise trying to limit the number of times you do it every week.

So. If you dry your hair before bed, how do make it look decent in the morning? The easiest answer is to apply more water, either with a wet comb or a spray bottle. Spritz the bent/flat parts and comb them out or quickly blast them with the blow-dryer.
Another option is to embrace the bedhead and incorporate into your style. Scrunching/curling products like Catwalk’s Frisky, Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray and Fekkai’s Wave Creating Spray can all be used on dry or slightly damp hair and create tousled, messy looks. Stick with sprays (instead of creams or waxes) and just make sure the bottle says it can be used on dry hair.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Meghan

    November 16, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    I may be breaking all of the hair commandments, but I sleep with wet hair about 3-4 times a week, and I think it looks better on those mornings than how my hair looks on the days when I shower in the morning.
    After showering I squeeze as much water as possible out of my hair, and go about my dry off-put on pajamas-apply moisturizer routine. That takes about 20 minutes, and by that time my hair has the “toweled dry” level of moisture going on. I take a pea-sized amount of pomade and rub it between my hands to spread it evenly and heat it up a bit. I flip my head over, and run my hands through all over. Flip back up, and get the top parts with whatever’s remaining on my hands. I take a minute to finger comb and make sure there are no tangles, and then go to bed. I lay down and I pull my hair out behind me on the pillow, kind of fanned out, and I wake up with shiny hair and lots of volume. In the morning I use a pick to comb through, and I’m out the door.
    This will make you look like a fluff ball if your hair is chin-length or shorter, but I find that my slightly longer than that stick straight hair gets great volume, and the ends fall into nice layers. I do essentially the same thing when I shower in the morning, I just add a little heat protection cream to the other product, apply the same way, and then blow dry upside down. I have no idea if this would have the same results for anyone else, but it works for me.

  • Ginnie

    November 16, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I take my showers at night. I towel it dry and spray a leave-in conditioner all over and let my hair air dry. By the time I go to bed, it is usually damp, not really wet. When I wake in the morning, it is quite a sight. I wet my hair just enough to make it stylable (is that a word?)but not sopping wet, add styling products and blow dry. My hair is layered but thick, and the longest part is shoulder length. I’ve have been doing this for a few years (aren’t kids great?) and my highlighted-several-times-a-year hair has not suffered.

  • Morgan

    November 16, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I sleep on my wet hair occasionally, because it gives me cascading waves that I can’t get any other way. (Okay, I probably could with a lot of work but I’m lazy.) I was talking to friends about this same thing (my hair is so thick it often takes 4 hours to dry, even in this very dry climate), and several had the same suggestion – shower as soon as you get home from work, so it’s dry by the time you go to bed.

  • Olivia

    November 16, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Over the past 1.5 yrs I’ve been growing my hair out and using a blow dryer takes way too much time with long hair, so I’ve switched to showering at night and letting my hair air dry.
    I try to get my shower done as early in the evening as possible, and my hair is pretty much dry by the time I go to bead. Since you don’t get home until 11 p.m., I don’t know….If you are a night owl this might work, but if you go straight to bead try the loose braid. You can use a soft elastic without any metal or tie it with a soft piece of cloth.
    As for styling in the morning, I just go with the flow and let my hair be. Typically I use barrettes/clips, etc to keep it out of my face or wear it up. I had short hair for years because I felt I couldn’t get my hair to “look good” i.e. like in a shampoo commercial. Today, I just embrace my hair as it is, keep it combed and clean, and don’t worry about it.

  • bethany actually

    November 16, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    I have medium-short hair, and I find that if I wash my hair at night, it looks better in the morning if I use product and blow-dry it completely before going to bed. Then in the morning I just have to dampen it a little and hit it with the blowdryer and a round brush for a minute or two to smooth it out. But when I have long hair, sleeping on it wet gives me fabulous body and even slight waves.
    I suspect this is one of those things that each person has to experiment with and figure out for herself.

  • KatieMick

    November 16, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Well, my college roommate used to go to bed with her head wet. Every night she would do this from August to May.
    When we pulled the bed away from the wall in June – icky icky MOLD all around the bed perimeter on the wall. So SO very gross.

  • Dani

    November 16, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    I shower at night 99% of the time because I just cannot get my lazy butt up any earlier than I already get up. Also, I have quite long, thick, curly hair and it takes eons to air dry (I don’t own a blow dryer), so if I shower in the morning I walk around with wet head all day. And let’s face it. That ain’t pretty.
    I try to wear my hair down at night, wet or dry, because I know it’s going to do less damage than if I had it tied up in an elastic, catching and pulling and getting on my nerves. The fact that I’m lying down allows my curls to dry springier as opposed to drying while I’m up and about and the curls being pulled down by their own weight. I far prefer the look of my hair when I sleep with it wet…and the looks on the faces of people who ask “what did you do to your hair?” and hear me say “slept on it wet, that’s it” are priceless.

  • Nicole

    November 17, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I sleep regularly on wet hair. I know, it bad. But I used to teach swimming and get home late and then shower (to get the chlorine out of my pores – you have to let them close up, then steam them open again), and then fall into bed.
    If I want my hair to really behave the next day, I’ll blowdry it to get rid of the frizz. Most of the time I just don’t care enough unless I’m going out the next day. So its out of the shower, towel dry, comb, get pajamas, moisturize, put in some leave in conditioner and comb it through. Let air dry. A little more leave in conditioner and pomade in the morning and its done.
    Of course, since I’m usually in the pool once a week for a couple of hours, I use another trick. Before I get in the pool, I wet down my hair in the shower, put conditioner in it and throw a swimcap on. The heat from your head gives you a bit of a deep conditioning treatment. BUT don’t do it for more than a couple of hours or it will cook your hair.

  • Kimmy

    November 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    You all must have been born with gloriously naturally curly hair. My hair looks — pardon the expression — like ass when left to air dry. Kinky, flat and ugly. It’s not fair. It doesn’t matter what product I use, doesn’t matter if I sleep on when it’s soaking wet or let it dry for a bit first. Always assy looking unless blown dry. Then? I am blessed with very agreeable locks.
    But, I too hate to have to get up that extra hour early just for the long-hair blow-dry. So. I wash and totally blow it dry at night… and then I wear a hair cap to bed so my hair doesn’t get ravaged by a night of tossing and turning.
    I get up, take the cap off, shake it out. I always wet my bangs (a la Nicole Richie) and re-blow dry them but that only takes 2 minutes. Generally, my overall head doesn’t need any re-application of product or dampening and re-blow drying. The cap allows it to look about 90% the same as it did when I went to bed.
    That way you get the best of both worlds. Your style looks the way it was meant to because you used the dryer… but you don’t have to do it in the morning.
    As a side note… I now am able to wash my hair every 4th day, and it looks pretty much the same as it did on wash day. Hair cap, people!

  • Olivia

    November 20, 2007 at 8:27 am

    I like the hair cap suggestion. I hate waking up in the middle of the night with a face full of hair. Does it stay on all night with the tossing and turning?

  • qwyneth

    November 20, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Kimmy- Have you tried scrunching up handfuls close to your head then pinning it there? I have found that letting it dry that way has helped keep it from getting weighed down. I really wasn’t born with gloriously curly hair either–when I let it dry normally it’s weirdly flat and kinky and frizzy all at once. It took a lot of trial and error before I found what my hair responds to. Also, it took a really good, heavily layered cut that keeps it from being weighted down. (Incidentally, now that I have the Cut of Awesomeness, I don’t have to pin it up.)
    Katie, you don’t say whether you have curly hair or not, but I’m suspicious. Have you tried wearing it curly? I didn’t realize I had curly hair until my curly friends staged an intervention–and lo, the hair, it curls up!
    Try fingercombing your hair–use no comb or brush–after you get out of the shower, then slick through a liberal amount of a leave in conditioner. (Always be generous with conditioner.) Then rub a big dollop of gel or cream in your hands and scrunch big handfuls of hair up to your scalp. Do it over and over and over again, applying more gel if you don’t have even coverage, flipping your head around to get all of the hair. You can let it air dry it after this or diffuse handfuls of hair, but I recommend the former. If your hair seems weighted down afterwards you might want to try pinning scrunched handfuls to your scalp and letting it dry. You should be able to sleep on it wet (I recommend a towel over your pillow), especially once it’s pinned up. Once it’s fully dry it may need a bit more scrunching or flipping to liven it up, or if it feels stiff or crunchy. (That’s perfectly normal, and it will go away with some scrunching.) Do not ever, ever brush or comb it once it’s dry.
    As for protecting a blow out, I’ve found that finishing off the hair with a good flat ironing will help it to stay straighter over night. You could touch that up in the morning pretty easily, or spray some leave in conditioner (possibly mixed with water to keep it lighter) over the trouble spots before going at them with a hair dryer. Don’t touch your hair with the flat iron until it’s dry though, and make sure you’re using a good protectant before you blow dry. When I’ve had my hair blown out (professionally, I don’t have the patience to do it myself) I can usually keep it going a good three or four days with spot touch ups and by cutting down on the brushing (which increases the oil factor).

  • Kimmy

    November 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Olivia: Yes, it stays on all night. I went to a store that specializes in African American hair and bought a fantastic one. It’s a silky texture so it’s not damaging to be rubbing against your hair… and the elastic isn’t so tight that it’s uncomfortable but the shape of it allows it to stay on. Best. Purchase. Ever!
    Qwyneth: Yeah, I have tried it. I just think that air-dried hair never really looks sharp or polished. I actually work on TV so I’m in the stylists chair on the dot every 7 weeks and I have an incredible cut. Sadly… air drying simply is a no-go for me. (Which sucks… I envision a honeymoon on a beach eventually but my hair will be a disaster every time I go in the water!)

  • Olivia

    November 21, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Thanks, Kimmy. I’m going to give that a try.

  • mrsjcatalano

    November 21, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    qwyneth: I have stick straight hair that has never held a curl for more than about half an hour. I do like the idea of watering down a leave-in conditioner though, it would probably do the job without weighing my hair down. Thanks everyone 🙂
    Katie Lee

  • Jill

    March 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I’ve been showering at night for a while now and have wondered if it’s been damaging to my hair. I think you are all right and everyone has their own way that fits them best. I have found that after washing my hair at night, I leave it in a towel and/or let it air dry until I’m ready to go to bed. I am trying to train my bangs into a further side-part, so after making my part, I take a bobby pin and secure it in the front section of my hair. I then take the rest of my hair and put it high on top of my head in a bun and secure with a soft cloth scrunchie (never knew I’d get use of them again!) This way, all my hair is out of my way when I’m sleeping. When I get up in the morning, my hair is still a little damp. I take some heat-protection gel and run it through my hair. Then I blow dry to get a fresh look, and then straighten it. It seems to work for me and helps me with my side part. It hasn’t seemed to damage my hair anyway either.

  • Someone

    June 9, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    i have wavy/curly hair. but mostly curly. i go to bed with my hair damp. when i wake up in the morning it never looks the same. one day super curly the next wavy. i like it and only straighten it when theres any special ocasion. all my friends say it looks great. im 12 by the way

  • Nic

    July 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I have oily hair issuses. I have to wash my hair in the mornings instead of at night because if I go to sleep with my hair clean I wake up with it oily. Its like it gets oily in my sleep some how. Like I can wash my hair and it will be squeaky clean and take a nap or something and wake up and it don’t feel as clean as it did. Depending on how long I sleep depends on how oily it gets. I’ve had trouble with this most of my life. I also have trouble with oily face too.

  • Lily Martin

    December 8, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    No I don’t recommend it it breaks the hair and keeps it sjort

  • haley

    December 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

    I wash my hair 1-2 times a week, my hair is very thick and wavy. If I wash it at night and let it air dry throughout the night, I will have to wash it in a couple of days because of the oils. If I wash it in the morning and blow dry it and use my dry shampoo, I’m able to go about 5 to 6 days without washing it again.