The Gross Truth About What Happens When You Wear Dirty Socks To Bed

For someone who has cold feet in the morning or through the night, wearing socks to bed is probably a no-brainer. After all, most of us want a comfortable room and body temperature in order to get those rejuvenating hours of sleep. 

But are you in the habit of getting into bed with the pair of socks you wore all day? If you are, you may want to rethink that decision. According to a 2023 study done by British company MattressNextDay that involved polling 1,017 people across the world, only 30% of them bothered to swap out their dirty socks for a fresh pair before crawling into bed for the night. After swabbing pairs of socks worn between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., the researchers found pseudomonas aeruginosa, a germ found in cockroaches that can cause infections in humans in these gross items of clothing. Infections caused by this type of bacteria can affect your lungs, GI tract, skin, and blood, and can be difficult to treat, per Cleveland Clinic

The study further discovered that the same germ can be found in doormats and that your dirty pair of socks might even be filthier than your TV remote, which has previously been notoriously cited as being one of the germiest spots in your home.  

Sweaty feet can be a breeding ground for bacteria

Even if you wear shoes throughout the day with your socks, it's always a good idea to swap out the dirty pair for fresh ones before heading to bed, according to Carlie Gasia, a certified wellness coach at Sleep Advisor (via House Beautiful). "Dirty socks can accumulate bacteria that have the potential to spread in your bed, possibly posing health risks," explained Gasia. "Also, if your feet tend to sweat, your socks may retain bacteria that has transferred from your shoes."

It's not just the gross smell of sweaty or moist feet rubbing against cloth that you have to worry about. You're risking getting fungal or bacterial conditions, itchy feet, athlete's foot, and cellulitis, too, shares doctor of podiatric medicine Dr. Wenjay Sung (per The Healthy). 

But does this mean you shouldn't be sleeping in socks? Not necessarily, say the experts. In fact, there are plenty of health benefits to covering your feet with this warm piece of clothing at night. One has to do with distal vasodilation, the process of body temperature dropping in preparation for sleep, per behavioral sleep disorders specialist Dr. Michelle Drerup (via Cleveland Clinic). "By making your feet warmer, you're opening up blood vessels to help cool down the rest of the body."

The benefits of putting on a fresh pair of socks before bedtime

Remember to dump the dirty socks you wore all day in the bin and wear a new pair to bed, according to experts. In fact, it won't hurt to give your feet a break from keeping them covered all day, according to dermatological chemist David Petrillo (via The Healthy). "Feet do need to breathe, and prolonged periods of wearing socks without giving them a break can restrict airflow and contribute to discomfort and potential foot-related issues," explained Petrillo.

You will also benefit from jumping in the shower and cleansing the grossness of the day from your body (and feet). While in the shower, rub your feet for relaxation and extra comfort before slipping on a fresh pair of socks, says doctor of podiatric medicine Dr. Timothy J. Miller to Sleepopolis. "Having our feet comfortable signals the body that it's time to rest, allowing for better sleep and rejuvenation." Another reason you should wear socks to bed is related to hot flashes, a common symptom of menopause, per Dr. Michelle Drerup (via Cleveland Clinic). "Wearing socks kind of levels things out and helps prevent those sudden heat spikes." 

Lastly, there is also evidence linking warm feet with better orgasms (per BBC News). Intrigued? Make sure you choose the material and fit with care. Breathable socks that aren't too tight are your best options.