How to Sleep With Long Hair, According to the Pros

From protective updos to leave-in treatments

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Long hair is an unmatched accessory. Whether woven into complicated updos, swept into glossy braids and ponytails, or left to tumble over shoulders, excess length allows hair to reach its fullest expression. But there's a caveat to this growth mindset: hair health is crucial to the sort of long hair that daydreams are made of. A shiny and super-long mane may ooze effortless glamour, but keeping strands strong and silky requires attention in both the waking and sleeping hours.

Related: Classic Long Hairstyles That'll Never Go Out of Style

Sleeping finds us in stasis—but with our heads pressed against the pillow, the potential to do unintended hair harm increases exponentially. Tossing and turning creates friction, and if you shower at night, you're putting your damp hair in a vulnerable position. Moreover, the wrong sort of updo can result in unwanted breakage. "There are a few things that can damage the hair while sleeping, including lack of proper drying, tangling, and increased pressure," says expert Helen Reavey.

For those looking to foster healthy growth and protect long lengths, a selection of before-bed steps can help make your hair dreams a reality. 

Meet Our Expert

  • Helen Reavy, celebrity hairstylist, trichologist, and Act+Acre founder based in New York City.

  • Mara Rozak, celebrity hairstylist and Rôz founder based in Los Angeles, California.

1. Dry Your Hair

Nighttime showers have their upsides: an excess of time, an opportunity to unwind, and room to let your hair dry sans damaging styling tools. If a p.m. hair wash is your preferred method, allow your hair to dry completely before your head hits the pillow. "Your hair is in its most vulnerable state when it's wet, as it becomes more elastic and can break much more easily," explains Reavy. "Sleeping on wet hair for prolonged periods weakens the hair cuticle and creates an environment for bacterial and yeast growth, which can cause scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff."

Got fringe? If you style before you sleep, hairstylist Mara Roszak has a pro tip. "Keep a spray mist bottle handy with water for the morning post-sleep," she says. "This will help retrain and restyle bangs without having to wash!"

2. Comb It Out

Excess tangles pose a risk to long hair while you're sleeping; adding a solid brushing session to your bedtime routine can help alleviate the issue. "If you tend to toss and turn a lot in your sleep, you're more likely to wake up with more tangled and knotted hair," says Reavy. "Over time, this friction can lead to hair breakage and split ends."

Roszak agrees. "It's best to try and reduce knots and tangles as much as possible because they will inevitably require more detangling and rough brushing to remove, causing unnecessary damage," she says.

Related: The 13 Best Brushes for Curly Hair of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

3. Try a New Pillowcase

Not only is a silk pillowcase a sumptuous, aesthetically pleasing choice, it's also a responsible one for taking care of your long hair. "Opt for a silk or satin pillowcase, as they create less friction with the hair stands compared to cotton pillowcases," says Reavy. "Along with reducing the risk of tangles and breakage, silk and satin pillowcases also aid in moisture retention, as they protect the natural sebum and oils throughout the hair follicles."

4. Avoid Tight Hairstyles

Updos do have their place in a thoughtful hair sleep routine. "Wearing hair down during sleep poses a slight risk to extra tangling and therefore detangling," says Roszak. That said, those updos should never be taut. "If you sleep with your hair in tight/pulled-back hairstyles, such as buns and ponytails, the increased pressure on the hair follicles can lead to breakage throughout the hairline and along the hair strands where the hair is secured," explains Reavy. Which leads us to…

5. Wear Protective Updos

As a rule of thumb, avoid tight hairstyles and embrace loose, protective updos whenever possible. "It's important to remember that any style you sleep with should be loose and comfortable to prevent stress on your hair and scalp," says Reavy. "If you must have your hair back while you sleep, I recommend opting for a loose hairstyle, such as a braid, to avoid tension and pressure." 

In addition to loose braids, Reavy recommends easy twists (relaxed and loose like braids, but woven from two sections rather than three) or a pineapple updo. "Flip your head over and collect all of your hair at the crown of your head and tie loosely with a soft hair tie or scrunchie," she instructs. "This style is great for those with coily and curly hair since it preserves the curl pattern and lessens any chance of flattening."

<p>Getty Images: Hazal Ak</p>

Getty Images: Hazal Ak

6. Invest in Accessories

As noted above, a soft or silk scrunchie can help keep hair gently in place, the better to avoid pesky knots and tangles. If your curl pattern is on the tighter side, a bonnet could serve as a sleep solution. "Silk bonnets can be used for all hair types, but are especially beneficial for curly, coily, and textured hair, since they reduce friction while retaining moisture on the hair and scalp," says Reavy. Roszak recommends sliding a plush headband over bangs to keep hair off the face while integrating any leave-in treatments.

7. Try Leave-In Treatments

"I love using sleep as an opportunity to do a deep reparative treatment on hair, then wash in the morning," says Roszak. "I use the RŌZ Willow Glen Treatment Oil, a highly absorbent deeply hydrating blend of oil." This goes double for those with curly or wavy patterns. "Textured hair tends to be a bit drier, making it a bit more prone to breakage," says Reavy, who also suggests applying a lightweight leave-in conditioner or moisture-rich oil before bed. 

Related: These 13 Best Leave-In-Conditioners of 2023 Will Leave Your Hair Smooth and Hydrated

8. Use Protective Products

Aside from a leave-in moment, certain products can help ensure long hair remains intact all through the night and gets refreshed in the morning. "If your hair tends to lose moisture overnight, consider lightly misting a hydrating spray, such as our Curl Spray, to hydrate your curls and scalp and refresh your curl pattern and texture," says Reavy. And should you awake with unwanted matting, detanglers like RŌZ Milk Hair Serum can help make your a.m. comb out go a bit more smoothly.

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