Q: I've been having trouble sleeping lately and I toss and turn a lot. I've noticed that
my hair looks really rough and knotty in the morning when I wake up, and I'm now
starting to find hair on my pillow. How can I protect my hair while I'm sleeping?
A: Well, I'm not qualified to address your sleep (or "lack of") issues and I recommend
you speak to your physician about possible causes for the interruption of what you imply
is a recent development in your sleeping patterns.
I can however, make some suggestions for the interim regarding protecting your
hair while you sleep. It sounds to me like in your tossing and turning, you're rubbing
your head (and your hair) back and forth across your pillow and this is obviously what's
been roughing up your hair. You have what is known as 'bed head', though it sounds like
you may be rougher on your hair than normal.
When we toss and turn, dragging or rubbing our heads and hair across the fabric of
our pillows we can snag the cuticle layer of the hair against the fibers on the pillow. This
rubbing results in roughing up the surface of the hair shaft and leads to the tangles and
knots you describe. It's important that in the morning when you get ready to start your
day, you use care in removing these tangles to avoid breakage. A detangling spray is a
good idea, as is removing any tangles and snags before you shower or shampoo your hair.
Furthermore, if you have long hair, you should consider braiding your hair before
bed. By restricting the range of movement your hair can achieve at night, you minimize
the amount of damage that could occur. You can also minimize the problem by using a
silk or satin pillowcase to sleep on, or a silk or satin nightcap. Nightcaps may seem old-
fashioned, but served a purpose for our grandmothers.
Silk and satin fabrics are smooth and cause much less friction against the hair.
Nightcaps have the added benefit of constraining longer hair so that it doesn't get
moved around and roughed as much during the night. A silk or satin pillowcase offers
similar protection without what some people consider to be a less-than-flattering
nighttime appearance. Whichever you choose, adding one or the other to your hair care
arsenal can help to minimize (if not prevent) the damaging effects of bed head.