The morning after the first time I got drunk (parking lot, Kahlua), I knew something was very off. I had evidently made it back to my bed, suffered no obvious injuries and my phone and wallet were still safely in my pockets. Though I had somehow avoided all traditional drunken pratfalls, something far worse happened: for the first time in my life, I had passed out with socks on.
I’m not sure where my commitment to barefoot sleeping comes from. What probably started as an ordinary aversion to hot feet eventually morphed into an all-out contempt for socks in the sheets. I’d rather wear jeans to bed. It’s as unfathomable to me as going up a flight of stairs on all fours or setting your toilet paper under the roll. The heat, the toenail scratch against cotton, the inevitable morning footbath of sweat. What’s not to hate? Like all bedtime champions of monumental pettiness, I’ve suffered for my beliefs. I once instigated a fight with a bedmate over her sock wearing. She left, and I, alone in my stubbornness, became the proud owner of a Seinfeld B-plot (“She’s a Sock Sleeper, Jerry!”).
I automatically assume anyone who wears socks has something to hide. Maybe they have toenails like stalactites or a regrettable infinity sign tattoo or feet that look like hands. And I want those creepy covered secrets out of my bed. Odd "what if’s" aside, sock-sleeping, to me, is just plain dangerous. You might wake up in the middle of the night and slip on a freshly waxed floor, or build up so much static electricity you shock yourself when you go to reach for your phone in the morning. Oh it could happen.
When friends tell me they wear socks to bed, I turn into Andy Rooney. My eyebrows flare and I’m filled with contempt for my fellow man. Don’t they know that this is one of the only things that everyone agrees on? That we, as a culture, have decided that socks and sheets shall never meet?
A quick romp through sleepwear history shows that sockless sleeping has been standard for quite some time. Pajamas come from Bengal, where the hot climate made socks unnecessary. When Victorian colonists brought pajamas back to Britain, they kept socks out of the picture, possibly due to the increasing prevalence of central heating. Looking through sleepwear advertisements from the 1870s to the present, virtually every ad features exposed feet or the occasional pair of slippers.
This sockless marketing has trickled down to pop culture. When a character on a TV show or movie gets out of bed, they’re barefoot. Don Draper slipped his sockless feet into well appointed slippers; Phil Dunphy doesn’t dare do anything but go bare. If a character happens to wake up socked it’s often a sign that something is awry, be it a hangover or zombie apocalypse. Want more proof? Getty Images and Shutterstock have dozens of stock photos of bare feet in bed, but only a few featuring of stockinged feet.
What I’m getting at is that my pigheaded feelings of superiority certainly seem to be the norm. But that isn’t to say there aren’t point for the sock wearers. In fact, two studies show distinct benefits of wearing socks to bed. Swiss scientists found that wearing socks brings on sleep fifteen minutes earlier for those who have healthy patterns. Why? Well when we’re about to fall asleep, our brains increase blood circulation throughout our bodies. Warm feet have winder blood vessels, which allows for better circulation. With socks, body temperature increases more quickly and the brain can get a head start on the early phases of the sleep cycle. The Swiss team doesn’t pull any punches: they wrote that warm feet are “the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep.”
Socks also bring an advantage to other, less sleepy, bedtime activities as well. In 2005, a team at the University of Groningen discovered that socks dramatically increased the rate of orgasm for both men and women. Without socks on, a group of heterosexual couples was able to orgasm about 50 percent of the time. With socks on, that figure climbed to 80 percent. The study wasn’t designed to investigate the link between feet temperature and orgasm, but participants complained of cold feet in the testing room and researchers provided socks. The sock finding is in line with the general conclusion of the study, that physical relaxation and comfort are integral components of achieving orgasm.
I was pretty upset when I found out about these two excellent reasons for wearing socks to bed. It doesn’t feel great to be passionately against something that’s empirically good for you. Knowing what I know now, I can’t continue to be a jerk to sock-footed sleepers. But some things just aren’t for everybody. Will I miss those extra 15 minutes of sleep per night and 30 percent more orgasms? How do you quantify disgust?
Imagine, if you will, your favorite movie. The two leads have finally come together after 20-30 minutes of escalating tension. The morning after, birds sing and sunlight beams through a lattice window. We pan across the floor: champagne bottles, hastily strewn clothes, perhaps a sleeping kitten. Eventually we arrive at the bed, where we see, hanging over the mattress, two pairs of pilling gold-toe socks. Cue turntable scratch. No, this is not the way to go about things. When I die, inevitably from a minor lack of sleep and chronic orgasm deficiency, bury me barefoot.