How Bad Is It To Put Kids To Sleep in Their Daytime Clothes?

Experts weigh in on the safety and health considerations of dressing your kids (and yourself) for bed in the clothes for tomorrow.

Mother brushing sons hair before school
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Being a parent is hard, so it’s not surprising to see so many “hacks” pop up just to make life a little easier. A slightly unconventional one that surfaces every so often on social media is putting your children to bed in their school clothes for the next day each night rather than pajamas.

Parents who do it claim that morning routines are streamlined without having to decide on — and wriggle kids into — outfits, and there’s also the cost-saving benefit of not buying jammies.

So, is it time to ditch the PJs? Should adults, too, skip their nighties? We asked experts to weigh in on the healthfulness, safety, and sense of the practice.

Should you let your kid sleep in their clothes?

Like everything with parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sometimes, there are days when you just can’t deal with the morning dress debate or other days when you’re so behind schedule that skipping the change could save the day.

But if you are going to let your kids go to bed fully dressed for the next day, here’s what you need to keep in mind.

There are safety rules around nighttime clothing

You’ll often see big yellow tags on kid pajamas that indicate whether they are flame-resistant. That’s because the Consumer Product Safety Act regulates children’s sleepwear.

“The safety of pajamas vs daytime clothing is the most dangerous part of wearing clothes to bed,” says Dr. Natalie Blum.

The regulation covers pajamas from 9 months old through children’s size 14.

The act states that pajamas that aren’t very tight fitting must contain flame retardants.

“If the daytime clothing does not meet these standards, which most won't, I would not recommend wearing anything but approved pajamas to bed to protect children from potential burns,” says Blum.

Another safety element to consider? Unlike pajamas, a lot of day clothing for kids contains extras like sequins, tulle, buttons, zippers, and other decorative items. Functional snaps and zippers on pajamas are tested for choking hazards, but the same doesn’t always apply to daytime clothes. If you are opting for day clothes for bed, make sure you are checking for potential loose items and choking hazards.

Changing clothes is an important part of child development

Kids thrive on routine, and bedtime and morning rituals are a part of healthy child development.

“Typically, for best sleep hygiene, we recommend doing the exact same bedtime and morning routine daily,” says Blum.

At bedtime, she suggests a routine of bathing, brushing teeth, and changing into pajamas, all with a consistent sleep time and sleep environment.

In the morning, sleep hygiene extends to changing into daytime clothes, brushing teeth, and eating breakfast.

“This just helps separate day from night, especially for younger children who are still setting up routines.”

Pajamas can help regulate sleep temperature

Every kid (and adult) sleeps differently. Some of us sleep cooler, while others wake up incredibly sweaty. The material we sleep in can make a difference. Much sleepwear is breathable and made from materials like cotton, linen, and bamboo. The same considerations don’t apply to daytime clothes, so it’s more likely you’ll end up with less breathable fabrics, such as nylon or polyester.

“Sweat can create an environment for bacterial or yeast overgrowth, which can cause a rash or acne,” says dermatologist Dr. Rachel Pritzker. “It is super important to get the moisture away as soon as possible to avoid irritation or clogging of the pores.”

If you aren’t changing your clothes upon waking, that sweat can sit in your clothes (regardless of the material) and irritate your skin or even cause moisture in skin folds, which can lead to rashes, redness, or acne.

If kids are still in diapers or having nighttime accidents, you’ll want to be extra careful that clothing remains dry before you send kids to start their day.

Daytime clothing can irritate sensitive skin overnight

Some people can handle wearing any material, while others itch in the first five minutes of wearing a synthetic textile. If your child has atopic dermatitis, a 2009 randomized control trial showed it may be best to wear a soft material like Lyocell (often called Tencel), which is similar to popular types of sheets. The National Eczema Society recommends the same fabric, along with cotton, bamboo, and silk. This applies to daytime clothes as well as PJs, but it is important to remember at night, when little sleepers may curl up with their heads resting on their sleeved arms.

Sometimes, it’s ok to give in

Although there are a lot of reasons not to wear school clothes to bed, we also know that parents don’t always get enough sleep. As long as you are paying attention to the safety implications, if you need to do the school clothes thing every so often to get a few extra minutes, it’s ok.

No matter what you wear, change your sheets weekly

Regardless of what you sleep in, your bedding can trap those skin cells, sweat, and bacteria even if you are changing clothes, so be sure to wash your sheets once a week. This goes for kids and adults, too.

Can adults wear clothes to bed?

Though the clothes-to-sleep trend is most notable for kids, it’s not just a hack for parents: There are plenty of adults who do it. Specifically, many believe sleeping in workout clothes is the best way to motivate and jump-start a morning workout. While much of the workout apparel on the market wicks up sweat swiftly, is it really a great idea to slumber in your spandex?

Most of the answers rest with the fit of the clothes. If your workout clothes consist of a t-shirt or tank and loose shorts, there probably isn’t much to worry about.

If you are looking at clothes that are more restrictive — tight leggings, compression attire, sports bras — you may want to think again.

Not only are they likely uncomfortable to sleep in, but they can also increase body temperature, which can lead to more sweating while you sleep. If you have circulation issues or sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to consult a physician before you start this habit.

The moisture-wicking that benefits you during a workout can do the reverse when you sleep — sweaty sleepers will be dripping before they even warm up for their workout.

“It’s like starting a morning workout with a layer of sweat in your creases,” says Pritzker. “I treat many athletes, especially cyclists or hot yoga, with acne-like rashes on the buttock or folds, and the number one thing is to wash immediately,” she says.

If sleeping in your workout gear is the motivation you need, look for breathable, unrestrictive attire, such as basketball shorts and a cotton shirt.

But if you have time to change in the morning, use it as an opportunity to get into the right mindset and change your clothes — and energy — to take on the day ahead.