How To Sleep With Curly Hair

7th Jul 2020


It’s quite a challenge having curly hair. Those of us with wild twirls wish we had stick-straight hair, while those with sleek hair gush about how they’d love to have our curls. BUT WOULD THEY REALLY?

Clearly, they’ve never thought about how to sleep with curly hair. Curls need to be taken care of in a different way to, to make sure they stay protected and healthy, as well as not waking up with dreadful bedhead!

If you’re one of those (like me) who wakes up looking like Medusa, here are some methods for keeping your curls intact overnight.

What Causes Curls?

Whether you have curly hair or not is determined by the shape of your hair follicle. Straight hair has a round follicle, while curly hair comes from a more oval-shaped follicle. Also scientists have discovered a particular gene that could contribute quite a bit to whether or not your hair curls.

Other things that play a role in exactly how your hair turns out include the angle at which the follicle tunnels into your scalp and the protein bonding properties of your particular strands. But those are long and complicated, and all you need to know is that it’s your follicles’ fault—I mean, it’s thanks to your follicles that your hair is the way it is.

Why Be Careful Of How You Sleep with Curls?

The mechanics of lying on curly hair are different to sleeping on straight hair. Curls have volume. They have structure. Not that straight hair doesn’t, but if you compare a curl with a straight strand, it’s plain to see that the curl is wider and more voluptuous!

This means that when you put pressure on a curl, it squishes flat. When you put pressure on a strand of straight hair… Well, nothing happens, really.

The very same quality that gives curls their eye-catching volume is the thing that makes them a little more high-maintenance than other types of hair.


When you lie on a curly mop, it flattens. That’s just how it is *rolls eyes*. When you remain lying on the curly mop for hours, it doesn’t bounce back again when you sit up, so you wake up looking like you’ve run into a wall. I know how it is.


Unless you sleep in the same position all night, you’re going to be at risk of breaking hair when you move around. Tossing and turning is not curly-hair-friendly, unfortunately. Because curly hairs tend to turn over on themselves when they’re squished between a head and a pillow, the potential for breakage is fairly high.

How To Sleep With Curly Hair?

Let’s be honest. We all have those nights when we flop into bed and don’t care about anything other than getting some shut-eye. But if you’re keen to preserve those perfect curls to avoid waking up looking like a jungle-dweller, then these things are worth trying!

Pre-Bed Product

Dryness can make hair break more easily! Making sure your curls are hydrated before you settle in for the night can add an extra layer of protection and reduce the chances of breakage.

When I say “hydrated”, I don’t mean wetting your hair. Going to sleep with wet hair is never the best idea! Mix some of whatever moisturizing product or conditioner you favor with some water. Smooth it on before getting into bed, and that's it!

Tip: The amount of cream or conditioner you use should depend on the thickness of your hair. Fine hair only needs a touch, or the excess product could weigh curls down and make them flatter!

Put Your Hair Up

If your curlies are long and can be placed in an “out-of-the-way” position for the night, this could help. Having your hair all together and in the same position can make it vastly easier to get a great rest. You'll also wake up with no flattened or broken curls.

Here are some ways you can try:

The Pineapple

Imagine balancing a pineapple on the top of your head. Yep, that’s what you’ll be doing with your hair. Tie it in a loose ponytail right on the top of your head. Don’t use a tight elastic to secure it—use a soft, loose scrunchy or even a headband.

The idea here is to get your hair in a position where you won’t be lying on it all night. That way, no amount of tossing and turning will damage it. It’s not like you can just leave your hair on the bedside table, unfortunately, so this is the next best option.

You can always make a couple of mini-pineapples if you can’t get all your hair above your head. You may feel like Princess Leia with a topknot, but it should help your curls stay safe through the night.

The Loose Bun

The loose bun is a cousin of the pineapple. Instead of just using a ponytail, you’ll twirl your hair around into a bun. It could be a good idea to run some gel or conditioner through it before brushing your curly hair into a bun. Be sure to keep it loose, though!

The Loose Braid

If you aren’t keen on looking like a pineapple or a bun-head, or you’d prefer something flatter, braids could be the best way for you to sleep with curly hair.

Simply split your hair into two sections and twirl each bit around itself to form a spiral braid. You can secure these with loose elastics at the ends if you want to, or, if your spirals hold well, simply leave them.


Other Tips & Tricks

If tying your hair up isn’t your thing, there are some other things you could try to help keep your curly hair intact overnight.

Use a Buff or Headscarf

Instead of using a ponytail, you could wrap your hair in a scarf or buff. Another option is a hair bonnet, which looks kind of like a shower cap but does the curly-keeping job well.

This works because your hair is restricted above your head so you most likely won’t lie on it while you sleep. It’s also not only held in one place, as it is with a scrunchie. It helps keep the shape of your twirls, but also prevents your hair rubbing against the pillow and being damaged.

Sleep on a Silk Pillow Slip

Curlies will tell you that making the move to a silk pillowcase changed their life. Cotton can contribute to your hair drying out, making it easier to break. Silk or satin, on the other hand, doesn’t draw moisture out of your hair, keeping it hydrated all night long.

Sleep on Your Side

It’s pretty hard to move your hair somewhere else when you’re sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your side, though, allows you a bit of space to move your hair into a position where you won’t be sleeping on it.

Choose A Great Hair Product

I’m not going to tell you which product you should use. Everyone is different and has their own preferences! I am going to tell you, though, that you need to find a product that works for you. Depending on what you need, you may look for:

  • A hydrating product.
  • Dry scalp product.
  • A holding product.

You most likely won’t find one product that does it all. You’ll need to get two or three, but trust me—you’ll notice the difference with regular use.

It's a good idea to treat your hair regularly with a reputable, healthy product. You should find that your “how to sleep with curly hair” problems may diminish somewhat!


How To Quick Refresh Your Hair When You Wake Up

If you’re out of time in the morning and need a quick, easy way to bounce up your curly hair, here’s a speedy routine. It will give a surprisingly natural result.

Set Your Curls Free

Give those twirls some breathing space! They’ve been cooped up in a buff/scarf/ponytail for 7 or 8 hours! They’ll thank you for allowing them some time to wave freely. Now is when you’ll get a good idea of how well your curls held up through the night.


Some of your curly sections may have become matted or flat during the night. Run your fingers through your hair and separate sections lightly. It’s easiest to do this with your head upside down. Place your fingers in your hair at the roots and give it a shake out.


Don’t start styling your hair immediately after you’ve shaken it out. Give it 20 minutes or so. You may be surprised at how your tangle has settled into something quite manageable!


A quick, easy way to do this is in the shower. If you aren’t washing your hair, let it loose at the end of your shower. Make sure not to get the spray on it and allow the steam to rehydrate it and plump up your spirals.

Otherwise, mix a tiny bit of gel and water and run it through your hair to get it nice and hydrated and firm.


Figuring out how to sleep with curly hair doesn’t have to be a mission. It just depends on what works for you. Give some of these things a try and let us know what works best!

Happy (curly) sleeping!