Presence: The best pajamas to sleep in? Your birthday suit

An illustration of a student experiencing the liberation of sleeping naked.
(Mariana Duran • The Student Life)

When I pull myself inward, tense palms close to my soft cheeks, head near my chest, I fall asleep to the lullaby of my beating heart. I feel life energizing me, imbuing my spirit with love, peace and genius. If being clothed during the day separates us from the essence of ourselves through the barrier of the sheer material we use for expression, being comfortably naked brings us to the raw root of life detached from worldly forms.

Sleeping naked began as a toast to liberation. A knowing acknowledgment that I truly had nothing to lose, that clothes did nothing for me under the sheets where I would be forgotten, to the world and to myself as the thick of sleep set in among humanity. Just like the fears we build up in our heads that have no base, the presence of clothes in the darkness made little sense to me, apart from the socially conceived norm shielding us from something we didn’t feel comfortable enough to face: vulnerability. Pure vulnerability and intimacy with our essence comes when we abandon the performance we were born into, the norms of the social world we were conceived in.

The slight slip of the shirt, then the bottoms, is a deconditioning act, a little push that makes our universe a little strange again. Shedding these clothes — telling products of civilization — creates beauty: beauty in seeing things differently and beauty in the wonder that draws confidence, conviction and a pure strength slowly unleashed and won like the final microseconds of a game of tug-of-war.

When we realize our bodies are all we truly have, the most permanent forms in a temporary world, we can stand a little taller and more loosely, with a loving and generous spirit toward our inner selves and those around us. I felt intimacy and trust as I fell deeply asleep and woke tenderly buried in the sheets, a smooth transition from a dazed world into one in which I could build my dreams.

An act that began as a small, inner movement toward peace and love piqued my curiosity in the science behind sleeping naked and whether my microscopic self — cells, molecules, atoms and all — felt and reflected the joy I realized with this slight change.

Sifting through the research on sleep, I noticed a couple of scientific articles exploring this potential improvement. Many suggested, on a biological basis, that sleeping naked improves sleep quality by creating a cooler environment. Sleep experts recommend finding a cool environment that is around 65 degrees, since temperature influences our circadian rhythms, a combination of a sleep-wake rhythm and the rise and fall of body temperature in a 24-hour cycle. 

One study explained, “Sleep is most likely to occur when [core body temperature] decreases, while it hardly occurs during the increasing phases. This relationship between the sleep-wake rhythm and the circadian rhythm of [core body temperature] is important for maintaining sleep.” 

Sleeping topless or with minimal clothing likely facilitates the cooling of body temperature and helps the body transition into NREM sleep — the first stage of sleep.

The study explained, “In real-life situations where bedding and clothing are used, heat exposure increases wakefulness and decreases slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep.”

However, this same study revealed the importance of a Goldilocks sleep environment — leaning slightly toward the cooler side — because excessive cold exposure can easily interrupt sleep and bring on several health issues. 

While more investigation is needed to find out when and how cool temperatures may negatively impact sleep cycles, research by the National Institutes of Health showed that cooler temperatures improve body metabolism because of how the human body produces brown fat to keep itself warm. This form of fat burns calories to produce heat energy to maintain core body temperature, a process which boosts metabolism.

Perhaps, indeed, sleeping naked brings the best from our physical selves, cooling the body and boosting metabolism at night. I certainly experienced an improvement in sleep quality, but in full honesty, this trip into the naked realm was one of curiosity, self-love and effortlessness. 

Of course, privacy lends itself to the cultivation of this change. If little siblings entering and exiting your space or grandparents walking in at random hours are robust factors in your equation, well, that would be another story.

Shreya Kriti Kamra PO ’23 is TSL’s health columnist. She’s curious about the brain-soul connection and the beauty of language in transforming and opening humanity.

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