Sleeping with Dreadlocks? Tips & Must Haves Here

By Maria Ramos
Last Updated: February 22, 2019

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Hair is an often overlooked consideration when it comes to sleeping. What do you do with it? How do you protect hair from breakage and tangles when you’re not awake?

There are people that go to extreme measures to care for their hair! Especially true if the it’s long or coiffed. Some may change their sleeping position entirely. Some may even use special pillows to sleep without disturbing or damaging their hair. Case in point: the Japanese takamakura, used by geisha for centuries.

What about dreadlocks? What can do you to protect them while still sleeping in comfort? Do you know how to sleep with dreads on your head?

Let’s get a definition out of the way first, for the uninitiated.

What Are Dreadlocks?

Dreadlocks, sometimes called locs/locks or dreads, are bundles of matted or braided hair. They often look like thick strands of rope and may form naturally through neglect, or encouraged and manicured using several techniques: backcombing, rolling, etc. 

black woman with dreadlocks

Don’t think that dreadlocks are a fad, though! There is evidence of dreadlocks being common in many ancient civilizations. This method of hair maintenance has roots in everything from religious beliefs to social stature.

Whatever your reasons may be for choosing to put your hair in dreadlocks, Good Night’s Rest is here to help. Dreadlocks are a commitment, benefiting from patience and persistence. They do require specific care if you don’t want them to look messy, or worse, dry and unhealthy.

Part of caring for your dreads is knowing how to sleep with dreads! Check out our tips below.

How Do You Sleep with Dreadlocks?

If your locks are “mature”—meaning you’ve had them for a while—you probably already know all about sleeping with dreads. But figuring out how to sleep with new dreads is something that doesn’t usually come from instinct.

Caring for and maintaining your dreads is essential. Dreadlocks are prone to dryness and damage, and may attract dust and debris. You may feel uncomfortable and experience itchiness sometimes.  All of these are avoidable with a proper routine.

Let’s look at several habits that can help you manage your dreadlocks at night.

1. Massage Your Scalp

Do not underestimate the importance of a healthy scalp, especially if you are sporting dreadlocks. The weight and movement of your locks is different from that of free-flowing hair, and may put stress on your scalp. This can cause irritation, itchiness and general discomfort.

Daily scalp massages will encourage hair growth, increase blood circulation, and maintain moisture. When you massage your scalp, you aid in the even distribution of sebum—an oily, waxy substance produced naturally by the body that works to protect and moisturize your skin. You may also use massage oils to introduce moisture and soothe an itchy or dry scalp.

When should you massage your scalp? Right before sleep! This is to allow the oils time to work their magic on your skin. Circular movements of your fingertips, from your hairline to right above your neck, will do wonders. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, but feel free to go slow if you think your scalp needs a little more love.

Knatty Dread Crown & Root Oil, via Amazon

Here are our favorite oils to use when massaging the scalp:

  • Majestic Pure Fractionated Coconut Oil ($14.98 on Amazon). Coconut oil is versatile natural oil that is great for skin and hair. It also works as a carrier oil for undiluted essential oils. We discuss what fractionated coconut oil is at length in our Vitafusion Melatonin review, so check that our if you are interested in learning more.
  • Knatty Dread Crown & Root Oil ($12.99 on Amazon). Made from all natural cold pressed essential oils, this product is said to prevent dryness and other skin irritations. It’s vegan and non-greasy, too.
  • Aria Starr Jojoba Oil ($10.95 on Amazon). This is 100% premium grade, pure and cold pressed jojoba oil with no added fragrance. Like coconut oil, jojoba oil is versatile and can be used for more than just scalp massages.

2. Use a Leave-In Conditioner at Night

Of course, massaging your scalp is not the end of it. You need to condition your dreadlocks, too! Note that new dreads may not stand up to some leave-in conditioners, and they may unravel and get a little messed up.

Mature locks won’t have this problem. Just be careful not to use too much! You don’t want to sleep with soaked or wet dreadlocks as this may result in unpleasant odors.

Knotty Body Dreadlock Conditioning Spray
Knotty Boy Dreadlock Conditioning Spray, via Amazon

Many scalp massage oils can double as leave-in conditioners, and are marketed that way. You can opt to use a versatile product, or use a separate conditioner. Below are some of our favorites:

  • Knotty Boy Dreadlock Conditioning Spray ($18.00 on Amazon). Marketed as a tea tree oil leave-in conditioner, this product nevertheless lists several more active ingredients like hemp seed oil and grapefruit seed extract. It is light, non-greasy, anti-frizze, and encourages hair elasticity.
  • Wonder Gro Jamaican Black Castor Oil Hair & Scalp Conditioner ($12.99 on Amazon). Here is an example of a scalp and hair conditioner in one. This product’s base is castor oil, which has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • Jamaican Mango and Lime Cactus Leave-In Moisturizer ($7.93 on Amazon). Easy on the pocket and highly rated, this product’s formulation is specifically for moisturizing and protecting damaged, dry and thinning locks.

3. Clean Your Bed Before Bedtime

Dreadlocks attracts dust, small debris and lint more than you think. Small particles can easily stick to your locks and embed themselves in between hairs, making your dreads look dirty and poorly maintained.

It’s a good idea to use clothes and bedding that don’t shed or pill. You may enjoy wearing an occasional fuzzy top, but be careful! When it comes to bed linens, though, there’s no room for exceptions. Who knows what your hair will pick up when you’re asleep?

Clean your bed before you sleep. We suggest using a lint roller over your pillows, just to be sure.

4. Check Your Dreads When You Wake Up

You’ve prepared the best you can, slept soundly and have woken up refreshed. What now? Time to check your dreads, of course. As cautious as you are when cleaning your bed, some slip ups may still occur. Examine each lock painstakingly and remove any debris that you may find.

After this comes dealing with messy dreads and loose hairs on the surface. This is especially common for new dreads versus mature dreadlocks. Simply palm roll each affected lock in order to compress and help tighten the knots in your hair.

What’s the Best Way to Protect Dreads While Sleeping?

We’ve covered how to take care of dreadlocks before and after bedtime, but what happens while you’re sleeping? For short dreads, this may not be an issue. The longer the locks are, though, the more you have to think about how to protect your hair while you’re in bed.

1. Tie Back the Dreadlocks

To minimize flattening, pulling, and possible hair breakage, you can put your dreads up in a bun or ponytail while you sleep. You may think that keeping them loose is better, as this is the case with natural, free-flowing hair, but dreads are different.

Loccessories Cream Bone Loc Tie
Loccessories Cream Bone Loc Tie, via Amazon

You do need to use a hair tie that won’t snag or create more problems for your hair, though. They will need to be sturdier and more accommodating than usual. Here are some of our favorite options:

  • Threddies Knotted Hair Tie Set of 6 ($9.98 on Amazon). Not as durable as some products, but the price is undeniably the friendliest. These are completely elastic, with no metal or plastic parts that can get caught in your hair.
  • Burlybands Ultimate Hair Tie Set of 3 ($10.99 on Amazon). These are strong, seamless, and look very much like heavy duty versions of the typical hair tie. Though not specifically made for dreadlocks, Burlybands are a great choice.
  • Loccessories Cream Bone Loc Tie ($13.99 on Amazon). This product works well but is not so budget friendly, as this is a single hair tie and not a set or even a pair! Loccessories makes the loc tie with the different beads, too.

2. Cover Up the Dreadlocks

Why cover up your dreads instead of tying them back? In many cases, this can be a simple matter of preference, but there are real advantages to covering up.

Tying back dreads may be easier and faster, but it will not help as much when it comes to locking in moisture and preventing debris from sticking to your hair. If dryness and itchiness is something you contend with, consider a dreadlocks sleeping cap instead of a hair tie.

A word of advice: Nylon stockings or a durag on starter locs may seem like a great option if you’re on a budget or dealing with brand new dreads, but it’s not. Anything worn too tightly over dreadlocks can also cause damage! Make sure that any cap or hat you use is loose enough to allow your dreads some movement while you sleep.

Fairy Black Mother Dreadlocks Locs Cap
Fairy Black Mother Dreadlocks Locs Cap, via Amazon

Here are some of our favorite dread sleeping caps:

  • Stay On Satin Pocket Bonnet ($4.76 on Amazon). It is made of two sided fabric that is smooth outside and soft inside, with no elastic or Velcro for your hair to get caught on. Inexpensive but can be inconsistent, particularly when it comes to product color. What is pictured is a nude cap but some customers report receiving other shades.
  • Beauty Town Luxury Spandex Dreadlocks & Braids Cap ($6.95 on Amazon). Great fit and great price, although customers note that the fabric bleeds and may leave dark marks on your pillow. It uses an elastic and is made of nylon, as well. Hand washing and a long soak before first use may help.
  • Fairy Black Mother Dreadlocks Locs Cap ($19.99 on Amazon). Made of stretch polyester and spandex, with an inside lining of satin, this product is breathable and easy on your hair. It’s a little pricey, but can be worth it if you get the more attractive designs that you may also wear during the day.

3. Sleep on Satin or Silk Bedding

Dreads too short to tie back and uncomfortable wearing something over your hair while you sleep? You can try sleeping on satin or silk, instead. The best pillowcase for dreads is one made from these materials. It may not completely solve pulling and debris issues, but it will definitely make for a better night’s rest.

Celestial Silk 100% Silk Pillowcase
Celestial Silk 100% Silk Pillowcase, via Amazon

As this is a case of choosing the right material, there is no real difference between products—except for the quality of their craftsmanship, that is. Here are some of our favorite silk pillowcases: