How to Sleep with Braids (Box, Cornrows, Dutch, etc.)

For decades, women (and some men) all over have been braiding or plaiting their hair for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a fashion statement, for convenience with hair maintenance, as an effort to keep your hair healthy and strong, or to prevent it from damage, it’s clear that braids are here to stay. Depending on the type or style of braids you choose to go with, the braiding process can take up to several hours and can even require multiple people to help out.

Once you have spent a considerable length of time getting your braids to look perfect, you will want them to remain flawless for as long as possible. Unless you can sleep sitting upright, it can take some effort to figure out how to keep them intact, so it’s essential to know some proven tips and tricks. The best way to sleep with braids is by wrapping your hair in a silk scarf and bonnet at night.

Why silk, you ask? Because materials such as cotton and other rough fabrics are damaging for our hair, and they will also contribute to your braids not lasting as long. When you toss and turn in your sleep, the little hairs in your braids will create friction and come out of the plait. After just a few nights, they will begin to look frizzy. Silk can help to lock in moisture, and your hair is more likely to slide rather than catch and tug.

Wrapping for Different Braid Styles

As you have seen in the various hair trends, not all braid styles are the same. With different braiding comes slight variations on how you must wrap them at night. Additionally, with different variations also comes different scarf configurations (trust me, it’s not as complicated as it sounds):

  • Using a square scarf, folded at the corners to form a triangle
  • Using any style scarf folded to create one long rectangle

Medium to Longer Braids and Box Braids

The longer the braids, the longer the wrapping process. Box braids need to be fully wrapped prior to tying the scarf in order to protect the entire length of the plait, not just the scalp.

  1. Separate your hair into two sections, one half on each side of your head, and secure with a ponytail holder.
  2. Cross each section over each other in the back of your head to the opposite side, wrapping them around to the front of your head or as far forward as they will go. Secure the two sides together with another scrunchie in front.
  3. Use your silk hair wrap to keep them in place.
  4. For added protection against braids slipping out, place a bonnet over the scarf or wrap.

The process of wrapping your hair around and having it stay put can be a little tricky and takes some practice, so don’t become frustrated when the braids shift or slip around!

*For extra-long braids continue to wrap around in opposite directions until your braids are wound all the way to the ends.

Cornrows and Short Length Box Braids

For cornrows and short braids, the idea is generally the same as the most crucial part is to protect the hair at your scalp.

  • For very short box braids (shoulder length and shorter), you can wrap a silk scarf around the front of your head, tying the ends at the base of your hairline. From here, you can either tuck the third corner (if using the triangle shape) under the outer edges, or you can place your bonnet over the wrap (if using the long rectangle shape).
  • If you have braided cornrows (braids that follow along the scalp), wrap the remaining loose or braided hair around your head and secure with a scarf. Avoid pinning any hair to the cornrows as that will begin to loosen the hair at the scalp.

Dutch and French Braids

When it comes to Dutch and French braids, you can sleep a little easier! For these, you can simply use your silk wrap tied firmly around your scalp to the base of your head, under the braid(s) in the back.

For this style, you don’t need to use a bonnet if you don’t have one, but a triangle scarf will give your hair the most coverage.

A Few Extra Tips

  • Sleep with dry hair. If you are leaving your braids in for more than a few days, you should plan to wash them while they’re in. Be sure to wash them early enough in the day to let your hair dry as sleeping with wet braids can increase the chance of breakage due to the hair being more fragile when wet.
  • Use a silk pillowcase. If you can’t sleep with a wrap on your hair, or simply fall asleep before you’re able to wrap your braids, be sure to use a silk pillowcase to protect them as much as possible. Can’t find silk? Satin works as well.
  • Remember that your first night might be uncomfortable. If you are not used to sleeping with braids, the first night or two can be slightly awkward as you learn to adjust to the uneven surface created by the twists. After the first night, you should start to notice them less.
  • Use moisturizing hair products. To prevent damage and promote healthy hair growth, a leave-in conditioner should be applied every few days, up to three times a week. Additionally, you should massage an all-natural oil (such as coconut oil) to your scalp every few days, which will help with scalp dryness and any itching.
  • Use soft (fabric) hair ties. The old school hair ties with metal clasps are a thing of the past, mostly because they are terrible for fragile hair. While your hair is braided, when going for an updo, use a loose hair tie, preferably a scrunchie whose material will not pull on your hair. Remember that a tight hair tie will leave dents in the braid.
  • Don’t wrap too tightly. A firm tie, or double wrap, should be sufficient to keep your hair in place while you sleep. If you wake up with indents from the scarf on your forehead – it’s too tight.
  • Clean your wrap or scarf regularly. Just like your sheets, your scarf should be cleaned at least once per week to wash out the oil and any other build-up from your skin, sweat, and hair products.
  • It’s not supposed to be fashionable. It may not be the most enjoyable or glamorous way to sleep, but who cares what you look like when you’re asleep! Don’t let the extra effort and granny headgear keep you from keeping your plaits fresh.

FAQs About Braids

Here are some common questions about sleeping with your hair in braids.

How do I keep my braids looking fresh?

As the days go by, even the best wrapping techniques won’t keep your braids as new as the day they were done. Instead of re-doing your entire head, try re-braiding only the ones along the hairline that frame your face. The touched-up edges will give the appearance of new braids, with less time and money!

How long can I keep my braids in?

You should try to take your braids out after 6-8 weeks. Longer than this will cause your hair to stretch and weaken, resulting in the strands breaking off. By removing all the old plaits and re-braiding, you will also have a chance to re-braid the new growth.

I’m terrible at wrapping the scarf, or it’s uncomfortable, are there any other options?

Yes! If you can’t seem to get the hang of tying a scarf, try using a sleep cap. These are similar to a silk bonnet, but you can find ones that are tighter and are adjustable. Another option is a satin durag (or do-rag) which is a cap that is much easier and thinner than a satin scarf. Both of these alternatives will give you a little more security than an average bonnet and will eliminate the tying struggle.

Do braids make your hair grow faster?

If you’ve heard this old wives’ tale and wondered if it’s true, you’re not alone. But sadly, the answer here is no. Don’t be too discouraged, though! While braiding won’t make your hair grow faster, your hair will be protected from certain damaging factors, including brushing and daily breakage – two things that make it appear that your hair does not seem to be growing.

How often should I wash my braids?

You should plan to wash your hair once a week, or at most every two weeks. Drying can take some time, so aim to get your washing done early in the day to avoid going to sleep on wet hair.

I don’t have long-lasting braids, but should I braid my hair each night before I go to sleep?

Absolutely! If box braids or cornrows aren’t really your style, there are lots of other reasons why people braid their hair before they go to bed. Some of them include:

  • It gives their hair effortless waves the next morning
  • It can be less damaging than tying your hair in a bun each night
  • It will help prevent tangles and knots the next day

To Wrap Up

At the end of the day, no matter how you choose to secure your hair, the most important thing to remember is to take the time to commit to it each night. Without this step, the lifespan of your braids will be drastically reduced, and no one wants frizzy braids!