Your health care provider might recommend wearing compression socks following surgery or to help with a health issue. Or, you might buy them yourself for comfort, to use when playing sports, or as a way of preventing medical problems, especially for air travel. But the best compression socks for men or women can feel tigther than you’re used to, and you might be wondering when it’s all right to wear them. For example, is it OK to wear them to bed?
When and how long you wear compression socks primarily depends on why you are wearing them. Learning about how compression socks work, what benefits they provide and whether there are any risks in wearing them can help you make an informed decision.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks, sometimes called compression stockings, are specialized hosiery. These socks gently squeeze the legs to help improve circulation.
Various compression socks may have different features or benefits, designed for different people. The best compression socks for men might not be the proper stockings for a woman.
Most compression socks look like typical socks or hose and are available in varying lengths. Many come up to the knee or calf. Others can be long enough to cover the thigh. Some have open toes, as well. They also come in a variety of colors and designs.
Compression socks improve circulation by maintaining pressure on the veins in your feet and legs, releasing some of the strain on the arteries. As a result, oxygenated blood flows more freely and your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.
“Compression socks are most commonly used as a treatment for people with chronic venous insufficiency,” Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Douglas Josephtold the Cleveland Clinic.
However, the best compression socks for men and women can also benefit people who don’t have vein problems that limit the movement of blood to the heart. For instance, they can prevent swelling and keep your feet and legs from feeling tired or achy, even after standing or walking for extended periods.
Wearing compression socks when traveling is a good idea, as well. Sitting in one position for a long time (or being on your feet all day) can compress blood vessels in your legs. The gentle pressure of the stockings can help prevent blood clots, swelling and other potential side effects.
Should You Wear Compression Socks To Bed?
If you wear compression socks all day long, taking them off at night can bring relief. While they should be comfortably snug rather than unbearably tight, removing them at bedtime can feel good and give your skin a chance to breathe.
In addition, wearing compression socks to bed probably won’t help your legs much.
“The benefit occurs when you’re up and moving, and gravity is working on your veins,” Joseph told the Cleveland Clinic. “When you’re lying down, you take away the effect of gravity. So there’s no reason to wear compression socks when lying down or sleeping.”
That being said, sleeping in compression stockings probably won’t hurt, assuming that they are comfortable. There are certain instances when wearing the hosiery to bed can even be beneficial for some people.
“People with vein disease may develop open sores on their legs,” Joseph said. “Wearing compression socks at night can help them heal.”
Make Sure Your Compression Socks Fit Well Without Causing Pain
If you’re using compression socks to improve a particular condition, or if you’ve been prescribed them by a doctor, you should put your compression socks back on as soon as you get up in the morning.
If this isn’t the case, you can wear them just for a few hours a day when needed; just remember that ill-fitting compression socks or ones that aren’t being used properly can cause problems such as chafing and irritation, and can cut off circulation.
“Compression should feel like pressure, but not pain,” Dr. Margot Savoy, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told LiveStrong. “If you are having pain, the socks may not be the right size or the amount of compression may be too high.”
Ultimately, it’s best to go by your healthcare provider’s recommendations. Be sure to reach out to your doctor if you have any questions or trouble wearing the stockings.