As a little kid visiting India during the summers, I would witness one of the most wondrous night time rituals by our aunties. Every night they would comb their long hair, massage their scalp, and then neatly braid their hair, which would reach down to their waist. And then came the fun part! They would ask me to take a 2-inch hair ribbon roll, and wrap it slowly around the entire braid in a tight swirl and then securely tie at the very end.
The braid itself is a healthy hair practice, but the ribbon wrapped around it while they slept was like double armor for hair, making sure it was fully protected once it hit that pillow. I would always be in such awe of their healthy, thick, long hair. And how much time and love they put into taking care of it. But the best part was sharing this ritual with my aunties - slowing down every night and taking care of each other created a special bond.
Braiding your hair is an important and healthy practice for Indian women and their hair. It's common practice for moms to braid their daughters' hair before they go to school or braid before they go to bed (like my mom did). My mom always said how braids protected our hair strands, and was fanatic about braiding both Shaz and my hair before we went to bed.
Was Mom right? What are the benefits of braiding your hair before you go to bed? Let's see...
As you’re getting your beauty sleep, you may not realize it but natural tossing and turning pulls your hair and causes it to break. Keeping your hair in braids reduces friction between your hair and pillow, reducing hair breakage. Amp it up, and get silk pillowcases for even less friction!
It also keeps your hair tamed and more structured, resulting in less snarls and frustrating tangles when you wake up in the morning. My hair can tangle into a bird’s nest and braids are the sure thing for me to avoid harsh brushing and fighting with my knots.
Did you know that hair can lose moisture while you sleep? So many things are happening while you're sleeping! There’s always a natural release of moisture from your hair, and while you sleep it goes into the air or gets absorbed by your pillow. But braids can help prevent that loss. The overlapping structure of braids can hold onto the moisture and can keep it where it needs to be, in your strands.
Taking it one step further, massaging a nourishing hair oil into your strands before you braid and hit the pillow can give it an even more powerful, moisturizing punch.
Less heating tools
Who doesn’t want soft, beach waves that don’t need to be made with a heating tool and tons of time? Now, I realize that not all hair types can produce beach waves after a night of braids, but it can definitely add texture and little oomph. If your goal is to rock some fun waves in your hair, waking up and taking out your braids can be the less-damaging option. Let’s not forget this curling iron hair tutorial disaster!
While you sleep your hair can rub on your face and quite literally make you breakout. Hair attracts dirt and pollution, and depending on your last wash, that gunk can end up rubbing on your face. Also, your scalp produces sebum, an oily secretion which can slide down your strand and find itself on your face - hello pimple! Braids can come to the rescue by keeping your hair pulled back and strands away from your face.
Tips on braiding your hair before bedtime:
- Keep it loose. Remember to braid gently and not super duper tight. Pulling your hair too much while tying your hair in any style can put too much pressure on it.
- Braid till the very end. Make sure you don’t have a big chunk of unbraided hair at the end, this defeats the purpose of protecting your hair and keeping it from breaking. It also can end up in a weird non-curly section once you wake up and unbraid. Trust me...
- Sleep (and braid) with dry hair. It’s always advised to not sleep with wet hair. Besides that it can cause fungal infections on your scalp, hair is weakest when its wet so a good rule of thumb is not to disrupt it even more while rolling around in your bed dreaming of Chris Hemsworth.
- Put in a nourishing oil. For even healthier hair, take the time to massage a nourishing oil into your hair before you start braiding. Penetrating oils can really seep into your hair while your snoozing and really boost hair health. Read this article to learn what's the right oil for you.
Braids are a part of many cultures throughout history. What I love most about braiding hair is that it’s been a form of social art. It’s a time to connect between the braid-er and braid-ee - mother and daughter, friend and friend, niece and auntie, grandmother and granddaughter. The art of braiding takes time and can be a shared ritual, allowing for some good ole' bonding time.