What Happens When You Wear PJs All Day, According to a Psychologist

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s that wearing pants is highly overrated. Why get all dressed up for work when you could just plop down in front of your computer in your PJs? Although we couldn’t help but wonder—Carrie Bradshaw-style—if all this leisurewear is affecting our brains. Could wearing pajamas all day affect us psychologically? We checked in with Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, Executive Director, Northern California at Newport Institute, to find out.

You Might Be Less Productive

Whether it’s a conscious choice because it’s comfier, or you blink and it’s suddenly noon, we’ve all spent the day hanging out in leggings and an old middle school band T-shirt. But could your choice of clothes be keeping you from getting everything checked off your to-do list? “What many might deem insignificant can actually lead to dwindling motivation and productivity as you subconsciously associate your pajamas with bedtime or relaxation time,” Dr. Dragonette tells us. So, by wearing relaxed clothes, your brain might start to feel sluggish too. Plus, if you’re working from home, keeping that separation between your work life and your home life is extra important.

“Just as it is ideal to have a designated workspace, it is also important not to let work pervade all of your home life,” she says. “Changing into and out of clothing for your workday can help to set a psychological marker between private time and work time.” Otherwise, you might find yourself still feeling on the clock at 9 p.m., when you’re trying to unwind and watch Normal People.

It Might Mess With Your Self-esteem

What if you went to the opera dressed in sweatpants, but everyone around you was wearing gowns and tuxes? You’d probably be slumped over in your seat, feeling schlubby and out of place. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates how wearing thoughtful clothes can help change the way you carry yourself and feel throughout the day. “According to research conducted by Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire in England, people admitted equating their clothes with their attitude, saying specifically that, ‘If I’m in casual clothes, I relax, but if I dress up for a meeting or special occasion, it can alter the way I walk and hold myself.’” So while you don’t have to put on a blazer and heels for your next Zoom call with your boss, maybe try a button-down and your favorite necklace. “You are messaging to your mind and body that you intend to be productive and attend to your needs, which can in turn impact self-esteem.”

It Might Make Work Less Enjoyable

Dr. Dragonette also pointed us in the direction of a study in Human Resource Development Quarterly, which found that wearing a nicer outfit might actually change our feelings about our jobs. “For example, people felt most authoritative, trustworthy and competent when wearing formal business attire, but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire,” she explains. So if you’ve been feeling like you’ve been dropping the ball at work recently, you might want to swap your PJ pants for something a little more office-friendly (here are some ideas for not-too-serious work outfits you could try).

It Could Impact Your Sleep

The next time you’re tossing and turning at 2 a.m., think about what you were wearing the day before. “Wearing pajamas all day and not sticking with our usual schedules for work could cause a disruption in our internal biological clock and lead to sleep problems, along with low energy and moodiness,” says Dr. Dragonette. “All of these symptoms can lead to mental health problems down the road.” Plus, she adds that because humans thrive on routines, incorporating structure into our day (even if that just means changing your clothes every morning) might help reduce anxiety and help you feel more like yourself again.

You Might Feel Luxuriously Lazy

Wait! Don’t donate all your pajama sets and buy a power suit (although it would undoubtedly look fab on you). There’s a time and a place for PJs, and if you’re craving a day where you do nothing but hang out on the couch in your coziest silk jammies and watch TV, do it. “Staying in our sleep clothes can potentially make us feel sluggish, but as with all things, moderation is key, and an occasional lazy day might feel like exactly what we need from time to time,” says Dr. Dragonette. So go have a PJ day. Doctor’s orders.

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.