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What is a Nightshirt?

J. Beam
J. Beam

A nightshirt is simply a reference to any shirt worn at night for sleeping in. The word nightshirt stems back to the 18th century when both men and women slept in the shirts or smocks that were worn under their normal clothing during the day. They would remove all their clothing and sleep only in the shirt. Today, a nightshirt is a word that is synonymous with nightgown and pajamas and is worn at night, but removed before dressing for the day.

For modern retail purposes, a nightshirt is usually a garment made of cotton or flannel, resembling a long T-shirt and is not the same as a nightgown, which may be made of cotton, silk, or any other material and is generally full length. The length of a nightshirt typically rests somewhere near the knees. A nightshirt is also usually short or long sleeved, but not sleeveless.

Flannel is a popular material used to make nightshirts.
Flannel is a popular material used to make nightshirts.

Though a nightshirt could simply refer to the top half of a set of pajamas, a nightshirt is generally a single garment and does not include pants or shorts. Most often, a nightshirt is designed to be slightly better fitting than a T-shirt to avoid twisting and bunching during sleep. Nightshirts are made for men and women, but are most commonly purchased by women, especially young girls.

Nightshirts featuring favorite commercial or cartoon characters are particularly popular amongst young girls, while older girls may prefer a nightshirt that has a trendy phrase or logo printed on it. Most nightshirts and other pajamas designed for children have some sort of flame retardant additive when sold where law requires it.

Adults often select a nightshirt made of cotton or flannel for their comfort and warmth while sleeping and nightshirts are convenient when making trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Though comfortable, practical, and sometimes designed to be somewhat feminine, depending on print, nightshirts are not usually considered to be a particularly sexy or promiscuous style of nightwear.

Discussion Comments


@Steamland-- If you tend to heat up at night, never wear a silk nightshirt. Silk is supposed to be a great fabric that prevents sweating. But my experience hasn't been like that at all. I bought a silk nightshirt and pant set recently but I couldn't wear them for more than two nights. They made me too hot and they tend to get very static too. It's not the best material for a nightshirt.


@SteamLand-- I agree, cotton is the only way to go. But the way the cotton is weaved will also make a lot of difference. You want something that is loose weave so that it ventilates. This type of cotton breathes best and you won't sweat.

As for mosquitoes, your nightshirt isn't going to protect you. You need to use a mosquito net over your bed. That's is your best bet and it's usually cheap and very easy to use.

I think many Indians sleep in their regular clothes like cotton salwar kameez or saree. These keep the legs covered but they do use nets.


My husband complains of me always sleeping in a nightshirt and pajamas but I frankly don't care. I have to be comfortable at night or I can't sleep well. And I tend to be cold too, so I always value comfort over appearance. I realize I don't look the most attractive in a nightshirt and pajama pants but it's what I feel comfortable in. I have been sleeping in this type of sleepwear since I was a child. In fact, I wish I could stay in them all day! They are so comfy and nice.


You can also try a moisture wicking shirt. They are expensive and almost entirely synthetic but they are designed to be extremely breathable and 'wike' moisture away from the skin. The shirt then disburses the water onto its surface which evaporates quickly.


@Steamland, the best material to wear in hot climes, both at night and in the day is cotton. Its natural fibers are more breathable than synthetic polyesters and absorb sweat which reduces chaffing. If your really worried about malaria or yellow fever buy a long sleeve shirt. I usually buy my night shirts a size bigger for more ventilation.


I just moved to South-East Asia and my flannel p.j.'s are cooking me alive at night. Normally I would just go without but I am afraid of the mosquitoes here and contracting any disease from them. Whats the best p.j. material for extreme heat?

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    • Flannel is a popular material used to make nightshirts.
      By: philip kinsey
      Flannel is a popular material used to make nightshirts.