The History of Sleepwear: A Look at How We've Slept over the Years

History of Pyjamas - How we've slept over the years



From the beginning of time, people have always wanted to be comfortable yet fashionable. Sleepwear has been around for centuries, and it has changed along with fashion as well as need. It is easy to say that sleepwear in the western world has come a long way over the years and developed to the pyjamas we all know and love today.

This blog article will look at the brief history of sleepwear, sleepwear trends, different modern sleepwear that's available today as well as the future of sleepwear.

But first, let's cover the basics.

Why Is It Called Pyjamas, and Where Did the Word Pajama / Pyjama Come From?

Have you even thought 'where did the word pajamas come from'?

The word pyjama / pajama comes from the Hindi word "pae jama" or "pai jama” which means leg clothing or leg dress, and the usage of the word dates back to the Ottoman Empire (14th century).

The spread of the word is a result of the adoption by British colonials and soldiers in India in the 18th and 19th centuries. British soldiers stationed in India started to wear shalwar kameez (traditional Indian outfit consisting of loose-fitting pants and a long belted tunic or nightshirts) as nightwear. Then when they returned back to the United Kingdom, they introduced the style to their friends and family. As a result, the word "pyjamas" was eventually adopted by the English language.

The use of the word spread to the wider Western world due to the large British influence during the Victorian era.

Pyjamas or Pajamas? In short, both spellings are fine. Pajamas is the preferred spelling in American English whereas pyjamas is preferred in most places outside North America. But most people have seen both versions so we certainly aren't going to worry too much about it!

Pyjamas for Men - Drift Sleepwear

The Origin of Sleepwear

It is difficult to say exactly when people started to use sleepwear (as dedicated garments they slept in). It's clear that the evolution of sleepwear started in different parts of the world, at different times, and now has emerged into one type of garment, as we know as sleepwear.

In Europe in the Middle Ages, the standard way was to sleep naked, except for some kind of head covering. This because they believed that much of the body's heat was lost through the head and for the sake of one's health, the head should be covered. Europeans began eventually wearing nightgowns made from heavy fabrics such as wool. These gowns kept people warm in cold climates and served as an extra insulation layer.

In ancient Greece, men and women wore thin robes called chitons while they slept. These robes were often made from lightweight materials like linen. However, the chitons were also worn during the day, so it would be wrong to call it pyjamas.

However, the pyjamas we know and love today are believed to have originated from the middle and far east. They were traditionally loose drawers or trousers tied at the waist with a drawstring or cord together with long tunic or nightshirts.

Sleepwear for Men

Sleepwear Has Evolved Over Time

The early pyjamas were different from the ones we wear today. Once the industrial revolution happened and manufacturers started using the sewing machine, the sleepwear industry matured and the types of sleepwear people liked became more diversified. People have been wearing sleepwear for a long time, and each era has its unique style.

Pyjamas saw an uprise in popularity throughout the 1900s (late victorian era). In the early 1900s, women in America started wearing chemises and bloomers as sleepwear. This style was popularised by actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

In the mid 1900s the popularity of pyjamas spread to the majority and have remained popular ever since. Thanks to that, now there are many different types of pyjamas to choose from.

In the 1960s and 1970s extremely wide leg pyjama pants (like Palazzo pajamas) became popular when people began to prefer more relaxed clothing styles. It was also in the mid 1900s that the traditional two piece pj set became popular for men, a trend that we still see today.

Different Types of Modern Sleepwear

Like you read about above, pyjamas have a long and interesting history. Today there are many different types of modern sleepwear to choose from. Here is some examples of the different types:


The traditional two piece garments consist of a shirt/top and trousers that many people wear today. You can find them in many shops and they come in all different colours materials, patterns and fabrics. These products provide a great nights sleep and warmth in winter in particular!

Night / Silk Gowns

A traditional nightgown is a type of clothing that some women wear as nightwear. Traditional nightgowns comes in different materials (often soft silk), lengths, colours and are in great trend.


A robe is a garment that you wear after a shower, or in the morning while making a cup of coffee. It wraps around your body and is normally long (from your shoulders down to your feet). Robes are also often made from a thicker material, compared to your standard pjs.


Night shirt style garments for sleeping in are a comfortable choice for bedtime. Sleepshirts are similar to your everyday shirts, but they are longer and more comfortable. Traditional nightshirts for men have been worn for a long time and can still be found today.


A popular choice for men today is a comfortable pair of pyjama bottoms and a T-shirt. A lot of people use their old T-shirts or maybe their partners oversized T-shirts as sleepwear. But there is no need to settle for an old and washed-out tee. There are many different T-shirts on the market designed to be part of your sleepwear wardrobe!


A negligees, also known as baby doll pajamas, is a sleepwear garment for women that is considered to be more on the 'sexy' side, compared to a traditional checked pj set. It is usually made from sheer or semi-sheer material and often has lace trim accents. Negligees are often styled with matching bra and exquisite embroidery. Modern negligees can be found in more or less any lingerie departments stores today.

Image Below: Organic T-Shirt from Drift Sleepwear. The Perfect PJ T-Shirt

Organic PJ T-Shirt for Men

The Future of Pyjamas

Just like pyjamas have developed a lot over time, we are sure that the pyjamas we see today might not be the pyjamas we will see in the future. The future of pyjamas we think and believe should also be fair and more sustainable than the one we see today in many shops. We believe that you can still make conscious decisions when you sleep. Even though you can not control your dreams, having a pj made from organic cotton is the perfect way to make good, green and sustainable decisions, even while you rest and recover!

Organic cotton also has many other good characteristics, which you can read about here.

Pyjamas for Men - Drift Sleepwear

Sleepwear For Men

Sleepwear for men used to be (very) dull. Although the traditional pyjama set is still popular, we are starting to see more and more modern and interesting alternatives on the market, especially for men. Now a days men can choose from pjs made from colourful and fun patterns, different styles and material.

There are also different styles of pjs for men. You can find pj shorts for men as well as long pyjama bottoms, matching shirts, organic pyjama t-shirts as well as modern versions of the classic nightshirts.

Image Below: PJ Shorts for Men from Drift Sleepwear

PJ Shorts for Men

Final Words

To summarize, it's easy to say that sleepwear has changed a lot over the years.

The range of different sleepwear that is available today has never been greater or more diverse. Today there are pyjamas for everyone even if they are after some sheer negligees, traditional checked pajamas, gowns or colourful pj shorts for men.

Whether you need something to keep you warm in the winter or something light and airy for the summer, sleepwear is available to suit any of your needs.

You can also find more and more sustainable nightwear, made from organic and/or recycled materials. Which is not only good for you as the wearer, but also for the earth!

So whatever type of sleepwear you choose, make sure that it is comfortable, fits well and brings a smile to your face. You don't want anything to restrict you or make you uncomfortable while trying to get a good night sleep!

Thank you for reading this article about the history of sleepwear, some different sleepwear trends, the different modern fashion sleepwear that's available today, and the future of sleepwear for men.

Fancy some more bed time reading? Why not check out this article about "8 Products Designed to Improve Your Sleep in 2022"

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