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What Are the Pros and Cons of Sleeping With a Bra On?

Some women prefer to sleep with a bra.
Pregnant women may sleep with a bra on to reduce friction and swelling.
Nursing mothers who sleep with a bra on may end up clogging their milk ducts.
Wearing a bra while sleeping can have benefits for women with large breasts.
Some pregnant women may choose to sleep with a bra on.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Sleeping with a bra on can often prevent back aches or muscular cramps, particularly in large-breasted women, and the practice is usually recommended after breast surgery as a way to protect the tender tissues as they heal. Some women may also choose to sleep in their undergarments as a measure of modesty in front of roommates or others. The practice isn’t always particularly comfortable, though, and women who wear poorly fitting bras to bed often complain of skin irritation and breast swelling. Breastfeeding mothers may also notice a reduction in their supply if they sleep in bras that are too tight fitting, as this can reduce flow and sometimes even clog milk ducts.

Support and Pain Relief

One of the main reasons women wear bras in the daytime is to keep their breasts supported and to prevent them from sagging, and these reasons are often just as important at night, too. Women who sleep on their sides often complain of chest discomfort, particularly if their breasts are on the larger side. A bra can keep them in place and lead to more restful sleep, and also reduces the chance of muscular strain or backache. People sometimes involuntarily move in their sleep to keep their weight adjusted, and this can lead to back injuries in women with heavy breasts.

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The support of a bra during the night can also help keep tender or sensitive breasts from rubbing against each other or the mattress. Tenderness is sometimes constant, but in other women it comes and goes as hormones fluctuate during menstruation; pregnant women also frequently complain of swelling and tenderness. Nighttime support can reduce friction, relieve pain, and improve sleep in these cases.

Aiding Recovery After Surgery

Doctors and nurses often recommend that anyone recovering from breast surgery sleep in a bra both to help in the healing process and to prevent re-injury or infection. Breast augmentations, reductions, and surgeries related to breast cancer are among the most common, and though the procedures vary in intensity and invasiveness all leave patients needing a bit of special care during recovery. Bras protect healing breasts from rubbing against each other, and also prevent outside elements like fuzz from the sheets and sweat from getting into the bandages.

Modesty

Women who share a sleeping space with others sometimes choose to sleep with a bra on as a way of staying modest. Most bras will prevent the nipples from poking through a pajama top and may provide coverage and shaping, too. Layering several shirts or tops can get a similar effect, but isn’t always practical, particularly in warmer climates.

Discomfort and Fit Issues

There are many different styles of bra out there, and not all are suitable for sleeping. In fact, many of the most popular day-wear bras — especially those that have underwire and added shaping in the cups — are not usually recommended for sleep. The wire loop closures on many of the most popular day-wear garments can also make them somewhat uncomfortable when lying down.

Specially manufactured sleeping bras are usually the best option. Most of these are made of very soft material that is designed to move with the wearer. The goal is not to aid the breasts while standing or sitting upright, but rather while reclining or lying down; this difference necessarily means that the styling and design is a little bit different. Sleep bras are often very stretchy, and usually either have no hooks or else only soft, padded hooks. Those made for women with smaller chests often look sort of like sports bras, while those made with larger busts in mind tend to have more the look of a standard daytime bra, just with slightly different styling and material choices.

Fit is also very important, at night as well as during the day. A women who sleeps in a poorly fitting bra is likely to wake up feeling achy and sore, and may have indentations or score marks in her skin if the straps dug in to her back or shoulders. Most designers provide fit instructions with their product and many will actually size women and fit them in person at retail stores and specialty shops.

Special Concerns for Breastfeeding Mothers

One of the biggest cons of sleeping with a bra on concerns nursing mothers. If these women wear bras that are too tight or restrictive they risk clogging their milk ducts, slowing their supply, or both. Some nursing bras are made especially for sleep, but even these need to be fitted properly to avoid problems. Nursing moms normally need to let their breasts have some freedom of motion in order to keep making enough milk to feed their babies.

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Discuss this Article

anon315454
Post 11

I use to sleep with a bras on but instead you could just take a spandex undershirt and sleep every night with that. It feels comfortable and doesn't suffocate my breasts. I suggest you try this.

kylee07drg
Post 10

My friend used to say that she had to sleep with a bra on before she had her chest reduction surgery. Her breasts were so large that they caused her back pain day and night, but she could alleviate some of the pain at night by wearing a supportive bra.

She also wore one while healing from the surgery. After she had fully recovered, she tried sleeping without one and was delighted to find that it didn't hurt at all.

She felt more free than she ever had before. She slept a lot better, too.

wavy58
Post 9

@lighth0se33 – To me, sleep bras are just about as uncomfortable as any other type of bra. Anything that applies pressure to my chest at night agitates me. I refuse to sleep with a bra on.

StarJo
Post 8

I sleep with a bra on whenever the weather is severe. If I think that there will possibly be a tornado warning during the night, I keep it on in case I have to go to the storm shelter outside with my neighbors.

I also think about what would happen if my house were destroyed and my belongings tossed everywhere. I would hate not having a bra to wear if I had to go stay with strangers or even friends for awhile.

lighth0se33
Post 7

I have never heard of a sleep bra. My regular bras are pretty comfortable in the daytime, so if I'm ever sleeping in a house with someone else or if I have company over, I just keep one on. It doesn't cause me any problems, and I can fall asleep just fine.

I am small-chested, so I don't need a bra with underwire. I have one that is slightly padded and holds its shape without being restrictive or uncomfortable. In fact, it's rather soft and a lot like natural skin.

It provides plenty of coverage without the pain that usually accompanies this. Sometimes, I sleep in it just because I forget to take it off.

SarahGen
Post 6

@feruze-- I think the argument is that bras restrict the circulation of blood in the breasts. This circulation is believed to be responsible for delivering toxins from the breast tissue out of the body. So if you have less circulation in your breasts, they believe that the accumulation of toxins and the mutation of cells is more likely. Eventually this mutation can lead to breast cancer.

I have no idea if there is any scientific proof for this claim. But it's the main argument people use when they tell women not to wear bras all the time. So, is it bad to sleep with a bra on? Maybe.

bear78
Post 5

@anon261395-- How does sleeping with a bra on cause cancer?

I think wearing or not wearing a bra to bed is a matter of habit. People just do what they're used to doing so it's each person's preference. I personally sleep with mine on too.

fify
Post 4

@anon261395-- I'm exactly the opposite, I can never sleep in a bra, I never have actually. It's too uncomfortable for me, it feels like my breasts are being suffocated. I don't like feeling this tight strap around my skin.

I don't really like bras in general. I don't know if it's because I'm not wearing the right kind of bra but I tend to take mine off when I get home. I usually change into sweats or pajamas and I just keep my bra off. I live alone so it's never a problem being seen without one.

anon261395
Post 3

I sleep in a bra every night. My boyfriend let this slip to a mutual lady friend, and I got bombarded with the "it causes cancer" story. I'm the kind of girl who wishes her breasts were smaller, (I'm a 32D), and I'm just not comfy without my bra.

Sunny27
Post 2

@Icecream17 - I agree with you, but a lot of women wear a nursing sleep bra to bed. It is really comfortable and similar to a sports bra, but it has a snap front that you can open for nursing. These nursing bras seem comfortable because they are so soft, but I still don’t personally like the idea of sleeping with a bra on.

I guess I am so used to not sleeping with a bra on that it would feel weird if I did. I think that it would make me feel a little hot which would definitely not let me sleep.

icecream17
Post 1

I have to say that I think it is a bit uncomfortable sleeping in a bra. I also think that regardless if you wear a bra when you sleep or not, your breasts will still sag because that is part of gravity and the aging process.

I guess if you had to wear a bra while you slept, you might consider a sports bra because they are usually the most comfortable bras out there, but they do not contain any underwire and may plug your milk ducts.

If you are not nursing and feel that this is necessary then I would go with sports bra because at least it will be more comfortable.

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