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You’ve heard the old wives’ tales time and time again, that sleeping in a bra can stunt breast growth, cause breast cancer, or alternatively, prevent breasts from sagging.
But contrary to popular belief, there’s no medical evidence that says it’s bad to sleep with a bra on. Depending on your breast size, sleeping in a bra can limit breast movement, which can help alleviate breast pain and lead to more comfortable sleep.
Chest size aside, it really comes down to preference. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to sleep with your bra on and how to choose the right bra.
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There are no peer-reviewed medical studies that point to any negative effects from sleeping with a bra. In fact, women with larger breasts who experience significant movement at night may benefit from a bra’s structured fit.
“Some women have painful, lumpy breasts, and wearing a soft bra to bed can help limit breast movement while sleeping,” says Dr. Regina Hampton, a board certified breast surgeon and founder of Breast Care for Washington, D.C.
This is also true for those with breast implants. “Sleeping in a bra can be more supportive, as long as it’s a soft bra that’s not cutting off any circulation,” says Dr. Terri Ann Samuels, a board certified urogynecologist and founder of Essentially You. “It may allow implants to stay lifted for longer.”
Pushup bra with underwire support or not, gravity and age will take their toll, and breasts will naturally sag over time – and that’s completely normal. Wearing a bra to sleep doesn’t really help to avoid that.
Cooper’s ligaments, also called suspensory ligaments (the ligaments that support your breasts), stretch over time, leading to breasts that sag.
Common reasons breasts may sag
- Genetics. Traits like skin elasticity, breast size, and tissue density can play a role in how your breasts may look over time.
- Gravity. Gravity can take a toll over time.
- Body habits. Constantly gaining and losing weight can cause loss of elasticity.
- Hormonal changes during menopause. Menopause brings in a decrease in estrogen, which can cause breast tissue to lose elasticity.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Since the breasts grow during pregnancy, there’s a higher chance the breast tissue will stretch and the ligaments will become loose.
- Smoking. The nicotine in cigarette smoke causes elastin to break down in the body, which causes skin to droop.
- Exercise without support. High-impact workouts without a properly supportive bra cause breasts to bounce and the ligaments to loosen over time.
“If you want to decrease the rate at which your breasts migrate south, make sure you’re exercising your pectoral muscles,” says Jasmine Jones, bra-fitting specialist and owner of Cherry Blossom Intimate in Glenarden, Maryland.
Exercise moves that help prevent sagging breasts
Just like there are no major benefits to sleeping with a bra, there are also no major negative consequences to sleeping in one.
“No published data says there is any detriment to sleeping in a bra, such as breast cancer effects, bad blood circulation, or stunted breast growth,” says Samuels.
If there’s any cause for concern at all, it’s simply that you shouldn’t wear a bra that’s too tight or digging into your skin, which could cause skin irritation and disrupted sleep.
“Just make sure it’s the right size bra and the proper fit to prevent things like a fungal infection under the breasts, which can happen if the bra doesn’t tuck under the breast properly, resulting in skin touching skin,” says Hampton.
Sports bras aren’t better or worse for sleeping, but this issue is more common with ill-fitting sports bras.
Lastly, as with any piece of garment that comes in close contact with your skin, bras often accumulate tons of sweat, oil, and bacteria. Make sure you wash it often to prevent skin issues like irritation and acne breakouts.
If you’re opting to sleep with a bra, make sure you choose something looser, softer, and more flexible than what you normally wear during the day.
“If you wear underwire during the day, you might want to look for a bra with no wires,” says Hampton. “Make sure it’s a good fit so that it sits just as well as your day bra.”
Jones says there are three parts to a perfect bra fitting: “The gore of the bra should lay flat against the chest wall with both breasts sitting inside the cups, the back hook should be on the second hook… and the straps should be adjusted to accommodate your body,” she says.
A bra with cotton fabric is always a good choice because it’s breathable. Jones recommends her customers’ three favorites, which you can buy online:
There’s no evidence that points to any negative health effects from sleeping in a bra.
In fact, sleeping in a bra may be beneficial for women with larger breasts who might experience discomfort from breast movement throughout the night.
That being said, choosing to wear a bra at night comes down to preference.