Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Since I was a girl I’ve been told not to sleep in a bra, but I’ve often done so anyway, for comfort or just out of sheer laziness. But are any of the stories we’ve been told about bras causing cancer or sagging or whatever actually true? Is it really bad to sleep in a bra? And if so, why?
Sleeping in a bra and cancer
This is one of the more common warnings I’ve received throughout my life, and yet, actual science points to the contrary. A 2014 study by the American Association For Cancer Research found that “Despite the widespread use of bras among U.S. women and concerns in the lay media that bra wearing may increase breast cancer risk, there is a scarcity of credible scientific studies addressing this issue”.
They conducted their own population based study of 469 women, and found that “no aspect of bra wearing, including bra cup size, recency, average number of hours/day worn, wearing a bra with an underwire, or age first began regularly wearing a bra” was associated with risks of breast cancer.
In fact, experts say there is absolutely no research that supports claims that wearing your bra 24/7 is bad for you. That’s good news for those who feel more comfortable, or even just a little sexier, sleeping in their bras!
Will bras at bed time stop my breasts from sagging?
Here’s a little good news for those of us who opt to go braless at bedtime. According to Popsugar, sleeping in a bra has no effect on whether or not your boobies are going to get a little droopy later in life.
Popsugar quotes Dr. Christine Bishara, the founder of integrative medical wellness practice From Within Medical, who says that “breast sagging is caused by ageing and gravity. Whether you wear a bra to sleep or not will make no difference”.
“As we age, there is weakening of connective tissue fibres in the breasts, and with the effects of gravity, some sagging is inevitable. The heavier your breasts, the harder the pull of gravity. While bras can shape and lift your breasts while wearing them, they have no effect on long-term prevention of breast sagging.”
This is echoed by Dr Seth Rankin, who argues that “when you’re lying down flat, the effect of gravity pushes the breast tissue back towards your chest, instead of down towards your toes. So wearing a bra (the purpose of which is ultimately to support breasts from below) is essentially redundant in bed, as breasts naturally compress back down onto the chest.”
So why are people worried?
If we don’t need to be worried about our bed-time bra habits increasing our chances of breast cancer, why do so many people claim it’s bad to sleep in a bra?
Well, it turns out there are still a couple of risks, like restricted circulation and potential skin infections. According to Dr Bishara, wearing a bra while you sleep has the potential to restrict circulation and lymphatic flow. This can hinder your body’s ability to filter toxins and impurities in the body. At worst, it could also lead to inflammation, fluid retention and discomfort.
In the summer, sleeping in a bra could also lead to increased sweating, which may cause fungal infections to flourish, particularly under the breast where its dark, warm and – well, moist from the afore-mentioned sweat.
Then there’s the fact that bras with underwire may just be uncomfortable and prevent you from getting good quality sleep. And we all know how important sleep is!
Does sleeping in a bra have benefits?
Despite the above risks, there are a couple of benefits to going to sleep in your bra. For women with larger breasts it can be a lot more comfortable not to have them moving around or getting in the way at night. Popsugar quotes Kim Langdon, MD, an OB-GYN based in Ohio, who adds that “women who have had breast implants may want to sleep with a bra to prevent the implant from migration”.
For those of us who do want to sleep in a bra, though, some may be better options than others. According to Dr. Bishara it’s best to “give your breasts that time during the night to process and eliminate impurities by not wearing a bra and allowing the free flow of circulation. If you still feel compelled to wear a bra to sleep, choose one that is loose enough to allow adequate blood flow and one made with a breathable material, such as cotton.”
Of course, if a bra is uncomfortable when you wear it during the day, it’s not going to do you any favours at night. Pick one that’s breathable, non-restrictive, and that doesn’t have underwires.
Now that we know that sleeping in a bra has no serious or life-threatening consequences, we’re free to decide on our own what we prefer. Let those girls be free if you want to, or tuck them in snugly if you don’t. We can sleep just as soundly in our bras as we can out of them, regardless of the old wives’ tales.