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Bras: To Wear, Or Not To Wear Them To Bed?

It's an age old issue that's divided women generation after generation: is it totally harmless to sleep with a bra on, or is it a must that you slip out of it before hitting the sack?

Why is it even important that we sort this out?


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It's important because of two reasons. First, it's time that we debunk old wives' tales surrounding the issue. Secondly — and most importantly! — as educated women, it's crucial that we inform ourselves about the facts of breast health and how to care for the more intimate areas of our bodies.

Now that we've got that settled, read on to see what the experts have to say about the bra vs. no bra in bed debate, and the answer to this question that's persisted for years.


Identifying the real culprit


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According to Dr. Seth Rankin, founder of private GP chain London Doctors Clinic, the main reason for women wanting to wear bras to bed is because they believe doing so will help maintain breasts' perkiness and shape over time. If bras were built to support breasts throughout the day, then wearing them throughout the evening for an additional eight hours or so should give them more support, which is a great thing. The fear of sagging is very real!

After all, silver screen legend Marilyn Monroe — who we all know was blessed with a full figure — swore by it, and top model Tyra Banks has mentioned that she too is a bra-in-bed practitioner. And if Marilyn and Tyra say it's worked for them, the technique must be effective, right?

Unfortunately, no definitive results from research has proven that wearing a bra while we sleep soundly can counter, or even delay, the natural consequences of aging on bodies. Just as the suppleness of our skin in other parts of our bodies lose elasticity over time, breasts are not immune to the effects of gravity.

Bras were designed to support breasts when you're in an upright position; they push upwards. They don't provide much of an inward push when breasts naturally spill over sideways when you lay down to sleep.


As if gravity wasn't enough


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Dr. Amber Guth, associate professor of surgery and director of the Breast Cancer Surgery Multidisciplinary Fellowship at NYU Langone Medical Center, shares her thoughts on the issue: genetics, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and fluctuating weight can also play a part in the changing shape, size, and density of breasts.

Wearing or not wearing a bra to bed has little, or nothing, to do with it.

But before you feel completely defeated, know that there are some things you can do to keep things, well, looking up. If gravity and its minions are new your worst enemies, exercise is your new BFF and best bet.

Maintaining an active lifestyle helps keeps muscles toned and tissue mass in shape, including the muscles that keep sagging at bay. It definitely helps that exercise is an all-around good thing for your whole body.


Why wearing bras to bed is discouraged, for the most part


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Along with the doctors mentioned in this article, Natasha Harding of Rigby & Peller, a British luxury lingerie retailer, warns of the consequences of disobeying bra-in-bed guidelines.

Shifting our focus away from the cosmetic reasons for wearing bras to sleep, she talks about how prolonged bra-wearing can lead to any of the following: cyst formation in the areas where under wires touch the skin, fungal growth when bras of synthetic materials cause us to sweat under the covers, hyperpigmentation in areas where bras cause friction, the inability of lymph nodes to drain breasts of fluids and infection-causing bacteria, and the restriction of blood circulation which results in tissues repairing themselves at a slower rate.

No one wants that.

To add to this, Holly Pederson, M.D., Director of Medical Breast Services at the Cleveland Clinic, clarifies that while there are known negative effects of wearing bras to bed, no scientific study has backed up the claim that doing so causes breast cancer, or increases your risk for breast cancer.


If going braless really isn't an option


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On the other hand, you should also know that wearing a bra to bed is not completely without its benefits — but these benefits are not of the sort you think you already know, as explained by Mary L. Gavin, MD.

In particular, women with fuller chests (we're talking cup sizes D and up) may benefit from keeping a bra on while they rest at night as they can feel uneasy when they sleep without support. They may get a better night's rest when they sleep with a bra on, but note that not just any bra will do the trick.

Opt for wireless cotton bras, bralettes, soft-cup bras, camisoles with built-in bandeaus, or breathable sports bras. These kinds of bras provide support without hampering movement, irritating or chafing skin, or restricting blood circulation.

If you absolutely cannot go completely braless regardless of your cup size, this is the healthiest option for you. Also, if you're having a particularly sore week due to hormonal changes during your cycle or are a nursing mom, this is something you can consider, too.


The verdict


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And now, the answer!

Women's health experts have talked about this issue just as much as we have, and at the end of the day, they're just as conflicted as we are about it.

While the bra-in-bed question leads us to a lot of gray areas, there are some points we can pick up to help us decide what's best for us, and which alternatives are the safest:

  • You can wear a bra to sleep, but pick the right kind, and of the right material.
  • You cannot fight gravity, or your genes.
  • Exercise looks like it can address many of our body concerns, and there is just no way around it.
  • Wearing a bra to bed won't stop time, but choosing the right style and getting measured every so often to make sure you're wearing the right size will make you look — and feel — great when you're wide awake.


Cover and content images from @victoriassecret