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Wearing a Bra at Night: Is Sleeping in a Bra Harmful?

Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe admitted to always wearing a bra to bed. Others believe that sleeping in a bra can provide the same benefits as cosmetic surgery. But when it comes to your health, is wearing a bra at night beneficial or harmful?

Although there are a number of different reasons why many people wear a bra at night, experts say the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.

If your bra has an underwire or is especially tight fitting, it’s likely to restrict blood circulation. An elastic or underwire pressed firmly against your skin will constrict your pectoral muscles (i.e., the muscles of your chest wall). This inhibits the flow of blood to the nerves in your arms and throughout the rest of your body.

Furthermore, wearing a bra at night that usually functions as a compression garment (e.g., a sports bra) could prevent blood from reaching your breast tissue. Poor circulation can lead to dizziness and muscle cramps.

You may already know that sleeping in really snug clothing can make it difficult to sleep. Similarly, wearing a bra to bed (particularly a tight-fitting one) can be equally uncomfortable. Even the slightest constriction can affect your overall sleep quality. 

The multiple hooks and straps of a bra repeatedly rub against the surface of your skin, potentially causing pain, discomfort, and irritation.

Hyperpigmentation, or discoloration of the skin, is a direct result of elevated melanin levels in certain regions of your body. Melanin pigment determines your complexion and resides in the outermost layers of the skin. Constantly wearing a bra at night tends to generate friction, stimulating melanocyte production and forming dark spots and uneven skin tone.

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The warm, moist environment of a form-fitting bra creates an ideal breeding ground for fungus. That’s why it’s best to avoid wearing a bra to bed, especially if you live in a hot or humid climate.

Studies show that wearing a bra at night negatively impacts the lymphatic system, which removes toxins from your breasts via the lymph nodes in your underarms. The physical constriction of a sports or underwire bra blocks the lymphatic system from draining and keeps toxins from filtering out of your system. Consequently, wearing a bra to sleep may make you more prone to developing edema and chronic inflammation of the breasts, among other things.

Experts tout the health benefits associated with not sleeping in a bra. They include the following.

When lying down, your upper airways become narrower, making it harder for air to reach your lungs. Tight clothing and undergarments further restrict air movement in your chest. By wearing a bra to bed, which is wrapped firmly around the ribcage, your ribs can’t fully and freely expand. 

Sleeping in a bra can make your breathing more labored and shallow, lowering your usual intake of oxygen. On the other hand, sleeping without a bra better allows you to breathe (and rest) easy.

Wearing a bra to bed (particularly in warm weather) can lead to a hotter, sweatier night. The accumulation of sweat in your bra can lead to body odor and acne. Help keep your skin clear by avoiding wearing a bra when you sleep. 

Although the injuries are usually mild, it is possible to hurt yourself when sleeping in a bra. The buttons, hooks, straps, and underwire can repeatedly poke at and rub against your skin, resulting in redness and chafing. Taking off your bra before bed prevents this from being a problem.

Similar to form-fitting clothes, a super-snug bra can leave marks or indentations on your skin. Frequently wearing a bra at night encourages such marks to become permanent. Consider choosing a loose top to give your skin some much-needed rest and relaxation.

If you’re still not convinced of the downsides of wearing a bra to bed, then a specially designed sleep bra might be a good option for you. If you feel more comfortable wearing a bra when you sleep, take some time to shop around for a suitable product. 

Look for a seamless bra that’s made of soft, non-irritating fabric and features wide, comfortable straps. Avoid bras that are overly tight, include a lot of detailing, or that might poke or dig into your skin. In fact, it may be wise to go with a larger-sized sleep bra that offers plenty of freedom and flexibility.

Ultimately, the negatives appear to outnumber the positives when it comes to wearing a bra at night. Despite popular myth, sleeping in a bra won’t make your boobs any perkier or prevent sagging. In reality, it disrupts your sleep and potentially affects both short-term and long-term health. However, if you’re more comfortable wearing a bra when you sleep, there are lots of well-designed sleep bra options to try.

“Is It OK to Wear a Bra While Sleeping?” Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Is-It-OK-to-Wear-a-Bra-While-Sleeping.

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