Is It Bad to Sleep with a Bra On?

The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Oct 11th, 2019

Throughout my youth and young adulthood, I was adamant about wearing a bra. This was in spite of my clear lack of need for one until I was well into college. I was told that not wearing one would lead to an adulthood full of breasts that hang low and wobble to and fro.

Combine that bra-wearing compulsion with a college-age tendency to party late into the night and crash into my bed in whatever I was wearing. I was horrified to later hear that wearing a bra might lead to breast cancer. As a fitness and nutrition enthusiast, the news that a bra might be my downfall was terrifying.

When I combed the internet to learn more, I came across a 15-year study that found something shocking—bras might make breasts sag more. Suffice it to say, I shed the bra and have since enjoyed my natural daytime bounce and nighttime freedom.

A few years later, I heard a rumor that the breast cancer link may be a fallacy. How can bra wearing be such a hotly debated topic? Let’s dive in.

Is It Bad to Wear a Bra to Bed?

According to John Hopkins and the America Cancer Society, no. Although I will say that authors of other blogs who spoke with various experts (such as Dr. Seth Rankin) have delivered contradictory advice. This advice holds that bras can restrict the flow of blood as well as lymph from lymph nodes, harming breast tissue. The claim is that underwire bras, ill fitted bras, or tight bras are the worst culprits.

When I dig into the research, my findings support the idea that it is safe to wear a bra at night. According to a 2017 update by the Institute for Quality Efficiency in Health Care, there is no evidence to date that wearing a bra increases your risk for breast cancer.

What About Sagging?

A lot of women believe that wearing a bra, both day and night, will help keep breasts perkier as they age. Research suggests that this long-held belief is untrue. In fact, wearing a bra may result in boobs that are droopier than if you didn’t wear a bra at all. Keep in mind, this research was done on women age 18 to 35. The study author notes that older women who have had children are unlikely to notice a difference, although more research is needed.

The fact of the matter is this: boob perkiness is doomed as you grow older. This is true whether or not you wear a bra day-and-night.

The connective tissue in your breasts is incredibly elastic when you’re young. As you get older, you will lose that elasticity. Multiple factors are to blame for this loss in elasticity, including gravity, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.

What’s more, breasts’ elastic connective tissue is naturally replaced by fat cells over time. As any of us with a “problem area” are well aware, fat is quite saggy.

Bra enthusiasts argue that a bra will counteract gravity’s pull. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t hold up. When you wear a bra, your breasts may be supported at the bottom, but there is still gravity acting on them from above. Plus, according to the above research that found bras increase boob sagginess, a bra may weaken the muscles that hold up your breasts.

And even if bras helped to keep your breasts elastic, which they do not appear to do, this benefit would not apply in bed. Bras are designed to support your breasts when you are standing, not when you are lying down. Especially if you sleep on your back or stomach.

Should You Wear Bras to Bed?

There appears to be no danger of, or benefit to, sleeping in a bra. If wearing a nighttime bra feels more comfortable, go ahead. But if you think bras are uncomfortable or would like to try a stint sans-bra, your breasts’ perkiness may actually benefit. Remember, bras preventing sagging is an old wives’ tale.