Sleeping with a bra on can often prevent back aches or muscular cramps, particularly in large-breasted women, and the practice is usually recommended after breast surgery as a way to protect the tender tissues as they heal. Some women may also choose to sleep in their undergarments as a measure of modesty in front of roommates or others. The practice isn’t always particularly comfortable, though, and women who wear poorly fitting bras to bed often complain of skin irritation and breast swelling. Breastfeeding mothers may also notice a reduction in their supply if they sleep in bras that are too tight fitting, as this can reduce flow and sometimes even clog milk ducts.
Support and Pain Relief
One of the main reasons women wear bras in the daytime is to keep their breasts supported and to prevent them from sagging, and these reasons are often just as important at night, too. Women who sleep on their sides often complain of chest discomfort, particularly if their breasts are on the larger side. A bra can keep them in place and lead to more restful sleep, and also reduces the chance of muscular strain or backache. People sometimes involuntarily move in their sleep to keep their weight adjusted, and this can lead to back injuries in women with heavy breasts.
The support of a bra during the night can also help keep tender or sensitive breasts from rubbing against each other or the mattress. Tenderness is sometimes constant, but in other women it comes and goes as hormones fluctuate during menstruation; pregnant women also frequently complain of swelling and tenderness. Nighttime support can reduce friction, relieve pain, and improve sleep in these cases.
Aiding Recovery After Surgery
Doctors and nurses often recommend that anyone recovering from breast surgery sleep in a bra both to help in the healing process and to prevent re-injury or infection. Breast augmentations, reductions, and surgeries related to breast cancer are among the most common, and though the procedures vary in intensity and invasiveness all leave patients needing a bit of special care during recovery. Bras protect healing breasts from rubbing against each other, and also prevent outside elements like fuzz from the sheets and sweat from getting into the bandages.
Women who share a sleeping space with others sometimes choose to sleep with a bra on as a way of staying modest. Most bras will prevent the nipples from poking through a pajama top and may provide coverage and shaping, too. Layering several shirts or tops can get a similar effect, but isn’t always practical, particularly in warmer climates.
Discomfort and Fit Issues
There are many different styles of bra out there, and not all are suitable for sleeping. In fact, many of the most popular day-wear bras — especially those that have underwire and added shaping in the cups — are not usually recommended for sleep. The wire loop closures on many of the most popular day-wear garments can also make them somewhat uncomfortable when lying down.
Specially manufactured sleeping bras are usually the best option. Most of these are made of very soft material that is designed to move with the wearer. The goal is not to aid the breasts while standing or sitting upright, but rather while reclining or lying down; this difference necessarily means that the styling and design is a little bit different. Sleep bras are often very stretchy, and usually either have no hooks or else only soft, padded hooks. Those made for women with smaller chests often look sort of like sports bras, while those made with larger busts in mind tend to have more the look of a standard daytime bra, just with slightly different styling and material choices.
Fit is also very important, at night as well as during the day. A women who sleeps in a poorly fitting bra is likely to wake up feeling achy and sore, and may have indentations or score marks in her skin if the straps dug in to her back or shoulders. Most designers provide fit instructions with their product and many will actually size women and fit them in person at retail stores and specialty shops.
Special Concerns for Breastfeeding Mothers
One of the biggest cons of sleeping with a bra on concerns nursing mothers. If these women wear bras that are too tight or restrictive they risk clogging their milk ducts, slowing their supply, or both. Some nursing bras are made especially for sleep, but even these need to be fitted properly to avoid problems. Nursing moms normally need to let their breasts have some freedom of motion in order to keep making enough milk to feed their babies.