Is It Unhealthy to Sleep in an Underwire Bra?

If you like to snooze with your girls strapped firmly into place, here's what you need to know.

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Sleeping in a bra is a lot like eating marmite or sardines: You either love it or hate it. Some women see it as a vital sacrifice to maintain a youthful perkiness or just find it more comfortable. For others, sleeping in an underwire bra means struggling to get comfortable in a kind of personal prison. After decades of debate, it’s time to figure out once and for all: Is sleeping in an underwire bra dangerous or not?

There has long been a popular myth that sleeping in an underwire bra can lead to breast cancer, but this claim is entirely false. “There’s just no evidence that any type of bra, or a tight-fitting bra, is harmful in any way,” Holly Pederson, MD, director of medical breast services at the Cleveland Clinic, told Women’s Health. In a study published by Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention the researchers stress that nothing about wearing a bra—including cup size, number of hours per day wearing a bra, wearing a bra with underwire, or the age women first starting wearing a bras—has any impact on one’s risk of getting breast cancer. So we can definitely rule that out as a reason to avoid sleeping in one.

There’s also no proof that sleeping in an underwire bra hinders bodily circulation. “If the routine use of bras contributed to lymphatic blockage, you should be seeing other signs, such as edema (swelling) or fluid accumulation in the breasts, and earlier, non-cancerous changes in the shape and size of the axillary lymph node,” Amber Guth, MD, a surgical oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, told huffingtonpost.com. This basically means if underwire bras were really hindering our circulation while we slept, we’d be seeing very clear signs of lymph node damage and non-cancerous shape changes, which obviously isn’t the case.

The truth is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong or unhealthy about sleeping in a bra—with underwire or without. The appeal of sleeping in a bra is generally for added support, instead of letting gravity takes it’s toll for another eight hours. However, though this habit of sleeping in a bra may marginally help maintain shape and perkiness, Dr. Guth points out that over time, gravity, pregnancy, and breastfeeding will unavoidably take their toll.

For women with bigger breasts (a D cup or larger), another reason to sleep in a bra is simply to contain them and reduce back pain. An ample chest is often a nuisance to women trying to sleep, so keeping them strapped against the body may actually help them feel more comfortable.

No matter the size of your breasts, sleeping in a bra is entirely a matter of choice based on personal comfort. And the great news is, you don’t have to worry about any dangers either way. Here’s what your bra choice says about your personality.

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Aubrey Almanza is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and King's College London. Her writing has appeared in Prevention, SHAPE, and Reader's Digest, among others. She specializes in data-driven content on topics of wellness, beauty, culture, art, and fashion.