Rumor has it that wearing a bra when you sleep at night may not be good for you. Some even say it could increase your risk of cancer. Are you one of many women who can’t go without a “support system” even at night? If yes, it’s time to clear the air about whether or not you should wear a bra to sleep.
Can Sleeping With A Bra On Cause Cancer?
Breast cancer still claims over 40,000 lives a year in the United States.1 So it’s only normal to balk at the thought of your bra being one of the culprits. Can wearing a bra to bed or while lying down cause cancer of the breast? What’s the logic behind this argument?
Many claim that sleeping in a bra can cause your lymphatic system to get clogged, as the bra constricts the underarm lymph node that should be draining carcinogenic toxins from the area. It all began in the mid-90s when the book Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, published by a husband–wife duo, suggested that bra wearing might be a cause for breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has, however, gone on record to reject any such claims. The ACS points out that the research in the book wasn’t backed by proper scientific methodology or controls. It also failed to account for other factors that could increase an individual’s cancer risk.
The society commissioned a separate study to investigate the possibility that bras obstruct the drainage of lymph nodes and increase the risk of breast cancer. The study looked at patients who had their underarm lymph nodes surgically removed, thereby significantly impeding drainage. There was no heightened incidence of breast cancer in this group. While this was a preliminary study, it did seem to back what the ACS was saying.2
Another piece of research confirms this. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center also undertook a study of 1000 women with breast cancer and 500 without cancer, all postmenopausal, to see if there was any connection. Their research revealed that developing breast cancer is not connected to whether or not you wear a bra all day, day and night, or not much at all. In the study, the average number of hours that a bra was worn per day showed no association with cancer incidence.3
Circulation Trouble: Another Myth
Another argument against wearing a bra at night is that it constricts the chest and limits proper circulation of blood in the region. But as experts explain, circulation issues – in fact, any discomfort or pain from wearing a bra to sleep – can happen only if the bra itself is ill-fitting or too tight. It doesn’t have anything to do with wearing a bra, just wearing the wrong one! 4
A Bra May Actually Help
Contrary to what you feared, a bra may even be good for you in the following circumstances.
Eases Breast Pain
If you have mastalgia or breast pain, researchers say you can actually ease the pain by using the right bra – including when you sleep. For instance, a soft support bra that holds the breasts in place while you sleep will help if you experience cyclical mastalgia (linked to the hormonal changes your body undergoes as a result of your menstrual cycle).
For those who have noncyclical breast pain (not linked to your menstrual cycle) in certain spots on the breast or a diffuse pain on the breast area, using a firm supporting bra all through the day and night, 7 days a week, is beneficial.5
Provides Postoperative Support
For women who have undergone any kind of breast surgery, including a biopsy, a postoperative bra may actually be recommended. A sports bra that can be opened from the front is ideal. This way, you can avoid raising your arms overhead, which might be painful. Even if you are someone who doesn’t normally wear a bra to bed, you’ll find it helps to use a bra while you sleep – at least for a few days to a week after you have been operated on.6
Make Your Own Choices But Wear The Right Bra!
Bra wearing while you sleep boils down to a personal choice and is a matter of comfort. You don’t need to worry about your decision from a health or medical standpoint – unless a support bra has been recommended after surgery. In this case, wearing one is a good idea.
The key to avoiding any complaints or discomfort from wearing a bra to sleep is to choose the right bra for the right occasion. So a tight underwired bra isn’t a smart choice for sleeping. On the other hand, a soft support bra with no underwire or a sports bra for extra support may work for you. If you find yourself waking up with red lines or indentations on your skin from your bra, you need to be fitted for a new one that’s the right size. A good bra will provide you support, not pain or irritation.
|↑1||What are the key statistics about breast cancer?. American Cancer Society.|
|↑2||Bras and Breast Cancer: A Theory that Lacks Support. American Cancer Society.|
|↑3||Chen, Lu, Kathleen E. Malone, and Christopher I. Li. “Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case–Control Study.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention (2014).|
|↑4||Is Sleeping In A Bra Good Or Bad For You?. Huffington Post.|
|↑5||Mansel, R. E. “ABC of breast diseases: breast pain.” BMJ 309, no. 6958 (1994): 866-868.|
|↑6||Gates, Rose A., and Regina M. Fink. Oncology nursing secrets. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008.|