London - You’ve brushed your teeth, slathered on moisturiser and taken off your slippers. Now for the nightly decision that has divided women for generations — should you remove your bra before bed or sleep in it?
Everyone seems to have a different opinion and the internet is full of conflicting information. Some claim wearing a bra to bed prevents a sagging cleavage, others that it blocks vital lymph glands — and can even cause breast cancer.
Many say it makes breasts perkier, and there are those who say it irritates skin.
Screen legend Marilyn Monroe wore one every night and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup has sworn by doing so since Paula Yates told her not to bother with a boob job and “just wear a bra in bed”. But is it the mother of all old wives’ tales or can wearing a bra all night really reverse the effects of gravity?
The droop test
Whether night-time bra-wearing can stop sagging is the million-dollar question. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to firmly support the theory.
Cosmetic surgeon Angelica Kavouni says: “Wearing a bra in bed can offer comfort while sleeping but does not help protect against drooping.”
She says breast ptosis, where skin becomes saggy, can set in due to shrinkage after pregnancy, sudden weight-loss or lack of collagen caused by ageing.
“None of these are relevant when lying down,” she adds. “Wearing a bra while standing and moving can battle ptosis but the processes that cause drooping aren’t in play while supine.”
Equally, a bra is not a time machine and can’t reverse drooping.
But a lack of scientific proof can’t silence the anecdotal evidence that bras do help.
Natasha Harding, a fitting specialist at lingerie specialists Rigby & Peller, sees many women who are adamant wearing a bra to bed has improved their shape.
“My personal experience is that women tend to maintain perkier breasts if they sleep in a bra,” she says.
According to cosmetic surgeon Douglas McGeorge, nightly bra-wearing may help with stretch marks.
“Bigger breasts can drag and want to go sideways when you are lying down. This can pull the skin and contribute to stretch marks,” he says. “Wearing a bra to sleep in may slow the ageing process down very slightly in this instance.”
Equally, while bras can’t help stop a wrinkly décolletage while you sleep there are specialist products that can. The Kush sleep support (thekushcompany.com) sits between the breasts while you rest on your side, supporting their weight and reducing creases.
Experts agree wearing a bra in bed, as long as it is well-fitting, may give a more comfortable night’s sleep.
Those with larger breasts — size 34D and above — often find this and so do pregnant women as their breasts can increase by two sizes or more and get far heavier. It’s about feeling secure and helping you sleep.
Professor Kefah Mokbel, lead breast surgeon at the London Breast Inst-itute, says: “I advise patients suffering from breast discomfort — usually because they have large breasts or have just had breast surgery, such as implants or a reduction — that wearing a bra at night can provide support and stop discomfort.”
Some women find camisole tops with built-in support more comfortable, avoiding the restrictive feeling of a conventional bra.
There is also a range of “night bras” on the market.
Choosing a bra that’s too tight can lead to problems.
“Wearing a constrictive bra to sleep affects the physiology of the breast. It can impair the blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which, at worst, can lead to chronic inflammation, oedema (fluid retention) and discomfort,” warns Professor Mokbel. Lymph glands are like exit doors for waste products from the breasts, draining by-products such as oestrogen and sending them to the liver or kidneys to be broken down.
If a bra strap or side panel digs in while you are asleep, you may get an unhealthy build up of fluid which can trigger swelling and painful sensitivity.
Bras, especially synthetic polyester styles, can raise your temperature while you are asleep.
Breasts are external organs designed to work best at a lower temperature (36 degrees celsius) than the rest of your body, which prefers to be a steady 37C.
“Sleeping in your bra can raise the temperature of your breast tissue to 37 degrees or slightly more and a restrictive bra can heighten this rise even more,” warns Professor Mokbel.
“Though very little research has been done, there are some theories that a change in heat like this — called ‘chaotic cooling or warming’ — may cause conditions which lead to breast cancer. This is in the same way testicular cancer has been linked to cyclists who wear restrictive clothing, such as lycra shorts, for long periods.”
To prevent any risk to yourself, pick out a correct-fitting bra that is made in soft, breathable cotton.
The right fit
If you are going to take the plunge and buy a sleep-in bra, there are a few things to remember.
The first, according to Rigby & Peller’s Natasha Harding, is to avoid the rigid underwired models.
“Underwire can push into the chest when you lie down and cause cysts over time with rubbing.
“Choose something soft — almost like a sports bra — but nothing overly loose or stretchy. It should give you some support.”
A third of us wear the wrong-sized bra every day, so get a professional fitting to find out your correct measurements and prevent irritation.
Retailers such as Rigby & Peller and Marks & Spencer will do this for you for free through a personal consultation without any obligation to buy.
Expert Natasha says women with bigger busts should pick out bras with more structure, thicker side panels and wider straps for maximum support without pinching the skin.
“Look for at least 80 percent cotton on the label, too, so it’s breathable and you won’t overheat,” she says. - Daily Mail