Straight away we need to explode two popular myths here: the first being that sleeping with a bra on does not stop the growth of your breasts, and the second being that sleeping with a bra on does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Now we’ve got that off our chest, so to speak, let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of wearing a bra throughout the night.
Some women swear by wearing a bra even during their sleep because they believe it prevents breast ptosis – the medical term for drooping or sagging breasts. However, recently published research from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Besançon, France has proven that, on the contrary, continual bra wear may actually increase the natural droop of a woman’s bust.
The truth is that to remain healthy your breast tissue requires the benefit of a proper circulation of blood and other fluids. Wearing a bra, however comfortable it may be, will restrict your circulation in some way, whether it’s from the shoulder straps, back strap or the underwire. So the general advice is to go bra-less at night so as to let your breasts – and your skin – breathe.
How you feel about your body will always be a very personal issue. It’s unlikely that if you have a smaller bust you’ll be too bothered about the need to support yourself in bed. However, if your breasts are larger, it might well feel uncomfortable to just let them roam free. You might find that you get backache without the proper support, and what’s more, you might experience painful rubbing and even sores on the skin underneath where your breasts naturally lie.
If you feel the need to wear something that ‘contains’ your chest, try wearing a reasonably tight, Lycra-based camisole top. It’s possible to buy vest tops with a hidden inner ‘shelf’, which also helps you feel supported, but make sure this isn’t too tight as it might have the same ultimate effect as wearing a full bra. If you absolutely must wear a bra at night, make sure it’s softer and less structured than your daytime bras, and steer clear of all underwire and padding.
When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, the change in your breasts is considerable. In fact, one of the first signs that you are pregnant is a noticeable swell in your breasts – with some women, this can happen even before you miss your first period. During pregnancy your breasts will undoubtedly increase in size and for a time may not feel quite like your ‘own’. It’s likely you’ll be able to see veins that weren’t present beforehand due to the increased blood flow, and the tissue may feel warmer than normal. The change in size may also affect the overall shape of your nipples.
During this extreme time of change, you might feel more comfortable wearing a bra overnight for the extra support it gives your expanding shape. From the moment your pregnancy is confirmed, you should wear maternity bras, and this is just as true for night-time use as it is for the day. Maternity bras have no underwire to restrict the development of your milk ducts, and they tend also to have wider, more comfortable shoulder straps, which help to balance the load.
During breastfeeding, your breasts will inflate and deflate according to your nursing patterns, so it’s important to be measured for a proper feeding bra. Again this won’t have underwire and it will feature ‘easy access’ options including drop-down cups, or front openings. As your breasts will also tend to leak milk (especially during the early months while your body is still getting used to the process), you may well find that you need to wear a bra or at the least, a close fitting crop top, to help hold in place disposable breast pads – these soak up the milk and stop you staining your bedding and clothes.
Following any type of breast surgery, you must take your doctor’s advice about what type of bra you should wear and whether you should also wear one at night. Certainly with breast augmentation surgery it is quite common to wear a bra constantly for a long time after the operation.
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