Sleeping in a bra--especially a wired bra--is a fairly controversial topic because lots of women have a pretty strong opinion one way or another. There are three main camps:
1. Women who cannot imagine sleeping in a bra due to discomfort, or who find it most comfortable to sleep braless (the largest group).
2. Women who sleep in an underwired bra and cannot imagine sleeping without the support of a bra with wires (a minority).
3. Women who prefer to sleep with support, but desire that support to be wireless. Members of this camp are often turned off by both the other methods.
There are also some of us who switch between methods depending on mood or circumstance.
I am a member of the smaller second camp, and I suspect a decent number of readers are making a face right now and thinking "Sleeping with wires? Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable?" I want to talk a little bit about my preference to do this because I think it has a few potential benefits that are not well known, and perhaps there are some readers who have not tried it but would like to. I don't want to 'convert' anyone, other than perhaps women who are uncomfortable sleeping braless and want information about a different option.
"Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable?" The answer is, some people do find it uncomfortable and therefore it's not a good method for them. I, however, find it to be more comfortable than any other method because of various tradeoffs, and I also find there are some other benefits to it as well. All of the methods have some benefits and some drawbacks, so I will go over my personal experience in the hopes that it can enlighten others. I would love to hear about other people's experiences in the comments.
I used to sleep braless, mostly because it was what I did when I was young and I continued to do it even once I was wearing bras every day. I was never very happy with the braless approach because I disliked the feeling of being unsupported. I especially hated waking up in the morning and either needing to put a bra on right away, or having to walk down the stairs gingerly clutching my chest. Eventually I began to experiment with various wireless options but was even more unsatisfied with them due to their tendency to push my boobs together so they touched in the center. Finally I started leaving my bra on all night out of pure laziness. I must say that it was a bit of an adjustment and in the first days, I would wake up wondering what had gotten into me that convinced me to sleep in a (new, non-broken-in) wired bra. After about a week and a switch to some better-broken-in bras, it started to seem totally normal and I have never looked back.
Since I began sleeping in a bra, I have noticed certain benefits. The shape of my boobs has actually changed somewhat. My theory is that since my boobs are rarely unsupported by a bra, the weight puts less stress on the skin, causing less loss of elasticity. My boobs are slightly more self-supporting now as the skin seems to have stretched back to a smaller shape. I believe this process was aided by my religious use of lotion and my youth, but that is not to say it could not happen to others as well. In addition to this small reversal of the work of gravity, I have a theory that sleeping in a bra (either wired or wire-free) could potentially reduce or delay changes in shape that come with age.
Obviously, all breasts will change over time, and that is fine and normal. According to most theories, the major factor supporting breasts naturally is your Cooper's ligaments. Your skin has some elasticity, which in some cases can cause very tiny shape changes, as I've described above. However, Cooper's ligaments don't have any way to bounce back from shape changes, which is why boobs usually lose elasticity as we age. This is a normal, inevitable process. Other factors can also cause shape changes--the most common being significant weight gains or losses, which is often something we cannot control for.
It does seem to be the case that relying on bras for support, rather than the Cooper's ligaments, causes less 'wear and tear' on them--many of us already rely on this during the day by wearing supportive, well-fitting bras. Good support matters most during the day, when you are moving around and standing/sitting upright. Depending on other factors like breast size, breast weight, and sleeping position, support during the night may also contribute. This theory is based on my personal experience and will be hard to prove, even over time due to the lack of a control group with identical breasts to mine. I've chosen to share my thoughts and experiences in case it is of interest to some women. I recognize others will disagree or have different experiences and I'm also looking to gather information about that from my readers.
What Kind of Bra Is Best for Sleeping?
If you are interested in trying out sleeping in a bra, don't just grab whatever bra you see in front of you. There are certain types of bras that are best suited to the practice.
A good option to start with is the wireless support style that I mentioned above. The upside is that you will never experience discomfort from poking wires. The downside is that good wireless bras can be nigh-impossible to find in large cup sizes.
wireless bra, even while providing lift and support, will never be able to separate
large heavy breasts unless it has a VERY
firm structure—think all-over molding—which would possibly defeat the
comfort purpose. You can check out Curvy Wordy's "Quest for a Sleep Bra" (links to other attempts at the bottom of this post)
to see how difficult this search can be. If you don't mind your boobs touching, then this will not be an issue for you.
For those seeking out wireless options, there are several different categories you can check out. Several brands make wireless bras specifically for this purpose. From what I have heard, Panache's Sophie bra is one of the better options--I know two people who swear by it.
You can also check out sports bras without wires--Royce's Impact Free is one with which I have seen people have success as a sleep bra.
There are also nightwear items, likes those from Bravissimo, that provide a certain level of support.
I personally find these to be less than ideal because they smoosh my boobs together and provide an unfathomable level of cleavage above the cup section, which for me nullifies the feeling of support. Part of the problem is, as a poster child for full-on-top boobs, I just have way too much breast tissue above where Bravissimo thinks I do. However, their nightwear line certainly has its fans and if you get along with Bravissimo's own-brand Alana-type bras, you most likely will have better luck with the nightwear items than I do.
A final option is just using a regular t-shirt or camisole that is tight enough to provide some level of support. In some size ranges, regular old camis with built-in bras might work surprisingly well for this.
Although wireless bras are a good option
for those craving a balance of support and comfort, an underwired bra will
provide more separation, which is the major difference between wired and non-wired bras. My personal pet peeve is having my boobs touch in the middle all
night, which makes it impossible for me to get comfortable, so wireless options are no good for me. I do NOT recommend wearing an underwired bra at night to those who find it uncomfortable--don't put yourself through pain; it's not for everyone.
With that disclaimer out of the way, if you DO want to sleep in an underwired bra to get that separation, here is what to look for:
1. A high
center gore to provide separation, especially if you sleep on your side or belly.
2. A cup
with a very round shape or a very well-fitted shape. It's tempting to sleep in a bra that doesn't suit your shape, since you won't be wearing it during the day, but that's not the best method. A cup that has more projection
than your boobs--that is, empty space in the apex--won’t provide the same support while you are lying down as a bra that fits your boobs perfectly. It's also important to avoid bras that are too small or too tight in sections like the top. Any bra cup that smashes you down where you don't want to be squished could damage your boobs, whether it's during the day or night, so don't just jump to using your worst-fitting bras as sleep bras. However, it's fine to use bras that fall short in other ways--like displaying too much or too little cleavage, or having thick seams that show under shirts--as sleep bras.
3. The band
should be looser than what you’d wear during the day. You don’t need nearly as much
horizontal support while sleeping, and it’s important to allow your back a little break
from that compression, especially if your boobs are heavy. An everyday bra that is past its prime due to lost elasticity in the band could be a good option. Personally, I buy bras in a band size up to use specifically as sleep bras.
My favorite sleep bras:
That's right--Curvy Kate's Thrill Me and Tease Me styles. These bras tick all the boxes for a perfect sleep bra--a high gore, a compact rounded shape that supports but doesn't smash me anywhere, too much cleavage for my preference during the day, and a nice comfortably stretchy band.
When it comes to sleeping, you should do what makes you happy. Sleeping in a bra is certainly not for everyone, but if you're uncomfortable sleeping braless and have never tried sleeping in a bra,
I recommend giving it a shot. You might be surprised at how comfy you find it...Or
you might hate it and go straight back to bralessness. There’s only one way to