Knickers on? Bra off? Women are very divided over what underwear they sleep in and why

Is it ok to wear underwear to bed? It’s a contentious topic that divides women, so we asked an expert to settle it.

“I literally cannot for the life of me fathom wearing knickers under pyjamas to SLEEP in!” These are the words said by a colleague that took me aback and caused an audible gasp earlier this week. “Oh my god, WHAT? I think the complete opposite,” I retorted. 

In a discussion about getting a good night’s sleep – which is always a hot topic here at Stylist – the question “is it OK to wear underwear to bed?” had arisen. Clearly, there was no easy answer to this – we had a big debate on our hands. So we spoke to a number of women to get their thoughts on the subject, and they had very strong views.

Knickers on? Bras off? Completely naked? Here’s what 15 women had to say…

“It’s weather dependent but I usually just wear underwear. I’d sleep naked all the time but I get scared about intruders at night. And I hardly wear a bra during the day, so I definitely do not sleep in one.”

Suzanne, Leeds

“I wear pants with a nightdress, but not with PJs. I always sleep in a sleep bra though because I have to – my melons can’t handle the freedom.”

Kayleigh, London

“I feel strongly about this – take them off, you’ve gotta let your bits breathe!”

Katy, Manchester

“I always wear pants, but maybe I shouldn’t? (Airing my vagina, and all that.) I feel mega exposed. I guess pants are my security blanket.”

Danielle, Glasgow

“I always wear pants, it feels weird without them. But only pants and no bra.”

Kylie, London

Alice, London

“No, it seems unhygienic to wear knickers that you’ve been wearing all day to bed, right? Grim. Also you’re sleeping and moving and they end up digging into your butt.”

Emily, London

“I find it odd when people don’t wear knickers to bed. I just feel too naked without them and it doesn’t feel natural. Even though, weirdly, I know it is probably more natural to not wear them.”

Alyss, London

“I just don’t like being naked, I don’t think and, yeah, I’m very particular – they need to be big pants. I can’t sleep in a thong!”

Lucy, York

“When I was little my mum always said, ‘You should let your bits breathe.’ So I never grew up with it and now whenever I do wear them I feel a little… too packaged. But an absolute hack for when you need something but wanna feel fresh is a pair of men’s boxers. Honestly, buy some and your life will change. So roomy.”

Chloe, London

Is it OK to wear underwear in bed? Women are very divided over the subject.

“I always remember my granny saying, ‘You should air out your down below at bed time.’”

Amy, London

“For me it’s underpants always, never a bra and jammies mostly.”

Donna, Edinburgh

“It’s just a hard yay to wearing undies from me.”

Stephanie, Leeds

“Bras are just too uncomfy to sleep in. I don’t actually know why exactly, but I just feel more secure and comfortable in pants. I feel very aware of my lady bits, otherwise, which doesn’t help me relax for sleeping.”

Emma, Edinburgh

“I never wear underwear in bed. I’m just a very naked person – I always put clothes on at the last moment. I also think nighttime is the only time you don’t have to wear underwear so it’s a time to give your lady parts a break.”

Amy, London

It’s clear that bras are a big no for a lot of women, but there are also plenty who feel they need to wear one for support at night (it’s worth pointing out that some women find specially designed ‘sleep bras’ are helpful). 

But the big divider here is pants (knickers, briefs, whatever you want to call them). And many women are influenced by the ‘let things breathe down there’ advice passed on through the generations. But is there any truth to that and are there any health benefits?

Dr Sarah Welsh, gynaecology doctor and co-founder at HANX, says that, actually, you just need to do what you feel most comfortable doing, explaining: “Wearing underwear acts as a barrier, protecting your clothes from vaginal discharge and blood, and also protecting your vulva and vagina from irritation from clothes. 

“Wearing underwear in bed can be fine if it allows free air flow, and does not cause pain or excessive heat and moisture. Warm and moist areas can encourage growth of infections such as thrush. Tight underwear can also lead to vaginitis, which is inflammation and soreness of the vagina, including bacterial vaginosis. So whether this is during the day or at night, I would avoid tight synthetic underwear.”

“However,” she adds, “if you’re wearing tight pyjamas, this defeats the purpose of not wearing underwear in bed! Basically, if you ensure a positive environment for your vagina at night, then it doesn’t matter if this involves underwear (breathable and loose, ideally) or going commando. It comes down to personal preference and what works for your body.”

So there we have it – if you want to wear undies to bed, just make sure they’re loose and made from natural materials. And if you’re going commando with PJs, it’s probably better to wear a night dress or loose bottoms. And if you’re going completely naked – well, you don’t need to even think about those details. 

Can we put this debate to bed now?

Images: Getty

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