OK, Tmi: Is It Actually Necessary to Let Your Vagina “Breathe” at Night?

Photo: Stocksy / Jovo Jovanovic
I am firmly team Sleep in the Nude. Like, I straight up don't get people who sleep with their clothes on. Part of this is comfort (what's cozier than no clothes at all? Nothing!), and in part because I've always thought that you had to remove your underwear at night to let your vagina "breathe"—and I've never questioned it until my editor asked me to investigate this topic. You know, for science.

Here's what I learned: It can be beneficial to sleep without underwear on, but it has less to do with your vagina and more to do with the health of your outer parts. Basically, everyone with a vagina experiences vaginal discharge, says Shweta Pai, OB/GYN and member of the Love Wellness medical advisory board. "Some women may have more physiologic discharge than others, thus creating a moist environment within their underwear," she says. "Excess moisture can lead to bacterial overgrowth, which can lead to a vaginal infection," she says. By sleeping in the buff at night (or wearing cotton-only underwear), Dr. Pai says that you can ward off future vaginal infections by decreasing the amount of moisture that surrounds your vagina or vulva. (Hence the whole "letting your vagina breathe" thing.)

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However, Dr. Pai says if you're prone to recurring infections ~down there~, you should talk to your doctor; there might be something bigger going on than just your choice of underwear at night.

There's also another reason why Dr. Pai says sleeping without underwear can be a good idea. "The external female genital area is called the vulva. Oftentimes, women can get irritation of this area that can lead to itching and pain," she says. "By removing your underwear at night, there is less rubbing to this area of sensitive skin." So basically, ditching your skivvies in the p.m. might make you less itchy in more ways than one.

If the thought of sleeping pants-free is more horrifying to you than that Game of Thrones ending, you're in luck: Dr. Pai says it's totally fine to wear underwear to bed if you're not experiencing any discomfort. Just make sure you go for cotton, because fabrics like nylon or lace can be irritating to your vulva. "I recommend that all women do what makes them feel comfortable, but if you experience sensitivity in the vulvar region, removing your underwear at night may help improve these symptoms," she says.

"Take care down there!" Dr. Pai concludes. Coincidentally, this is also my new life motto.


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