Should You Sleep In Underwear Or Go Commando? Doctors Have Thoughts.


Growing up, maybe you were told that you’re supposed to sleep sans underwear to let your nether regions “air out” overnight. Or perhaps you’ve just never been a fan of going to bed commando. But is there a “right” answer when it comes to your health — and does it differ by sex? We talked to doctors to find out.

First, know that the underwear versus no-underwear debate is not one that’s backed up by much research, said Orange County, California, urologist Dr. Aaron Spitz.

“The topic of going commando under the sheets is not routinely discussed in academic conferences, and a literature review will not turn up any erudite studies on the topic,” Spitz, author of “The Penis Book: A Doctor’s Complete Guide to the Penis,” told HuffPost.

Dr. Sherry Ross — an OB-GYN and the author of “She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.” — said that it really comes down to personal choice.

“There is no right or wrong answer whether you decide to sleep with or without underwear,” she told HuffPost.

And while there’s no scholarly consensus on the matter, there are some factors to take into account when deciding what’s right for you. We talked to a handful of experts to get their take.

You may want to wear underwear to bed if…

If you’re someone who has a lot of vaginal discharge or you’re on your period, sleeping in undies “may be your best option to prevent a nighttime mess in the morning,” Ross said.

Those with male genitals, on the other hand, may experience discomfort — particularly in their testicles — if they go commando “due to compression that may occur from their thighs or the mattress while they toss and turn in their sleep,” Spitz said.

If that’s an issue for you, he recommends sleeping in a pair of supportive underwear to prevent any uncomfortable squashing.

Another thing to consider: Wearing underwear to bed means your genitals aren’t making direct contact with your pajamas or your sheets. So you can wash these items a little less frequently — which is a plus if you hate doing laundry.

Sleeping in underwear can also protect the urethra, the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body, from irritants or infection, Spitz noted.

For instance, “bed sheets in hotels and friends’ houses may be washed with detergents that may cause irritation to the urethra of some individuals,” he said. “Underwear, even the loose-fitting kind, will serve as a protective barrier to the urethra.”

Spitz also warned that it’s possible for the urethra to get contaminated by bacteria on the bedding where a person’s bare butt has been rubbing against the sheets.

“Since most people don’t change their sheets daily, it’s good to have underwear on, playing defense for the sheets, not only for bacteria, but for leakage of urine or nocturnal emissions of semen that may occur for some,” Spitz added.

If you're going to sleep in underwear, choose soft, breathable materials like bamboo or cotton.

lisa overdose via Getty Images

If you’re going to sleep in underwear, choose soft, breathable materials like bamboo or cotton.

Not every pair of underwear in your drawer is well-suited for sleep, though. You’ll want to choose an option that is both comfortable and made of breathable materials.

“Cotton and bamboo are good choices for underwear, as they are soft, absorbent and breathable,” said Dr. Aanand Geria, a dermatologist at Geria Dermatology in Verona, New Jersey.

For sleep, Ross said she recommends full-coverage underwear over thongs because a thong’s “anatomically unfriendly design makes it easier for harmful bacteria of the colon to find their way into the vagina and bladder,” which can increase the risk of infection.

If you’ve ever worried that tight-fitting underwear might affect your fertility, a 2018 Harvard University study found there may be some benefit to wearing loose-fitting boxers instead of briefs that tend to heat up the scrotum. (Researchers looked at men’s general underwear-wearing habits, not specifically their overnight undergarments.) But other research has suggested that choice of underwear makes no appreciable difference on fertility outcomes.

And hopefully this goes without saying, but if you’re sleeping in underwear, make sure it’s a clean pair — not the one you went for a jog in earlier or a pair you pulled from the hamper.

“Since underwear comes in close contact with the skin, it is exposed to sweat, oil, dirt, microorganisms like bacteria or fungus, and even bodily fluids,” dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told HuffPost. “Sleeping in soiled underwear can contribute to skin irritations or even infections.”

And you may want to sleep commando if…

If you sweat a lot in your sleep or are prone to certain skin or genital conditions, then it may be better to sleeps sans underwear to keep things drier and more comfortable below the belt, Geria explained.

Wearing tight or nonbreathable underwear can trap moisture in the genital area, creating a damp environment where bacteria and fungi thrive, he said.

For example. if you’re dealing with jock itch — a fungal infection of the groin area — then going commando might be a good idea, said Zeichner, “as it may allow the area to dry out and not retain moisture that promotes overgrowth of fungus.”

And if you have a history of vaginal infections or itching, then “you are better off sleeping commando to allow the skin of the vulva and vagina to breathe,” Ross said.

Even if you’re not prone to skin or genital issues, you may find it just feels nice to sleep without underwear, as it gives this sensitive area of the body a break from being covered by fabric all day long. Plus, doing so can prevent bacterial buildup that may lead to pimples or unpleasant odors down there, Ross said.

“The sweat glands and hair follicles are prone to dirt buildup just as any other area of the body with hair and sweat,” she explained.

It’s worth reiterating that if you’re sleeping without underwear, you should consider washing your pajamas and bedding more frequently to keep things hygienic.

All of that said, what you wear to bed (or don’t) ultimately comes down to what feels good to you and helps you get a good night’s sleep. If what you’re doing currently is working for you, then there’s no need to make a change. But if it’s not working, it can’t hurt to switch things up.

Want a good pair of breathable undies to sleep in at night? Check out the list below.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Under Armour Pure Stretch three-pack

These super soft and stretchy undies from Under Armour promise comfort all day long, whether or not you’re hitting the gym. They have laser-cut edges for a seam-free silhouette that is smooth and discreet beneath your clothes. They’re available in eight different colors and in color variety packs in XS to XL.

Promising review: “Truly no-show panties. If you are having a hard time finding really no-show panties that are comfortable and last more than a few washings, you are not alone. I have tried about 8-9 different brands. These Under Amours are the real deal: super lightweight, fast drying, and no lines under even the most form-fitting clothes. I ordered these in medium from Amazon; I also have some size smalls and there is almost no difference in fit. I am about 5’ 6”, 120 lbs with an athletic build including my butt. These panties do have a cotton-y fabric liner in the crotch which is more comfortable when I dry them on low heat for about 5 minutes than when I let them just air dry. They also have some stitching where the pieces of fabric come together, rather than just being glued together like some brands are, so these are more sturdy.” — Kathy L.

New Balance women’s breathable thong three-pack

These New Balance undies come highly recommended via a colleague in our office Slack, who stated that they are the most breathable undies she’s ever owned. Her claims are backed up by glowing Amazon reviews, as you’ll see below. The thong is available in 10 different colors and pack combinations in sizes S to XL. They’re made with a very lightweight nylon/spandex blend fabric with a cotton gusset to keep you cool, comfy and dry. They’re also tagless and seamless, so you don’t have to worry about a pair digging into your hips. They hold up well in the wash and are as durable as they are comfortable, making them a great investment.

Promisingreview: “Wonderful! They couldn’t be any better unless they were free. But I want New Balance to stay in business for a long time to come. Wonderfully thin (like 20 denier hosiery material), soft (like a baby’s skin), and delicate (like a spring breeze) with No rolled edge or seam Anywhere, just as they promised. What they didn’t say is that it feels like you’re not wearing them or anything else. I had to look to see if I had them on. I just hope they hold up to washing? Don’t think I’ll chance it, Hand washing is an option I will embrace just to keep them a little while longer. Oh, yea, an X-large fits a couple of inches bigger than a size 16, at least for a while, till I shrink myself. I hope they don’t stretch and take a set.” — Kindle customer

Summersalt Feel Free brief underwear

Available in 12 different colors in sizes XS to 2X, these lightweight briefs from Summersalt feel like you’re wearing absolutely nothing, which is ideal during a hot, sweaty workout. They’ve got extra coverage and a mid-rise for those who don’t love a thong moment, plus an elastic waistband. These eco-friendly underwear feature semi-sheer silky fabrics and are made from recycled plastic water bottles.

Promising review: “These briefs are great quality and paired with the bra make such a cute and comfortable matching set. The fabric is breathable and just the right amount of sheer.” — Heather J.

Parade sweat-wicking workout thong

Made from certified recycled yarns with an organic cotton lining, Parade’s underwear is perfect for those looking for undies that disappear under clothing, even leggings. They’re available in six different colors in sizes XS to 3XL and have even been sweat-tested by athletes.

Promising review: “Did the job for me! Not only are these so comfortable that you don’t know you’re wearing them, but they actually do what they claim. I am the sweatiest person I know, especially ‘down there’. I have had LOADS of embarrassing situations where it looks as though I have wet myself if the weather gets too hot and I cannot cool off. I wore these on a hot day and when I was sure they would be tested. To be clear, it wasn’t full-time-in-the-90s-for-over-an-hour-tested, but it was a time when I knew I would be sweating and they worked pretty well for me. I honestly do not recall being uncomfortable or worried in the least. That’s saying something! I will definitely purchase more. I’m getting pretty close to replacing my whole panty drawer with Parade :)” — Stephanie B.

Girlfriend Collective sport brief

Available in 12 different colors including a beautifully wide range of nude shades, Girlfriend Collective’s classic rise briefs have a smooth finish and bonded waistband. They’re made with 80% recycled plastic bottles and 20% spandex and feature a moisture-wicking gusset liner and breathable fabric. They’re available in sizes XXS to 6XL.

Promising review: “Soft, comfortable, durable, and overall amazing! Love this color and the feel of the material. This stuff is seriously soft and it’s tough to take them off. I will definitely be buying more pairs.” — Anna N.

Alo Airbrush Invisible cheeky underwear

These Alo undies are made from an extra-light version of the brand’s signature luxurious and soft Airbrush fabric. They’re odor-resistant, breathable and virtually invisible with a raw-edge finish. They come in 11 shades and sizes XS to L. Wear them everywhere, from work to your next HIIT class, and forget they’re there.

Promising review: “Great Undies! I love this style of underwear! It’s my favorite thing in my underwear drawer! Great for wearing under leggings! The fabric is soft, and VPL is nowhere to be seen!” — Jessica T.



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