When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, whether or not to snooze in pajamas, go commando, or fully nude is ultimately a personal choice, says Sherry A. Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. “It’s completely safe to sleep without underwear and in some cases, it may be preferable,” she says.
Underwear serves two main purposes: protection and hygiene, says David E. Bank, MD, a dermatologist and founder of The Center For Dermatology in Westchester, New York. Wearing well-fitting, breathable underwear at night can help wick sweat and other moisture away while providing a place to put protection against bladder or period leakage. “But do you need underwear to be comfortable or clean? No,” says, Dr. Bank. (Here’s the healthiest women’s underwear you can buy, according to gynecologists.)
This is welcome news for the 58 percent of people who said they prefer to sleep naked, according to a survey of over 1,000 people, done by Mattress Advisor, a company that provides sleep experts’ tips and advice on improving sleep health and quality. Slightly more men than women said they preferred to go commando. Age also played a role, with 65 percent of millennials saying they choose to sleep sans clothes, as compared to 45 percent of Gen X’ers, and 39 percent of Baby Boomers. What’s the appeal? It’s all about comfort.
In the survey, the top three reasons given by respondents were all related to comfort—”It’s more comfortable” “It’s relaxing” and “I sleep better.” Wearing underwear can be uncomfortable for some people, causing chafing, pinching, and itching, or a feeling of being confined, Dr. Ross says. Many women know well the relief that comes from stripping off their bra after a long day and the same goes for doffing underwear for those who are sensitive to wearing it.
What about the “ick” factor? Die-hard underwear-sleepers often think it’s gross or unclean to not wear them. That’s a myth, Dr. Bank says. The genital region is relatively protected against outside elements, especially if you’re wearing pajamas, so as long as you are practicing good body hygiene—making sure to regularly wash the area with mild soap and water in the shower—there’s nothing inherently unclean about skipping skivvies, he says.
Plus, you already have some built-in protection. “Pubic hair exists for the purpose of protecting the genital region and the sensitive skin in that area,” he says. (But if you’re going to wear them, make sure you change your underwear enough to maintain proper hygiene.)
In some cases wearing underwear to bed can work against you. Bacteria and yeast thrive in a moist and warm environment, like the one created by certain types of undergarments, says Dr. Ross. Sleeping in overly tight underwear, thongs, or ones made from synthetic fabrics like lace or satin can trap moisture against your skin which encourages bacterial growth. This can put you at risk for urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis (for women), or yeast infections (men and women), especially if you’re a sweaty sleeper, she says.
Sleeping in thongs presents a particular risk, says Dr. Ross. “They may look and feel sexier compared to traditional underwear, but their anatomically unfriendly design makes it easier for harmful bacteria of the colon to find their way into the vagina and bladder, increasing the risk of infection,” she explains.
If you have a skin condition, like itchiness or dry skin in that area, you are better off sleeping commando to allow the skin of the genital region to air out and breathe, Dr. Ross says. However, ladies, if you prefer wearing your panties to bed, make sure to choose the healthiest underwear for your vagina.
Couples who sleep together nude are more likely to have sex and it makes sense that going sans underwear may also have a similar effect, says Dr. Ross. “Skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding,” she says. Not to mention that there’s some very tantalizing about knowing your partner isn’t wearing anything underneath their pajamas.
Some men cite their sperm health as a reason for wanting to skip underwear at bedtime as they have heard that tighter underwear can increase the temperature of their testicles which may lead to decreased sperm quality and fertility. While there is scientific support for the idea that overheating the groin area can impair sperm, the research doesn’t show that sleeping in underwear will cause this type of overheating. Wearing boxers, briefs, or no underwear at all has no significant effect on a man’s sperm quality or fertility, according to a 2016 study published in Andrology.