While it may not seem like a big deal, your routine before bed can really impact your health — especially in a gynecological sense. That's why OB/GYNs are always chock full of health advice when it comes to bedtime routines, and what you should and shouldn't be doing if you'd like to stay healthy.
Because, when you're the proud owner of a vagina, it's important to pay attention to things like tampon use, how long you leave them in, what you do after sex, and so on. "Using good judgement and having healthy hygienic habits in general is highly recommended," Dr. Laurence Orbuch, MD, FACOG tells Bustle. "Coupling that with the other tips [like the ones mentioned below] are good rules to follow."
These tips are important to keep in mind, since once you climb into bed, you're likely going to be there for a solid eight hours. (Or, at least you can hope that'll be the case.) During those eight hours, you don't necessarily want to leave a tampon in, or fall asleep after having sex without peeing first — two habits that can increase your chance of getting a bacterial infection. Here are a few other things to stop doing before bed, according to experts, so that you can keep your vagina healthy and wake up feelin' fine.
1. Washing With Harsh, Scented Soaps
When taking a shower before bed — or any time, really — it's important not to go overboard with the harsh soaps whilst washing your vaginal area.
"The vagina is actually [self-cleansing], and the vagina (inside the 'lips' or labia) does not require soap," Dr. Shaughanassee Williams, DNP, CNM, founder of HealthyHER Center for Women's Care, tells Bustle. "Using scented soap in this area ... before bed can potentially put a woman at risk for vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV)." To keep your vagina happy, simply leave it alone and let it do its natural thing.
Since your vagina is self-cleansing, Dr. Williams says it's also not necessary to use douches — before bed or any other time. Yes, it may seem like the douche is cleaning that area. But, as with harsh soaps, what they're really doing is throwing off your vagina's pH, and increasing the chance of infection.
3. Putting On Silky Underwear
Silky or polyester-type underwear might be comfortable to sleep in, but they may not be the best choice when it comes to your health. "While they may be [comfortable] for bed, oftentimes that type of material retains moisture," Dr. Williams says. "Increased moisture in the vagina could potentially lead to vaginal yeast infections."
It's much better to sleep in cotton underwear, since cotton allows the vaginal area to breathe and air out at night. Dr. Williams say it's also healthy to wear nothing at all, for the same reason.
4. Forgetting To Change Your Tampon
"The average timeframe to change your tampon is roughly every four hours, and even more frequently if you have a heavier flow," Dr. Williams says. So sleeping with a tampon in can be risky. "A retained tampon can place a woman at risk for serious infection, such as toxic shock syndrome," Dr. Williams says.
But if you don't have a heavy flow, and prefer to sleep with a tampon in, that's OK. Keeping a tampon in for up to eight hours is fine, so go ahead and leave on in overnight if you'd like. Just make sure you wait until right before bed to insert a fresh one, and remember change i as soon as you wake up. In doing so, you'll be shortening the amount of time the tampon is inside, and thus lowering your risk for infection
5. Not Switching To A Pad
While it's up to you and your doctor to figure out what's most comfortable, and what works best for your period, some experts say it's even better to skip the whole tampon-at-night thing altogether.
"Women should not sleep with tampons because the blood is stagnated for too many hours and can breed bacteria," Dr. Carolyn DeLucia, a New York City OB/GYN and RealSelf contributor, tells Bustle. "Our vagina has bacteria in it all the time. Normally the natural pH of our vagina favors healthy bacterial growth, however if you leave a tampon in holding the blood in the vagina, bacterial overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria may occur. This can lead [to toxic shock syndrome], which is a life threatening infection."
If you're wondering which option might be the best one for you, ask your doctor. They can help you figure out the right course of action, so you can sleep comfortably, stay healthy, and not wake up with period-stained sheets.
6. Falling Asleep Right After Sex
"Sex before bed can ... help unleash some of the energy of the day and help you unwind," says Dr. Orbuch. So it's not uncommon that couples might do the deed, then fall asleep pretty much immediately afterward — and not get up to pee till morning.
But it's important to find the energy. "If having sex, it is always wise to empty your bladder soon after to flush out any bacteria which could migrate into the bladder, especially for those prone to urinary tract infections (UTI)," Dr. Orbuch says. Just a quick pee to flush out any bacteria that may have found its way into your urethra, and you'll be ready for bed.
7. Wiping From Back To Front
When going to the bathroom before bed, make sure you're wiping the correct way. "When wiping, make [sure you] wipe front to back to avoid bacteria and fecal matter from your bum contacting the vaginal area" Dr. Williams says.
By wiping back to front, it's more likely that fecal material will be dragged forward towards your urethra, which is another habit that can increase your chances of getting a UTI.
8. Leaving Your Makeup On
The health of your skin is something you should think about before bed, too. So even though you probably want to pass out in bed with a face full of makeup — or all that dirt and oil from the day — experts warn against it.
"By not washing our face before bed, [you] are leaving dirt and makeup covering [your] pores all night long," Dr. DeLucia says. "This is a set up for breakouts and pimples. When [your] pores are blocked they cannot release the natural oils and cannot breathe. This is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria which will lead to ... pimples."
9. Forgetting To Brush Your Teeth
A quick little reminder from OB/GYNs and dentists alike: stop falling asleep without brushing your teeth. While it may not seem like a big deal, "this can lead to gum disease and cavities but even more important is the worse morning breath," Dr. DeLucia says. If you want to wake up fresh and cavity-free, try to remember to brush your teeth before falling asleep — even on the nights when you're really, really tired.
One hot tip? It can help to begin your bedtime routine before you're actually tired and falling asleep. You might, for example, want to get wash your face as soon as you get home from work, so you don't have to do it later on once you're sleepy.
If you have your period, all you'll have to do is brush your teeth, change your tampon (or slap on a pad) and hop into bed. By making sure you're avoiding certain mistakes before bed — like falling asleep immediately after sex — you'll be ensuring that you always have good health.