Fatigue and tiredness are common period symptoms most women have experienced at least once in their life. Sometimes when you’re cramping and bloated, all you want to do is lay down for a 1,000,000 hour nap and wait the symptoms out. But is sleeping with a tampon in safe? Most women (81 percent) use tampons exclusively while they’re on their period, and everyone has to sleep, so determining whether sleeping with a tampon is dangerous or not is an important issue for a ton of people.
Alice Benjamin, a nationally board certified and award-winning Clinical Nurse Specialist and emergency room nurse, tells Bustle, “It’s totally safe to sleep with a tampon during the night. The average American adult sleeps less than the recommended seven to nine hours anyways so as long as a new one is in place before sleeping and upon waking up — it shouldn’t be an issue."
There are some tampon best practices that will keep you safe and make sure your period is as uneventful as possible. First things first, it’s important to follow instructions. Many tampon manufacturers suggest changing your tampon every six to eight hours — so, if your sleep schedule works within that time frame, you should be alright. Keeping a tampon in for longer than the suggested eight hours can put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is an extremely rare but life-threatening bacterial infection that has been associated with tampons, especially super absorbent ones — though it should be noted that only half of TSS cases are linked to tampon use, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. TSS symptoms include headache and high fever, diarrhea, confusion, nausea and vomiting, seizures, or a sunburn-like rash, according to Medline. If you have kept a tampon in for longer than recommended and you experience these symptoms, it's best to consult with a doctor.
Wait, your tampon can give you an infection? Not quite. If you use tampons, you run the risk of getting an infection, especially if you use them incorrectly. Tampons are worn inside of the body as opposed to pads; therefore, they change the natural environment of your vagina when they absorb blood. And because tampons aren’t smart-devices, they can’t distinguish between blood and the other natural fluids in your vagina, so they absorb those too. Leaving a tampon in for too long creates an environment for bad bacteria to grow, and that could lead to an infection. So to reiterate: follow instructions.
“There are minimal risks with sleeping in a tampon overnight," Benjamin says. "The only concern would be during heavy periods where the tampon is fully absorbed and it isn’t changed right away upon waking up. Then it would serve more like a cork, locking menses in the vagina, which, if prolonged, could lead to skin irritation and possible infection.”
Additionally, tampons should only be used while you’re on your period. Inserting a tampon in anticipation of your period isn’t a good idea. If you’re expecting your period to start soon and don’t want to ruin a perfectly good pair of underwear, use a pad or period underwear instead of a tampon.
After having several periods, you probably have a good idea of whether you have a light, regular, or heavy flow. The average period only releases less than a cup of blood, but if your flow is more or less than a cup, the tampon you use should reflect that. Pay attention to how the tampons are labeled when you buy them. If your period flow is light, wear tampons that are designed specifically for a light flow. Wearing a heavy flow tampon when you actually have a light flow can increase your risk of TSS because the tampon is absorbing more fluids than it needs to.
So sleeping with a tampon inserted isn’t dangerous if you make sure to change it right before you go to bed and right after you wake up. Following the instructions printed on the tampon packaging can help prevent infections and help your period come and go as painlessly as possible.