Can Sleeping Naked Prevent UTIs?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) may not seem like a big deal, but anybody who's had one will know that it can affect every aspect of your life. Imagine having a burning sensation and pain every time you pee, after having sex, or even while wearing your favorite jeans. "I had a fever and chills, and [I] genuinely wondered if I was going to die," a 23-year-old woman told Cosmopolitan. Another one shared, "I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling like someone had kidney-punched my gut. I rolled out of bed, vomited, and buckled over from blinding pain in my lower back."

Unfortunately, these symptoms are more common than you may think. The Urology Care Foundation reports that three in 25 men and nearly half of all women will endure a UTI at some point in their lives. Most of these infections are caused by Escherichia coli, Enterococcus bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, and other pathogens, according to clinical research featured in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Urology. In certain cases, the UTI can spread to the kidneys and cause serious complications.

On the positive side, there are steps you can take to prevent them. For example, the Urology Care Foundation recommends emptying your bladder before and after intercourse to flush out the bacteria. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is also crucial. Elsewhere, some claim that sleeping naked protects against UTIs, which may actually be true. Here's why you should consider going commando at night. 

Could sleeping naked keep UTIs at bay?

As it turns out, sleeping naked may benefit both men and women, leading to a lower overall risk of infection. Healthline reports this habit may even help protect against yeast infections, as well as chafing, jock itch, and irritation. Panties, especially those made from tight fabrics, tend to retain moisture and heat, which promotes bacterial growth. Additionally, some fabrics can trigger allergic reactions or irritate your skin.

There's no scientific evidence that sleeping naked, which is good for you regardless, will prevent UTIs, but most experts agree with this theory. For example, Sherry A. Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women's health expert, says wearing underwear at night may contribute to bacterial vaginosis, thrush, UTIs, and overall discomfort. Thongs are particularly problematic because they come into contact with the anal area. 

As Dr. Ross informed The Healthy, "They may look and feel sexier compared to traditional underwear, but their anatomically unfriendly design makes it easier for harmful bacteria from the colon to find their way into the vagina and bladder, increasing the risk of infection." Sleeping naked can reduce sweating and moisture buildup, which may help prevent UTIs. 

In particular, "if you're prone to vaginal issues," sleeping without underwear is advisable, as OB-GYN Nancy Herta, MD, told Glamour. Alternatively, she recommends loose-fitting cotton underwear if you hate going commando. As a general rule, though, steer clear of silk or lace undies at bedtime because these fabrics can be harsh on the skin. 

What else can you do to prevent a UTI?

Going underwear-free in bed may lower your risk of developing UTIs, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to reduce your exposure to bacteria throughout the day, not just at night. For example, it's possible to become infected with Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterium responsible for UTIs, simply while using the toilet. The droplets formed during urination can mobilize K. pneumoniae and other pathogens from the toilet seat, causing them to spread to your private parts, according to clinical evidence published in Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. 

Given this aspect, it makes sense to use disposable toilet seat covers in public or shared bathrooms. The Mayo Clinic Health System also recommends emptying your bladder as often as needed. Holding your urine in for too long promotes bacteria buildup in the bladder, leading to a higher risk of UTIs. Also, make sure you wipe from front to back to prevent rectal bacteria from spreading to the vagina and urethra.

Last but not least, keep in mind that some tampons and maxi pads can contribute to UTIs. These products are often made from synthetic materials that fail to absorb moisture, encouraging bacterial growth. The same goes for panty liners, which can restrict the airflow to your vagina and harbor bacteria. Therefore, it's important to change them every few hours and, ideally, choose a brand that uses breathable materials.