Is It Safe to Sleep With a Tampon In?

The short answer from a gynecologist
woman sleeping in bed taking a nap

Q: Is it safe to sleep with a tampon in all night?

A: Yes, in most cases.

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It’s understandable that sleeping with a tampon in is way more comfortable than sleeping with a pad. But in order to maintain safety, you should always put in a new tampon before bed and make sure that it’s a tampon that fits the heaviness of your flow.

One of the main cautionary tales associated with leaving a tampon in too long is that you may develop toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a very rare, but very life-threatening bacterial infection. Many women think that by leaving a tampon in for too long, this bacteria can form.

TSS can be caused by staph bacteria, strep bacteria or clostridium sordelli. Since your vagina already contains natural bacteria, you may think that exposure to these bacteria will only increase your chances of developing TSS or that the bacteria will stay trapped there by a tampon – but this isn’t necessarily true.

Developing TSS is more likely to happen if you use a more absorbent tampon than what’s actually needed. That’s why I always recommend inserting a tampon that fits to your flow. If you use the most absorbent tampon for a very light flow, chances are, you’ll think about changing it less often. You’ll also run the risk of drying out your vaginal mucus, allowing room for more bacteria to enter the body.

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One thing that’s important to know about TSS is that it is not directly associated with tampon use. In fact, TSS can develop any time bacteria enters your body through a cut or burn, or with viral infections like cold and flu.

In relation to tampons, TSS is no longer as common as it once was, due to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulling tampons off the shelves that contained ingredients like polyester foam and carboxymethylcellulose.

As a rule of thumb, only use higher absorbency tampons when your flow is heavy. You should change your tampon regularly, about every four to eight hours. If you have a very heavy flow, change as often as needed.

Developing TSS is rare. In fact, the main issue I see in patients who leave their tampons in too long is an unpleasant vaginal odor.

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It is OK and safe to sleep with a tampon in, as long as you’re using the proper absorbency for your flow.

Ob/Gyn Stacie Jhaveri, MD.

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