Is It Safe to Sleep with a Tampon In?
Asking for a friend.
Let's be real: Bleeding for anywhere from two to eight days (depending on your flow) is exhausting.
At the end of the day, it can be all to easy to head to bed without thinking about the last time you changed your tampon — but is it actually safe to sleep with a tampon in?
Ahead, experts weigh in on how long can you really keep a tampon in and what you need to know about Toxic Shock Syndrome.
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Can I Sleep with a Tampon In?
The short answer is, yes, you can sleep with your tampon in for eight hours, but no longer.
“Use the least absorbent tampon for your flow and limit duration of use to eight hours max,” says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a gynecologist at the CareMount Medical in Westchester County, New York. That means you need to pop in a fresh one right before hitting your pillow and wake eight hours later (read: no hitting snooze) to change it.
This is based on the current guidelines from manufacturers, who advise changing your tampon every four to eight hours, and not extending your wait time beyond eight hours. Of course, you’ll want to change your tampon more frequently if you are dealing with a heavy flow and find yourself bleeding through tampons.
But What About Toxic Shock Syndrome?
You probably heard about Toxis Shock Syndrome, or TSS, before you ever got your first period in an uncomfortable grade school health class. When you bought your first box of tampons, the warning was there: “Tampons are associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome.”
ICYMI, Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare, yet serious and possibly life-threatening illness that is caused by the release of toxins from bacteria known as staphylococcus aureus or strep pyogenes, says Dr. Dweck.
While there can be other causes — it can also happen due to an infection, like a severe case of strep — "TSS is most notably caused by ultra-absorbent tampons worn for an extended time duration in menstruating women," she says.
It’s true: TSS is often linked to super-absorbent tampons. As a result of their prolonged use, super-absorbent tampons also allow more time for harmful bacteria buildup. The good news is tampons that could once be kept in for the duration of your period — yep, keeping your tampon in for days used to be a real thing — were removed from the market in the 1980s. This was around the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing ultra-absorbent tampons were tied to an uptick in TSS cases.
Since then, the incidence of TSS has declined in women in the United States, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). In 1980 in the U.S., the incidence of TSS was approximately six per 100,000 women aged 19 to 44 years, the organization notes on its website. Today it is estimated that TSS may occur in up to three per 100,000 menstruating women with the majority of cases occurring in women aged 15 to 25 years who are using tampons, NORD notes.
The Bottom Line
Yes, TSS is a serious condition and shouldn't be taken lightly. If you notice rapidly increasing symptoms that include high fever and rash, as well as nausea, chills, vomiting, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea, seek emergency care.
However, as long as you are using pads, tampons, cups, and other menstruation products within their recommended guidelines, the risk of getting TSS “is quite low,” says Dr. Rizk says.
Work a fresh tampon into your before-bed routine and get your recommended eight hours. Your body will thank you.