You’ve brushed your teeth, washed your face, and you’re ready to crawl into bed and drift off. There’s just one thing missing. You’re on your period and need some protection. Tampons may be your go-to period product during the day, but should you be heading to bed with one in?
Whether you’ve heard about toxic shock syndrome or read about the eight-hour time limit, there’s a lot of ambiguity around whether tampons are safe to sleep in. And even if they are, they may be affecting your sleep — and therefore health — in more ways than you realize.
Below, we’ll share the risks of sleeping with a tampon, why you should consider not doing it, and what you could use instead. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help you get the best possible sleep on your period, with or without a tampon, and every other night of the month, too.
Disclaimer: The scientific literature uses gendered language when talking about tampons and periods. We have used the term “women” in this article, but this advice is for anyone who uses tampons.
The short answer is yes, technically you can sleep with a tampon in. But there are a few reasons why it may not be the best idea.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends manufacturers tell you to only wear a tampon for eight hours and to not wear a tampon overnight. This is due to menstrual toxic shock syndrome, also known as mTSS or TSS.
TSS happens when Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria gets into your bloodstream. It can also be caused by streptococcus (strep) bacteria.
While anyone can develop TSS, people who use tampons have an increased risk as tampons can become breeding grounds for bacteria, especially when you wear one for a long period of time.
TSS is rare — the incidence rate is one to three cases per 100,000 menstruating women — but it can be life-threatening. If it’s caught in time, however, it is treatable.
Symptoms of TSS include:
A 2020 study found your risk of TSS is two-fold higher when you use a tampon for more than six hours, and three-fold higher when you use one during sleep for more than eight hours.
Despite the risks, research shows women use about two tampons for eight or more hours per period, with the longest wear times being during sleep. So why is overnight tampon use so common? There are a few possible reasons.
Firstly, many pediatricians don’t know, or don’t think about, the correct advice when it comes to period products. So, girls often get advice from their moms or friends when starting their periods, and this advice may not be the safest.
Secondly, TSS was on the rise in the early 2000s and it’s thought one reason for this was due to ultra-absorbency tampons hitting the market. Using highly absorbent tampons has been found to up your risk of TSS, but these products are attractive when you’re trying to avoid leakage, especially overnight.
Another theory is that the FDA allows manufacturers to use the term “overnight” on packaging, but what they really mean is a maximum of eight hours, which, as we’ll explain below, doesn’t always equal overnight.
You may think that the eight-hour time frame fits nicely with the recommended eight hours of shut-eye you need a night. But many of us actually need more sleep than that.
This is called your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night.
Even if you need less than eight hours, you need to take into account the time it takes you from putting in your tampon to falling asleep — even if you go straight to bed, it may take you a while to drift off — and then to get up in the morning and change it.
It’s easy to get close to or go over the eight-hour mark, putting you at an increased risk of TSS or forcing you to cut your sleep short in order to change your tampon in time.
You may even decide to wake up in the middle of the night to change your tampon, and then try to fall back to sleep. This not only disrupts your natural sleep cycle, the light exposure you get from waking up and heading to the bathroom can make it hard to fall asleep again (light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin). Plus, you may find it hard to fall back to sleep in the second half of the night as sleep pressure — the urge to sleep — decreases throughout the night as our bodies clear out adenosine, the natural compound that builds up during the day and makes us feel sleepy.
There’s a very good chance that if you're capping your sleep to eight hours so you can wear a tampon overnight, or you’re getting up during the night to change it, you’re not meeting your sleep need. And when we don’t meet our sleep needs, our energy levels, mood, mental and physical health all take a hit. During your period, your energy and mood may already be impacted, so you don’t want to do anything else to sabotage these.
Plus, sleep deprivation can make pain feel more intense (hello, more severe cramps!). A 2022 study linked sleeping for six hours or less to heavier bleeding and more irregular cycles. And with heavier bleeding, of course, comes the need for more absorbent protection and more anxiety around leakage.
Even if your sleep need is say seven hours, there are times in life when you need more sleep. You may be recovering from an illness or from intense exercise, or be paying back sleep debt from recent sleep loss. If these times coincide with your period when you’re sleeping with a tampon in, you’ll again either run the risk of over-sleeping the eight-hour mark or have to cut your sleep short to change your tampon.
Heads-up: Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. We measure it over your last 14 nights.
Feeling tired even when you get enough sleep? We’ve covered why you’re so tired on your period, general female fatigue, and how much sleep women need here.
You can use the RISE app to work out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you have.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
If the act of getting out of bed to change your tampon less than eight hours after you put it in doesn’t disrupt your sleep, the anxiety around it might.
You may wake up earlier than your alarm worried you’ve overslept the eight-hour cut-off, or struggle to fall asleep knowing the clock is ticking. You may even have anxious thoughts about TSS in general.
You may already feel extra anxious on your period thanks to your hormones, so you don’t want any additional worries making it harder to drift off.
Anxiety around tampons may not just keep you up, though. It may affect the sleep you do get. A 2020 study found women get less deep sleep when they’re concerned about sanitary products.
You may find switching to menstrual products that don't have the same time limit allows you to drift off easier as you’re not on the clock as much.
Period insomnia, hormones, and cramps may already be making meeting your sleep need hard, so anything you can do to lower your anxiety is worth it.
Want to avoid the TSS risk and tampon-related anxiety? There are other period products out there to try. They include:
Whether you’re using a tampon or another type of period protection altogether, getting a good night’s sleep on your period can be tricky with hormones, cramps, and anxiety all keeping you up. There are some things you can do to get better sleep on your period, though.
Sleep hygiene is the set of habits you can do each day to help you fall and stay asleep each night. Sleep hygiene can help anyone, at any time of the month, but it’s especially important to keep an eye on your sleep hygiene when your period may be making it hard to get enough sleep.
Here’s what good sleep hygiene looks like:
To stay on top of sleep hygiene each day, the RISE app can remind you when to do 20+ habits at the right time for your body clock, making them more effective.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
Anxiety can spike on your period due to fluctuating hormones, but you may also have the added worries of leaking during your sleep or be nervous about wearing a tampon for too long.
Here’s how to keep anxiety in check:
Want more science-backed tips? We’ve covered how to sleep with anxiety here and how to sleep on your period here.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to go right to their relaxation audio guide homepage and get started.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their Brain Dump Habit notification
If you do decide to sleep with a tampon in, here’s how to ensure you’re doing it in the safest way possible.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their upcoming energy peaks and dips on the Energy screen.
Sacrificing sleep is never a good idea. But on your period, you need shut-eye more than ever to keep your pain low, energy high, and mood stable.
The bottom line is, while you can technically wear a tampon to sleep, you need to change it within eight hours, meaning you’ll very likely be cutting into your much-needed sleep to change it on time. Besides the time limit itself, anxiety around changing your tampon can affect your sleep, too.
The solution? Try switching to another form of period protection at night like pads, menstrual cups, or period pants. And to help you get a good night’s sleep no matter what you decide to use, focus on maintaining excellent sleep hygiene.
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective. This will help you get the sleep you need every night of the month.
Wearing a tampon for more than six hours is linked to an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial infection. It’s recommended to change them within eight hours. It’s better to use pads, a menstrual cup, or period pants when sleeping to avoid the risk and avoid having to cut your sleep short to change your tampon.
Your risk of getting TSS increases when you wear a tampon for more than six hours, and it’s even higher if you wear a tampon for more than eight hours. Sleeping with a tampon in often means wearing it for this long, increasing your risk. Using super-absorbent tampons also ups your risk.
Yes, you can sleep with a pad on. There’s little risk of toxic shock syndrome, you don’t need to change them within eight hours, and you can buy wider, more absorbent pads designed for overnight use to minimize your risk of leakage.
It’s better to wear a pad to bed. Tampons need to be changed within eight hours, meaning you’re likely sacrificing sleep to do so. Pads can be worn for longer than eight hours, there’s little risk of toxic shock syndrome, and you can buy wider, more absorbent pads designed for overnight use to minimize your risk of leakage.
No, you shouldn’t sleep with a tampon in for nine hours. Your risk of getting toxic shock syndrome goes up when you wear a tampon for six hours, and it’s recommended you don’t wear them for more than eight hours.
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