| Tara Langdale
Should I Sleep with a Vaginal Dilator in?
What to do at night?
We are often asked whether it is a good idea to sleep with a vaginal dilator in. It’s a reasonable question, as when you buy a dilator one of your first concerns will be how and when to use it. Generally speaking, we recommend using vaginal dilators once or twice every day for between 20 and 30 minutes. A 30-minute session is optimal for lengthening and stretching your vaginal muscles. Having said that, how long you dilate for will depend on how familiar you are with dilators and how comfortable you are with penetration.
Over time you will be able to dilate more comfortably, eventually using larger sized dilators. Initially it can be painful to dilate, so you might not be comfortable with longer sessions - and almost certainly not all night. So it is perfectly normal to start off with just a few minutes (or once per day) with a view to extending your sessions over time, including sleeping with a dilator in.
If you think you might want to sleep with your dilator inserted at some point, read on for our best advice…
Should you sleep with a vaginal dilator in?
The answer is not a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There is conflicting advice circulating out there, and it does depend on the gynecological issue you have. We can tell you that vaginismus patients are often advised by Doctors to keep a dilator inserted during sleep. This is especially recommended after intra-vaginal Botox, which according to a clinical trial may cure vaginismus - when in conjunction with progressive dilation.
On the other hand, sleeping with a dilator in might seem a little counterintuitive, given that women with vaginismus usually have a strong fear of penetration. It may not be of benefit over the long term, since initial insertion of the dilator is often the most challenging. Once it is inserted, it tends to be easier to push the dilator in further. Furthermore, successful treatment may not be so much about long sessions of stretching the vagina; it is logical that the woman should be conscious while she dilates in order to get accustomed to the feeling of expansion and movement during penetration.
It is probably fair to say that using a dilator overnight will work for some, but not for others. However, many vaginismus sufferers do report positive results from keeping a dilator in at night. In fact, a study of vaginismus patients who dilated while sleeping suggested that waking up with a large dilator inserted could “flip a switch” in some women. In other words, a woman may be reassured that penetration is possible, speeding up her progression toward having penetrative sex.
What are the benefits of sleeping with a dilator inserted?
The main benefit of keeping a dilator in while you sleep is that you are passively stretching the vaginal muscles. If you don’t have time to dilate during the day, sleeping with your dilator in may be useful. Silicone dilators may be a more comfortable option to use during sleep.
Women with various other gynecological problems may benefit from sleeping with a dilator inserted. This could work well if you have a condition in which the vagina is tighter, shorter or narrower than it should naturally be; the same goes for women who have adhesions or scar tissue that is closing the vagina (as can happen after radiation therapy in the pelvic area). Some examples might be:
- Vaginal stenosis
- Vaginal atrophy
- After vaginal reconstructive surgery
- Lichen sclerosus
- Vaginal agenesis
- A hypertonic pelvic floor
In the case of vaginal reconstruction, birth defects or post-radiation treatment, it is common for Doctors to prescribe custom-made vaginal dilators designed for patients to go to sleep with. The dilator ensures that the vagina is able to maintain a functional capacity, so sleeping with the dilator in is especially beneficial in the healing stages.
Tips for sleeping with a dilator in
You only need to put a dilator about three quarters of the way in for nighttime use. That’s because if your vagina is tight, you may also have particularly tight puborectalis muscles (found several centimeters deeper inside). These muscles can push your dilator out during the night, so you’ll want to insert a dilator long enough to pass them without reaching the cervix. You won’t want the dilator to protrude too far outside the vagina either - it won’t be comfortable.
Here are some other useful tips for sleeping with a dilator in:
- Position the dilator somewhere between halfway in and three quarters of the way in
- Wear well fitting panties so that the dilator can’t be pushed out by the pelvic floor muscles
- Holding the dilator in place while adjusting positions may help you find the most comfortable one
- Sleeping on your back may feel less awkward than other positions
- Sleeping with a with a small to medium sized dilator overnight makes it easier to dilate with a larger one in the morning
- Use personal lubricant for easy removal – many find that silicone lubricant is best for overnight use as it doesn’t dry up as quickly as water-based ones
- If it does feel stuck, rotate the dilator once before removing to ‘break the seal’
- When you awaken, urinate as soon as you can to prevent UTI infections
We hope this has answered the question of whether you should sleep with a vaginal dilator in. Ultimately only you and your healthcare provider can decide if it’s right for you, and it may be a case of trial and error. Either way, it is unlikely to hurt you – at worst it might feel a little uncomfortable at first. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check our blog for more women’s sexual health advice!
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Dilator therapy helps improve pelvic health and female sexuality. They are used to help a wide variety of female health concerns. Speak to your doctor today about how dilator therapy can help you.
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