Are you waking up after perspiring in the middle of the night? Finding your sheets or pajamas soaked in the morning? Don’t sweat it. You’re not the only one.
“Night sweats are a common symptom that we see a lot in the primary care setting,” said Lindy Chavez, a family medicine nurse practitioner at Dignity Health Medical Group in Camarillo, California.
Untreated, excessive sweating can be frustrating. But experts say that there are some underlying causes of sweating excessively in the night, many of which can be dealt with. Here are a few reasons why you may be sweating at night, plus what you can do about them.
1. Your mattress may be to blame.
According to Jonathan Prichard, a 16-year mattress industry veteran and founder and CEO of MattressInsider.com, the most common reason a mattress would make you hot during sleep is because of its materials. Specifically, one called closed-cell polyurethane foam.
“Closed-cell foam is much cheaper to use in the manufacturing process, but it sleeps hot,” Prichard said. To fix, he suggested purchasing a mattress with open-cell polyurethane foam, which “is porous so air can enter and exit the cells of the foam, making it breathable.”
If you’re looking for a mattress that uses memory foam, Prichard said, aim for gel-infused memory foam, which sleeps 1-2 degrees cooler. You should also make sure the foam density doesn’t exceed 4 pounds per square foot, as higher densities tend to trap heat. Finally, you should aim to purchase a mattress that uses natural latex instead of polyurethane foam, as natural latex isn’t temperature-sensitive and it’s more durable, he said.
2. Your sleeping environment is off.
“An overheated room and/or having too many blankets is often the simplest cause for night sweats,” Chavez said.
Chavez suggested wearing comfortable, breathable pajamas and avoid placing multiple blankets on the bed, especially during hot months. The material of your sheets can also contribute to getting hot in the middle of the night.
“Body temperature is dramatically affected by what comes into contact with the skin, and therefore best regulated by fabrics that are naturally cooling, like linen,” said Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of bedding company Parachute. Not a fan of linen? Other breathable fabrics such as cotton or Tencel will also keep you cool at night.
3. Your bedroom isn’t at an optimal temperature.
“Turning down the thermostat is one way to improve your sleep quality, as too warm of a sleep environment can lead to sweating and sleep disruptions throughout the night,” said Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert.
Rebecca Robbins, co-author of Sleep for Success! and sleep expert to The Benjamin Hotel in New York City agreed, noting that if your bedroom is above 70 degrees, making the room slightly cooler can make a huge difference.
“The range 60 to 67 degrees sounds freezing but is the optimal bedroom temperature for sleep,” she said.
4. It could be menopause.
According to Terry Cralle, a certified clinical sleep educator in Washington, D.C., and co-author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top, women experiencing menopause and even perimenopause will often report symptoms of breaking out into a sweat at night.
“The degree of sweating varies but should be reported to your physician when your sleep is chronically disturbed,” she said.
5. You may be stressed out.
Anxiety and stress can also cause excessive perspiration when you’re trying to get your z’s.
“You may sweat excessively due to daytime stress. Accordingly, nightmares and other stressful dreams can also cause you to break out in a sweat as you sleep,” said Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, a general surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, adding that anticipating a stressful day at work may prompt you to sweat throughout the night.
Try doing an activity that helps you unwind before hitting the pillow, like meditation, a warm bath or reading.
“In addition to trying to manage your stress on a daily basis, you might want to try some relaxation techniques in the evening, to calm nerves before sleep,” Chavez said.
6. You could be fighting a common cold or virus.
Sweating at night could be as simple as a fever breaking or your body trying to keep an illness at bay. Colds, the flu and other infections and viruses ― especially ones that come with fever ― can bring on bouts of extreme sweat and cause nocturnal sweating.
“You may suffer from alternating periods of chills ― these are temporary and should pass as the illness subsides,” Hollingsworth said.
7. It could be a sign of a more serious health condition.
In rare cases, your sweating at night may be due to something more serious. “There is a long list of underlying medical issues which could attribute to the condition of persistent night sweats including anxiety disorders, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, heart conditions, certain nerve and/or bone marrow disorders, cancers and more,” said Constantine George, chief medical officer of Epitomedical, a private practice that combines internal medicine and pediatrics, and founder of the concierge medical app Vedius.
But don’t start Googling and automatically assume that you have cancer, either. Check with your physician if you’re experiencing this in conjunction with other issues.
“Fortunately these are extremely rare and will often have some other symptoms of infection,” said Alex Dimitriu, a double board-certified doctor in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California.
8. It could be your medication.
“Some medications promote night sweats, so read the label and talk to your doctor about any possible side effects of medications you may be taking,” Robbins said.
These medications can include antidepressants, diabetes medications and certain hormone-blocking therapy drugs. Cralle added that antihypertensives and chemotherapy agents can also be catalysts for sweating.
9. You had a nightcap.
Drinking a glass of wine while you wind down for bed? Consuming alcohol too close to bedtime can lead to sweaty sleep. If it’s disrupting your sleep, Cralle suggested cutting back on the booze and refraining from consuming it in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
“Less commonly, withdrawal from alcohol and certain sedating substances can also cause night sweats,” Dimitriu added.
10. You may have sleep apnea
A recent study found that hot flashes and sweating in the night may be connected to obstructive sleep apnea in middle-age women. Additional symptoms of the condition include snoring, recurrent awakenings or insomnia, restless sleep, extreme fatigue during the day, waking up with a sore or dry throat, waking up with a choking or gasping sensation, restless sleep or morning headaches.
If you think you may have the condition, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss tests you can have done to see if that’s the case.
When To Be Concerned About Night Sweating
“Getting sufficient sleep is important to your health, well-being and quality of life,” Cralle said. If you notice yourself sweating in the night, she suggested making adjustments to your sleep environment and seeing a sleep specialist to discuss any sweating during sleep that does not resolve itself.
Maral K. Skelsey, a member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society and a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Georgetown University School of Medicine, said to be on the lookout for any changes in sweating patterns. And if your night sweats begin to occur in conjunction with other symptoms, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss what may be going on.
You might need to be concerned “when the sweating begins suddenly and is associated with weight loss or fever, or is only on one side of the body. Talk to your doctor right away, as certain causes of night sweats are potentially life-threatening” Skelsey said.
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