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Why Do I Sweat In My Sleep?

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Sweat – no matter how much you hate it, it is essential for your body to regulate its temperature.

Whether it is hot outside or while exercising, you are expected to sweat, sometimes a lot. But when you are asleep, then night sweats are a big NO. 

Night sweats occur in the middle of the night, and that too without any physical exertion. A warm bedroom or heavy blanket does not always cause night sweats. Rather the cause of night sweats can lie in underlying health issues. 

“It’s normal to experience variations in your body temperature while you sleep, and sometimes this can lead to sweating,” says Dr Aarthi Ram, a sleep medicine expert at Houston Methodist. “While they’re understandably annoying, night sweats are sometimes harmless — and there are steps you can take to reduce the amount you sweat while you sleep.”

Night sweats are known to reduce sleep quality, provoke severe discomfort, and concern a bed partner.

Naturally, you would want to learn more about how night sweats can be resolved. Don’t stress, as we have compiled 9 common causes of night sweats and ways to counteract them. 

Reasons Why Do Night Sweats Occurs

Our body’s system for temperature regulation is complex. It gets influenced by multiple factors, which make it difficult to figure out why a person experiences night sweats. That said, let’s dive into the common reasons why someone has night sweats.

Menopause:

Menopause refers to when a woman stops menstruating permanently. During this period, significant changes in the body occur, especially in the levels of estrogen and progesterone causing hot flashes. 

Hot flashes are a trademark of menopause, and it affects about 85% of menopausal women. In most cases, hot flashes begin right before menopause, during the transition. This is known as perimenopause, and it may continue once a woman is postmenopausal.

Menopausal hot flashes usually last for a few minutes and can occur multiple times per day, including at night. Thus, inducing night sweats. The question that arises is, are hot flashes and night sweats the same? The answer is NO!  Although some women have hot flashes at night and can vary in intensity, there is a fine difference between the two. Here is how hot flashes occurring at night are different from night sweats.

How Are Night Sweats Different From Hot Flashes?

As the name suggests, night sweats are episodes of excessive perspiration that occur during sleep. One may find themselves soaked or drenched in sweat and may require a change of clothes or sheets. 

On the other hand, hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth. They can occur at any time during the day. If they occur at night and provoke heavy perspiration, then they get classified as night sweats. Night sweats are also called hot flushes in some cases, but they are different from flushing. Flushing refers to the reddening of the skin from increased blood flow. While flushing can occur with night sweats, flushing itself does not provoke intense sweating.

Your Stress Level:

Feeling anxious or stressed makes it difficult to sleep or get up at times. “An overactive mind revs up your brain and body, which can result in sweating,” says Dr Ram.  She recommends doing the following to reduce stress before sleeping to counteract night sweats:

Build a routine to wind down:

Before going to sleep, make sure to avoid screen time and devices. Instead, take a warm shower or read a book. This helps in winding down after a stressful day, thus reducing the occurrence of night sweats.

Set up a relaxing environment:

Keeping the lights low, sound limited, or soft. Also, keeping the room temperature between 17°C to 25°C helps reduce night sweats.

Talk to your medical provider:

Long-lasting or recurrent anxiety and stress-causing night sweats are a matter of concern. It could be a sign of a more serious mental health issue. Thus we recommend visiting a doctor. 

Medications That You’re Taking:

“Some medications can affect the parts of your brain that control your body temperature or your sweat glands,” explains Dr Ram. “This means these medications can also induce night sweats.”

Medications that are most likely to induce night sweats include:

  • Hypertension drugs
  • Hypoglycemia medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiretrovirals
  • Hormone therapy drugs

We recommend talking to a doctor in case you are experiencing night sweats as a side effect of your medication taken to treat other health issues. In most cases, your health provider will assign you another drug version.

An Underlying Sweating Disorder:

Although incredibly rare, a woman can have hyperhidrosis — a condition in which we have excessive sweating for unknown reasons. 

Less than 3% of the population suffers from primary hyperhidrosis. The condition itself is not a serious one but is embarrassing.

However, some medical conditions may cause what’s called secondary hyperhidrosis. Here are some tips for individuals with hyperhidrosis:

Invest in quality deodorants/antiperspirants:

Investing in quality antiperspirants helps in reducing excessive sweating. However, it won’t stop you from sweating. 

Consider what you wear:

Opt for loose-fitting clothes as they are more breathable. Choose clothing with open-knit or loose weave, made with thin materials, containing mesh panels or air vents or moisture-wicking or quick-drying properties for your night sweats.

Avoid tight socks or heavy shoes:

In case you sweat from the feet, wear shoes made from little to no synthetic materials and moisture-wicking socks.

Underlying Medical Issues:

“Sleeping and sweating are both very complex processes that respond to many cues, and they can definitely influence one another,” says Dr Ram.

“If you’re regularly waking up soaked in sweat, experiencing sudden night sweats accompanied by weight loss or if your night sweats are keeping you from getting quality sleep, it’s time to talk to your doctor.”

In most cases, night sweats occur due to a medical condition or disease. Physical symptoms include:

  • Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hyperthyroidism (also known as an overactive thyroid)
  • Obesity
  • Prostate cancer
  • Cancers, including leukaemia, lymphoma and prostate cancer
  • Depression
  • Serious infections, such as endocarditis and tuberculosis
  • Sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • HIV/AIDS

Sleep Environment And Sleep Wear:

Did you know that your sleep environment and sleepwear also affects your sleep quality? Your sleep environment might be cosy, but there is a fine line between being cosy and overheating.

The most common reason for night sweats are:

A sleep environment that is too snug and cosy.

Sleepwear, bedding, or even a mattress that does not “breathe.”

Avoiding an overly heated environment while sleeping is totally possible. Here’s how:

  • Controlling the room temperature: 

Leveraging a fan or lowering your thermostat can help you feel less hot while sleeping, thus causing less night sweats. 

  • Make sure that your nightdress is breathable:

Choose moisture-wicking materials if you need to, and don’t overdress to sleep.

  • Go for lightweight bedding:

Avoid synthetic fibres, down, flannel and fleece as they trap heat.

  • Change your mattress: 

Try changing your mattress from foam to other breathable materials if nothing else works for your night sweats. 

  • Alcohol Before Bedtime:

Drinking a glass or two in the evening sounds relaxing – not always! Drinking alcohol leads to increased body temperature, therefore, inducing night sweats. 

“While alcohol is often referred to as a ‘depressant,’ it’s not really that simple,” Dr Ram explains. “Alcohol relaxes the airways, which can make breathing harder. In addition, it also acts as a stimulant in that it leads to increased heart rate. Both of these can increase your body temperature.” If you suffer from unexplained night sweats, then cutting down your alcohol can reduce them significantly. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

Although not a very common symptom of GERD, night sweats are becoming more recognised in association with this condition. Often it is accompanied by other symptoms such as :

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Hoarse voice

If GERD is the underlying cause for your night sweats, then treatment for the condition can help. 

 A good doctor can provide medical advice regarding your night sweats caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea refers to pauses in breathing during sleep that makes you wake up or not achieve “deep sleep” This in return causes difficulty in breathing as the body has to exert itself, thus causing night sweats. 

Some telltale signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Waking up with a  sore throat, dry mouth, or headache
  • Waking up with a gasp
  • Bed partner reporting that you stop breathing periodically
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Unexplained night sweats
  • Night sweats

Sleep apnea is a serious condition. Not only does it affect your sleep, but also your mental health. In some cases, it is also the underlying cause of heart attack, stroke and true night sweats.

The Takeaway:

Nighttime sweating once in a while is normal. However, we recommend talking to your healthcare provider if your night sweats are:

  • Not explained by a previous diagnosis
  • Not a medication side effect
  • Extreme
  • Frequent and persistent
  • Interfering with sleep
  • Affecting your daily life
  • Accompanied by other symptoms

To rule out the reason for your night sweats, your doctor may recommend a sleep study or other tests. 

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