Summers is almost here, but for some of us, summer is year-round when we climb into bed. Some people sleep hot no matter what the weather is outside, and some people sleep really hot, waking up soaked in perspiration.
Waking up night after night with your pillowcase, sheets, and sleepwear drenched in sweat may not just be your body’s normal response to an overheated room or your bed partner’s preference for heavy covers. It may be an indication of a serious medical condition or a reaction to some medications.
A bit of sleuthing and a visit to your doctor can help determine the cause and uncover potential solutions. But whatever the cause of your excessive sweating at night, rest assured there are some surefire ways to turn down the heat and keep those troublesome night sweats under control.
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Common causes of night sweats
A hot bedroom
Before you worry yourself with an amateur medical diagnosis, recognize that many people sweat profusely at night because their bedrooms are too warm for sleeping. What’s comfortable during the day may be too warm for you at night when your body needs to be cool in order to get ready for sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal bedroom temperature is a cool 60° to 67°. So, if you regularly keep your bedroom in the 72° to 75° range, well, that might be your problem.
Many people sweat profusely at night because their bedrooms are too warm for sleeping.
If you continue to sweat profusely during the night after turning down the temperature, consider some of the common medical causes of night sweats and consult with your doctor for a professional diagnosis.
True night sweats, unlike those caused by too many bedclothes or high bedroom temperature, are associated with fever, weight loss, localized pain, cough, diarrhea, or other symptoms. There are many medical conditions that can cause night sweats, some of the most common being:
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Bacterial infections like endocarditis (inflammation of the heart lining), osteomyelitis (inflammation within the bones), abscesses, HIV/AIDS
- Hormone changes due to perimenopause or menopause
- Low blood sugar
- Neurological conditions such as autonomic dysreflexia, post-traumatic syringomyelia, stroke, autonomic neuropathy
- Parkinson’s disease
If you have any of these conditions, your night sweats are another way your body is telling you something is not right. As always, it’s best to pay attention to the signals your body gives you. If you experience symptoms of any of these conditions or other symptoms that are concerning, see your doctor.
Night sweats can be another of your body telling you something is not right.
Several commonly used medications can also cause night sweats. These include:
- Niacin (used for lipid disorders)
- Tamoxifen (anti-estrogen)
- Hydralazine (for treatment of high blood pressure and congestive heart failure)
- Nitroglycerine (used to prevent chest pain related to certain heart conditions)
- Sildenafil (for treating erectile dysfunction)
Night sweats have also been identified as an indicator of impaired detoxification in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Impaired detoxification occurs when primarily the liver and kidneys are unable to sufficiently remove toxins from the body leading to an accumulation of toxins in fat-based tissues of the body, brain, and organs. Night sweats may be an alternative method for removing toxins from the body when the other mechanisms malfunction or are insufficient to the task.
Treatment for night sweats
Treatment for night sweats targets the underlying cause of your excessive sweating at night. Night sweats that are caused by infection, cancer, or fevers are not preventable as long as the condition persists. Resolving the medical issue will eliminate the night sweats associated with it.
When hormone changes due to perimenopause lead to severe hot flashes and night sweats, hormone therapy may be prescribed when appropriate. This symptom of perimenopause usually resolves after menopause.
Night sweats that are a side effect of medications will subside once the medication is discontinued. If the medications are used to treat a chronic condition, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative that is less likely to cause night sweats.
7 ways to ice night sweats
Whether you battle occasional night sweats due to temporary illnesses or treatments or know that your night sweats are here to stay because of a chronic condition, making your sleep environment as comfortable as possible can help you weather the nightly deluge of perspiration.
1. Cool down your bedroom.
Set your thermostat to the optimal temperature for sleeping, somewhere between 60° and 67°.
2. Cool down your body.
Lowering your body temperature will signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Taking a shower or bath 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime is a soothing way to cool down at night. The warm water will initially raise your body temperature, but as you dry off and the water on your body evaporates, your body temperature will drop, giving you a cool start to the night.
3. Minimize your bedclothes.
Light-weight, loose-fitting pajamas made of 100% cotton or another breathable, natural fiber will help to dissipate your body heat and keep you cooler at night than synthetic fabrics or form-fitting pajamas. Sleeping naked is a simple alternative to PJs.
4. Avoid foods that can heat you up.
Caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods all contribute to raising your body temperature and causing you to sweat at night.
5. Choose a cooling mattress.
Innerspring mattresses may be old fashioned, but they can be the best for keeping you cool at night. With lots of space around the coils for air to circulate, they are the perfect solution for people who sleep hot or struggle with night sweats. Keep in mind that many innerspring mattresses include a layer of foam on top – we refer to these as hybrid mattresses. Make sure the foam has breathable layers or uses some other type of cooling technology.
Memory foam is notorious for absorbing body heat and retaining it. In fact, your body heat is one factor that helps memory foam perform its characteristic body contouring. The contouring is great for relieving pressure points but really bad for dissipating body heat. So if you’re set on memory foam, make sure the mattress is constructed with breathable layers that let heat escape or cooling technology that dissipates heat instead of trapping it.
Latex mattresses have contouring benefits similar to those of memory foam mattresses without the troublesome heat absorption. They are a good choice for people who need help sleeping cool.
See Mattress Advisor’s favorite mattresses for people who sleep hot.
6. Surround yourself with natural fibers.
When it comes to staying cool and dry at night, what you put on your mattress is just as important as what goes into your mattress. Start with a mattress pad made from 100% cotton to keep air circulating and body heat dissipated. Or for a truly cutting-edge sleep experience, try a Slumber Cloud mattress pad that uses tiny cooling beads developed by NASA to absorb and release heat before it can build up in your mattress.
Then top your mattress pad with sheets made from 100% cotton, linen, or another natural fiber with a medium range thread count of 300 to 400. The combination of lower thread count and natural fibers makes a more breathable sheet.
7. Cooler heads prevail.
Finally, keep your head cool with a memory foam pillow made with a cooling technology such as cooling gel layer or beads. We love the Leesa Hybrid Pillow with a ventilated gel layer that is cool to the touch and a fabric cover that chills five times faster than other pillows.
Sleeping cool and dry is not an impossible dream, even for people dealing with chronic conditions. You may not be able to eliminate the cause of your night sweats, but you can help give your sweat glands a rest, so you can get the rest you need.
What’s your favorite way to stay cool at night? Share your story in the comments below. We love to hear from our readers.