Perhaps you’ve woken up in the middle of the night feeling warm and slightly damp, then simply kicked off your covers and dozed back to sleep. But if middle-of-the night disruptions have your pajamas and bedding consistently covered in sweat, you need to get to the bottom of it.
“While night sweats are common, it’s hard to define them since they can be caused by a number of different things,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., board certified sleep specialist and author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctors 4-week program to Better Sleep and Better Health.” “Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for someone who sweats excessively, even when in a cool environment or when they’re at rest," says Michael. We sweat to dissipate heat – and perspiration accomplishes that – but night sweats are a temperature deregulation issue in the body. Here, Michael and other experts explain the science and psychology behind night sweats so that you can rest better.
If you never have night sweats and then are suddenly soaking your clothes and bed for a few nights in a row, it could be a sign you’ve got an infection, says Michael. And while it’s less common, night sweats are a symptom of tuberculosis, HIV and cancer, says Catherine Darley, ND, founder of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle. If the sweats are accompanied by unexplained weight loss, see your doctor to rule out a serious health problem.
You Drank Too Much the Night Before
It’s very common for people who’ve been out drinking to wake up sweating in the middle of the night. Your body overheats while metabolizing alcohol or tries to get alcohol out of you by sweating. Stick to two drinks or less so the booze doesn’t tax your body while you sleep.
Your Monthly Cycle Makes You Hot
Hormonal fluctuations can affect women at different phases of their menstrual cycle, says Erin Borbet, founder of Grow Wellness Acupuncture in New York and licensed practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Doula Services. While night sweats are common in menopausal-age women, it happens in lot in a lot of younger women as well, she says.
You're Anxious and Stressed All Day
Stress, worries and anxiety can certainly play a role in insomnia and also cause you to wake up from sleep in damp clothes, says Erin. She elaborates, “In Chinese medicine, we believe worry and anxiety put your body into overdrive, so you’re working exponentially harder than you need to be.” Tacking anxiety and worry onto an already demanding work and personal schedule creates this hyperdrive in the body that leads to depletion — which can result in night sweats during restorative sleep. “From a Chinese medicine standpoint, that’s the perfect time for that depletion to show itself — when we’re finally still, the body can’t contain itself,” she says. Waking up in a cold sweat is a sign that there is something the body is trying to process, and you have to figure out if it’s an issue of deficiency or excess. It could be over-exercise or undernourishment, over-caffeinating, adrenal fatigue or medications. Make lifestyle changes to manage stress and remedy the problem.
Your Diet's to Blame
Whether you added a few dashes of hot sauce to your dinner, you overate too close to bedtime or you’re suffering from food allergies, all of these instances can cause nighttime sweating as well, says Catherine. Cut back on spicy foods late in the day, minimize portions closer to bedtime and get tested for food allergies if you think your body is struggling to process a particular food group.
You're Taking New Meds
Night sweats can be a side effect of some medications, like antidepressants, hormone replacements and blood sugar-lowering drugs, so confer with your doctor or pharmacist to determine if the drugs you’re taking could be causing this and if there are other options you can take that won’t interfere with your sleep.