Sweat is the body’s natural cooling system, and it usually activates when we’re experiencing hot weather or during exercise. But there is a time and a place for sweat and while we usually can expect to work up a sweat at the gym, sweating while we sleep can be uncomfortable and even alarming. There are many factors that can cause you to sweat in the night, so learn to recognize the symptoms and get informed. Is it normal to sweat while you sleep?
Why do I sweat when I sleep?
No one wants to wake up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night, and in order to uncover the possible causes of night sweats it’s important to consider a variety of factors. The first and most obvious one is room temperature and overall comfort level of the environment in which you sleep. Heat isn’t the only thing that can cause night sweats – humidity can also play a significant role. Other potential contributing factors are heavy blankets, wearing warm pajamas, or general discomfort caused by an old mattress or a noisy bedroom.
The next thing to take into account is your health. Have you recently changed your diet? Do you feel tired or fatigued? The symptoms of the flu include a fever, which is the body’s natural response to an infection. Night sweats can be caused by a fever associated with cold or flu symptoms for a night or two, but if they continue beyond that it could indicate a more serious condition.
One of the most common causes of night sweats are hot flashes associated with menopause, which result from hormonal changes in the body. A sudden drop in estrogen production can cause a hormonal imbalance in the hypothalamus, which in turn creates an instant spike in a woman’s body temperature of up to 6 degrees [source: Breastcancer.org].
Men aren’t exempt from this condition. Some men who have a testosterone deficiency or are taking drugs that block testosterone production may experience similar effects. Most men won’t admit that they are experiencing hot flashes, but androgen deprivation can definitely cause night sweats [source: Harvard Medical School].
What else could be making me sweat?
Lots of prescription medications can increase your heart rate and cause blood vessels at the surface of the skin to dilate, which results in excessive sweating. Antipyretics or drugs that reduce fever are the most common culprits. When they experience flu-like symptoms, many people reach for aspirin and other drugs, but while these are effective at reducing a fever they can also cause night sweats. Antidepressants are another class of drugs that cause sweating during the night [source: American Academy of Family Physicians].
Infectious diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS are also known to cause night sweats. Having a persistent fever that’s accompanied by night sweats is common among people who have tested positive for HIV. Hodgkin’s disease, a type of lymphoma, is another infectious disease that causes fever and intense nightly sweating in patients.
Drinking alcohol in the evenings before bedtime is also to blame for some people who sweat while they sleep. While a glass of wine can help us fall asleep, studies have shown that alcohol-induced sleep is less restful and makes us prone to headaches and night sweats [Source: American Academy of Family Physicians].
Another possible factor that might cause night sweats is eating spicy food. While we might not experience immediate discomfort during the meal, the digestion of spicy foods can increase the body’s core temperature. Doctors have also found that the consumption of caffeine can worsen sweating in people who already sweat excessively [source: Emedicine].
Some people have a condition known as hyperhidrosis, which causes frequent and excessive sweating during the day and at night. If you’ve ruled out all of the other possible causes of night sweats, you could be experiencing hyperhidrosis and should schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about it [source: Mayo Clinic].
Natural solutions for night sweats
The first and most obvious solution here is to look for the thermostat. Although most doctors recommend a temperature between 68 and 74 degrees fahrenheit for sleeping, everyone is different and you should experiment to find the right temperature for you. If you sleep with a partner who prefers a warmer or cooler temperature than you, try to add several light layers of bedding [Source: WebMD].
Eliminating any possible causes of stress and anxiety is also a good idea. Nervousness and anxiety are common triggers of excessive sweating, both during the day and at night. So if you have a wedding or a job interview around the corner it’s normal that you’ll sweat a little more than usual. But if night sweats are persisting several weeks after the big day, you should probably get yourself checked out.
Men who are suffering from night sweats associated with andropause (male menopause) can drink a tea made with black cohosh, or take black cohosh supplements. This is a native plant found in many parts of North America, and its medicinal properties have been used to cure various ailments. Red clover is another herbal remedy that can ease the severity of hot flashes and night sweats, but studies have shown that its effects are not as conclusive as those of black cohosh [source: Pray].
Both men and women have turned to herbal remedies like sage and motherwort teas to deal with night sweats. Sage tea is helpful to promote relaxation and relieve stress, while motherwort helps more directly with the sweating itself. Both also calm the nerves and improve the circulatory system, both of which influence night sweats.