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Excessive Sweating During Sleep

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Excessive sweating typically happens because your body temperature is high, so figuring out what makes you hot is half of the battle. Some of the most common reasons include sleeping in a hot room, being at a certain age like puberty or menopause, or having anxiety. 

Sometimes hot flashes and night sweats that leave you drenched are a symptom of an illness or a disease. Before you start worrying about those, you should know that each illness comes with a number of other symptoms. Most people already know what illness they have but they may not necessarily know that their condition is linked to night sweats.

What you can do about sweating depends on the cause – you may be able to “fix” the problem entirely or you may just need to wait for it to pass.

A hot sleeper or a hot room? Or both?

It surely feels good to be in a constantly warm room during the winter months but this type of comfort actually causes poor sleep and night sweats. The night is naturally colder than the day, and it should be so in our homes as well. Cooler temperature sends our bodies a signal that it’s time for sleep. Light is the strongest ‘time giver’ which informs the brain of what time it is, and the temperature is arguably the second most important.

Here we say “arguably the second” because some authors claim that temperature is even more important than light. Researchers found that in cultures where there’s no technology, people rise in the morning with the temperature increase, before the sunrise. On extremely hot nights we can’t sleep regardless of the light source – so we can say that they have some valid points.

Room and bed

Let’s go back to the most desirable temperature – experts recommend 64°F. It doesn’t mean you have to set your room temperature to this particular number (we all have different bodies and different needs), but it should serve as the ideal number so you can know if and how much you’re off. Much higher and much lower temperatures can cause you to wake frequently up in discomfort and have overall poor sleep (with almost no time spent in deep sleep). 

Once you have your ambient temperature in check, focus on your bed. Do you have breathable pajamas and bedding? Are you using excessive amounts of blankets? What kind of mattress and blanket do you use? Memory foam mattresses can trap heat and make you really hot (the same goes for pillows). Some blankets are specifically made to warm you up, while others have a cooling effect. 

If you prefer warmer room temperature or are a naturally hot sleeper, try going to bed without any pajamas.

Illnesses and diseases that cause night sweats

Some conditions that can cause night sweats include:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) which, apart from sweats, also causes heartburn, problems with swallowing, and sleep problems.
  • ADHD and sleep problems (including sweating) are almost always paired. Children with ADHD often see the opposite of normal – a temperature rise in the evening.
  • Stress and anxiety typically cause sweating when we aren’t sleeping – but they also cause night sweats along with tension, stomach problems, and ruminating thoughts. Neurological disorders are also linked to excessive night sweats.
  • Hormonal problems or changes – these include low testosterone in men, menopause in women, hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid produces too much thyroxine). 
  • Sleep apnea – people with untreated apnea are three times more likely to suffer from night sweats.
  • Some cancers could cause night sweats. 
  • Really bad Infections like the inflammation of the heart valves (endocarditis), bones (osteomyelitis) or tuberculosis.
  • Chronic sweating (idiopathic hyperhidrosis) is a condition in which a person chronically sweats too much for no apparent reason.
  • Low blood sugar and medications used for lowering blood sugar are responsible for night sweats.

Medications for diabetes aren’t the only ones that can cause night sweats. Steroids, painkillers such as aspirin, hormone therapy pills, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants.

Night sweats in women

A majority of women suffer from hot flashes and excessive sweats in perimenopause and menopause (which occurs between 48 and 55 years of age). For about a third of women hot flashes are so severe they may impact the quality of their life while others may only feel mild flashes. They can happen at any time of the day, which includes sleep time. Hot flashes and night sweats most likely happen because estrogen levels fluctuate or drop – sometimes these changes can be very dramatic, causing more problems.

Night sweats in men

Night sweats in men are much less common than in women and they may be caused by low testosterone (low T). Low T can be caused by a wide range of conditions, from anxiety, testicle injury, infections, genetic conditions, diabetes 2, to some cancers.

Why does my child sweat so much?

For small children, it is normal to get drenched in sweat during deep sleep because their bodies still don’t regulate temperature as well as adults. Just make sure you’re not overheating your child. If the child is hot before bed or soon after falling asleep (before the deep sleep stage), you may need to reduce some of the pajamas or go light on blankets.

Other less common reasons for a child that sweats too much are ADHD, sleep apnea, or an infection. Do not ignore snoring (unless it’s due to being in a specific position) or pauses in breathing – if your child has breathing problems, consult a professional.

Does puberty cause night sweats?

Adolescent years are marked by hormonal changes, and these changes can cause night sweats in some teens. If your teen doesn’t have any other health issue symptoms, these sweats are likely to pass.

ADHD and sleep apnea can also cause sweating in teens, so pay attention to their sleep health in case night sweats are too frequent or severe.

How to keep cool

Sleeping cool can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and feel rested in the morning. This does not mean sleeping in an uncomfortably cold room, it rather means you should:

  • Keep the room temperature at about 64°F
  • Avoid memory foam or other heat-trapping bedding
  • Invest in breathable cotton bedsheets
  • Consider ditching pajamas (if appropriate for you)
  • Have a warm bath an hour before bed – this lowers your core body temperature and after the bath you’ll keep losing the heat. This promotes great sleep!

Additional resources

  1. Excessive sweating keeping you up at night? Know when it’s time to see your doctor https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/night-sweats/
  2. What to know about night sweats https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296818.php