If you've ever woken up in the middle feeling like you just got out of a pool with all of your clothes on, then you know how disruptive night sweats can be. If you're wondering why you're sweating at night, there are many things that can cause night sweats, as well as how to avoid them so you can get some sweat-free sleep. While night sweats are often associated with menopause in women, there are a lot of other things you might not be aware of that can make your sleep a sweaty nightmare.
I started getting night sweats when I switched to a new antidepressant at the beginning of 2017. After six months, the sweating finally went away, but then I had to switch meds again, and now the dreaded night sweats are back with a vengeance. My doctor told me that most medications can cause night sweats, and that the sweats should eventually go away as my body gets used to the new medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, things like anxiety, stress, underlying medical conditions, and eating habits can also cause night sweats, or make an existing night-sweat problem worse. Besides changing up my meds twice in 12 months, 2017 was a dumpster fire of stress and anxiety for me, so my sweaty sleep problem makes sense. Nevertheless, it was a pain to deal with, so I looked into how I could make my problem go away, and here's what I found.
What Are Night Sweats?
It's important to note that night sweats are different than just being hot at night. Myriad things, like the somewhat-obvious too many blankets or sleeping with the heat on too high, can cause some sweating at night. This type of sweating is normal and not usually disruptive to your sleep. However, night sweats take sweating to a whole other level.
"Doctors generally refer to true night sweats as severe hot flashes occurring at night that can drench sleepwear and sheets, and that are not related to an overheated environment," according to the website e-Medicine Health. Basically, waking up drenched versus waking up hot is what differentiates night sweats from just being a little overheated.
If you are having night sweats, and you're not taking any medication (like an antidepressant) where night sweats are listed as a side effect, it's important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea or something more serious. Unless you are experiencing menopause, identifying other illnesses, such as cancer, adrenal disorders, autoimmune diseases, and others, that can cause night sweats is important for early treatment.
The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing a doctor if there is no plausible reason for your night sweats, they occur on a regular basis, interrupt your sleep, and are accompanied by a fever, weight loss, localized pain, cough, diarrhea, or other symptoms that aren't related to another known cause. Other things that can cause night sweats, according to Healthline, are alcohol and low blood sugar. Even if you're not a big drinker, some people can experience night sweats after having just one drink.
How To Sweat Less & Sleep More
If you are dealing with night sweats on the regular, and you've ruled out potential underlying causes, there are a few things you can do to make them less profoundly annoying. After several nights of waking up drenched, I started researching possible remedies and came across one thing that's helped me get a better, and less sweaty, night's sleep: Bamboo.
According to a study published in the Journal of Textile and Apparel Technology Management, "The advantages of bamboo fabric are its very soft feel [...], it's antimicrobial properties, it's moisture-wicking capabilities, and it's anti-static nature." After learning about bamboo's magic moisture-wicking abilities, I got myself some bamboo sheets and bamboo pajamas, and they have actually made a big difference for me. While I'm still sweating at night, I'm not waking up so drenched at 3 a.m. that I have to change my pajamas, which is progress. Bamboo also dries quickly because of its moisture-wicking abilities, so waking up in the morning isn't the sopping wet experience it once was.
You can also keep some bamboo products by your bed to blot yourself during the night. My go-to is Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. They make one that is 100 percent bamboo, and a portion of the profits go toward building toilets in underserved communities. Because bamboo is so moisture-wicking, you can use one sheet a few times, which will save you money in the long run if your night sweats continue for several months. I keep a roll by my bed and reach for it when I feel my neck and chest start to sweat.
Aside from bamboo, the Telegraph reported that researchers at the University of Leeds concluded that wool regulates body temperature better than a down comforter, which can actually trap heat, and is only going to make you sweatier. "As these [wool fibers] naturally wick heat and moisture away from the body, they can help individuals maintain their own comfortable temperatures even if under the same duvet," Johnathan Well wrote for the Telegraph. Basically, dressing your bed in bamboo and wool can go a long way in ensuring you have a less sweaty night.
Additionally, Reuters reported that new research suggests that performing yoga poses like sun salutations can help relieve night sweats in menopausal women, but I think it's a worth a try for women of any age. "All of the mind-body tools, yoga, acupuncture, qi gong, and meditation probably work through multiple mechanisms — through remodeling how the mind-body perceives sensations and signals, how the mind-body responds to those stimuli and finally through helping set or reset the mind-body’s steady state,” Dr. James Stahl of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters in an email.
Other things that can help reduce the severity of night sweats, according to Healthline, include drinking a glass of cool water before bed, using a fan, performing relaxing breathing exercises before you go to sleep, and establishing a calming bedtime routine to reduce stress. They also noted that avoiding spicy foods, quitting smoking, and choosing loose night clothes over tight, restrictive ones can help. For me, I have found that I experience less night sweats in dry environments, like the desert. If you don't live in a dry climate, getting a dehumidifier can help pull moisture out of the air and keep you dry. I have another friend who takes a cold shower before bed to keep sweating at bay. You can also use sweat wipes that contain a clinical strength antiperspirant.
While I think we can all agree that night sweats are pretty terrible, you can get through them like a boss with a few simple like hacks. These ideas definitely won't solve all of your nocturnal sweat problems, but they can make night sweats less debilitating. And, any progress on mitigating night sweats and getting more sleep is a win.