Sweating is a normal physiological phenomenon in the human body. Its main function is to help us regulate and control body temperature and release excess heat in the body. Sweat, produced by glands in the dermis of the skin, permeates the surface of the skin and evaporates, thereby lowering body temperature.
For some though, they may be waking up in the night wet from sweat and are suffering from disrupted sleep due to excessive night sweating. If this is you then read on to find out why this might be happening and what you can do about it.
Causes of Night Sweats
“Night sweats are repeated episodes of very heavy sweating during sleep, heavy enough to soak your nightclothes or bedding” - according to Mayo Clinic’s definition. The are many reasons why you may be sweating at night but the main causes of night sweats include medical conditions, medication, and lifestyle:
- Medical conditions
- Perimenopause and menopause: Night sweats are common for women going through perimenopause and may be the first sign that the perimenopause years are starting.
- Infections: Bacterial infections such as endocarditis and osteomyelitis can cause night sweats. Tuberculosis is the most common infection associated with night sweats.
- Chronic sweating: Idiopathic hyperhidrosis is a medical condition where the body chronically produces too much sweat without any identifiable environmental or medical cause.
- Cancers: Night sweats can be early indicators of some cancers. Additional symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and fever, are usually present in undiagnosed cancer patients.
- Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar can cause sweating, and people taking medications like insulin and oral anti-diabetics may experience sweating at night.
- Hormone disorders: Night sweats can be a result of problems in hormone-producing glands, such as receiving too much or too little of a hormone like serotonin. Hormone therapy medications can also cause night sweats.
- Anxiety: Stress and emotional problems that cause sweating during the day can often have the same effect at night.
- Medications. Some of the medications you are taking can cause night sweats. This includes:
- Antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Medicines taken to lower fevers, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, may paradoxically cause sweating
- Hormone therapy
- Drugs used to treat opioid use disorders (methadone)
- Drugs used to treat hypoglycemia with diabetes
- Some dietary habits and lifestyles can also trigger night sweats, including:
- Drinking alcohol or caffeine before bed - Caffeine intake may cause sweating throughout the body, and alcohol consumption may increase the risk of night sweats by raising body temperature.
- Eating spicy food or smoke before bed - They are also common causes of night sweats.
- Higher levels of stress or anxiety - An overactive brain speeds up the body, causing night sweats.
- Sleeping conditions - This includes bedding, sleepwear or even a mattress that doesn't "breathe" and a sleep environment that's too warm.
Natural Remedies for Night Sweats
No matter what the cause, night sweats can profoundly affect the quality of your sleep and even negatively affect your daily life. The following tips may help you cope:
- Avoid or limit spice, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine before bed. All of these things can cause spikes in body temperature and induce sweating. Staying away from these triggers can reduce the chance and risk of night sweats.
- Keep your bedroom cool and choose light and comfortable sleepwear. Keeping the proper temperature and ventilation in your bedroom can prevent excessive heat from accumulating around your body at night. Choose loose, light pyjamas during sleep to prevent your body from absorbing too much heat. These are all effective ways to reduce your chances of night sweats.
- Utilise relaxation techniques. Using scientific relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep better and more consistently. These posts share free techniques and tools you can use to help you relax
- 7 free short relaxing meditations
- 7 short free online yoga classes to help you relax
- Breathing exercises for relaxation
- Use herbal remedies. There is some evidence that certain herbal ingredients can help people cope with night sweats triggered by hot flashes or stress. This includes black cohosh (can help menopausal women reduce hot flashes and improve mood); valerian (to support sleep), rhodiola (for fatigue, overwhelm and/or depression), sage (for hot flashes and night sweats) or St John’s Wort (low mood or depression). If you are interested in herbal remedies, seek out professional and experienced herbalists for advice and assistance.
- Try drinking a can of Adapt Drinks Relax before bed. Adapt Drinks Relax contains two adaptogenic herbs Panax Ginseng and Schisandra Berry. Schisandra berry has been shown to be a safe and effective complementary medicine for menopausal symptoms, especially for hot flushes, sweating, and heart palpitations. You can read more about how schisandra berry can help with menopausal symptoms in this study - A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Schisandra chinensis for menopausal symptoms
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: All content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health care professional.