Sweating is a natural everyday occurrence and can occur when your nervous system triggers your sweat glands as your body temperature rises. This produces sweat, which is needed to help cool down the body.
Sweating in your sleep is also a normal occurrence and can be caused by numerous factors, often sleeping in a room or bed that’s too hot. However, if frequent and excessive sweating at night is causing you significant discomfort, it may be worth seeking medical advice and treatment. Keep reading to discover the causes of night sweats and the preventative steps you can take.
Occasional and minor sweating in your sleep is common and shouldn’t be a massive cause for concern. The ideal room temperature for sleeping is believed to be around 18°C - 22°C, so if your room is too hot, this could be causing sweating. Other factors, such as night clothing, bedding and illnesses, can also cause temporary sweating.
However, night sweats✓ can be more disruptive as it typically involves regular and excessive sweating in which you frequently wake up with wet night clothing and bedsheets. Night sweats can also often occur despite sleeping in a cool environment, and there are usually underlying issues at the root of the problem.
Both adults and children can experience night sweating, and it may be accompanied by a fever, cough, high temperature, weight loss or diarrhoea. If this is the case, or if night sweating is causing you distress, it’s essential to seek professional or medical advice.
Did you know?
A study✓ involving 363 adult patients found that night sweats were associated with daytime tiredness, leg jerking during sleep, waking up in pain and waking up with a bitter taste in the mouth.
Causes of Night Sweats
If you’re suffering from frequent night sweats, it’s helpful to identify the cause so you can take steps to seek treatment or adjust your habits. There are various possible causes for night sweats; however, it’s always recommended to seek medical advice if you have any doubts.
- Menopause: It is estimated that more than 80% of women✓ experience hot flashes during menopause. When hot flashes occur at night, they are typically referred to as night sweats and can cause heat sensations, hot flushes, chills and sweating.
- Alcohol: Regular alcohol consumption can cause you to suffer night sweats due to the effect it has on different parts of your body, such as the central nervous system. Alcohol can also widen blood cells and increase your heart rate, causing you to sweat.
- Anxiety: A common physical symptom of anxiety✓ is excessive sweating, which can manifest into night sweats. When you feel stressed, your body temperature can rise or you can trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response, both capable of causing you to sweat.
- Hyperhidrosis: As of 2013, it’s estimated that between 1% - 1.6%✓ have been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis✓ in the UK, yet this number could be much higher. This relatively harmless condition causes the individual to sweat excessively and can be caused by numerous factors, including genetics.
- Medication: Night sweats are a common side effect of various medications. This can include antidepressants, hormone-blockers and medication to treat diabetes. Make sure to speak with your doctor regarding possible side effects when starting a new medication.
- Low Blood Sugar: Those with diabetes can experience low blood glucose✓, which can be a result of taking medication or insulin. If the blood glucose levels are too low, you may experience sweating due to excess adrenaline.
Night Sweating During Menopause
For women, menopause✓ is a natural part of ageing and typically occurs between the ages of 45 -55. Despite this, it is estimated that around 1 in 100 women can experience premature menopause before the age of 40. Once a woman goes through menopause, she can no longer get pregnant, and menopausal symptoms include night sweats, hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, and mood changes.
According to the British Menopause Society, it’s estimated that around 80% of women experience hot flushes and sweating, which can occur day or night. In addition, a U.S study✓ involving 293 menopausal women found that 57% reported hot flashes, and 36% claimed they were suffering from night sweats. The study also found that daily alcohol consumption significantly increased night sweats while smoking increased the frequency of hot flashes.
So, what causes hot flashes and sweating? Many experts put it down to decreasing estrogen levels and changing hormones, which are related to the part of the brain that controls body temperature. Sweating is a natural way in which the body can stay cool and regulate body temperature.
While every individual is different, according to science, men tend to sweat more than women. There are various reasons why this is the case; this includes having more muscle mass, increased testosterone and producing more sweat per gland than women.
Dealing With Night Sweats
Depending on the cause, there are some steps you can take to avoid or manage night sweats. Although, it’s worth noting that if underlying medical conditions or certain medications cause your night sweats, it’s recommended to seek professional medical help. Here are some ways to deal with sweating in your sleep:
- Bed: If you tend to sleep hot, you may want to avoid memory foam mattresses and opt for hybrid or pocket sprung mattresses which often have more airflow. Additionally, you can also purchase cooling pillows and cooling mattress toppers to bring down the temperature of your sleeping surface.
- Food & Drink: There are certain food and drink items that could result in increased sweating if consumed regularly or before bed. This includes alcohol, salty foods caffeine and spicy foods.
- Environment: The ideal room temperature for sleeping is believed to be between 18°C - 22°C. Therefore, if your room is too hot, you could purchase a quiet fan or make sure your bedroom has sufficient ventilation.
- Hormone Therapy: For menopausal women, research✓ has found that hormone replacement therapy can be highly beneficial for women under 60 years of age. This treatment can help with hot flushes and sweating; however, it’s worth noting that the treatment doesn’t come without risks and it’s worth exploring all avenues beforehand.
- Meditation: There may not be an obvious link between meditation and night sweating, but if you’re sweating is caused by stress or anxiety, it could help. According to research✓, sleep meditation can help with stress relief and change how people react to stress. Controlled breathing can also help to calm your mind and body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I sweat so much in my sleep?
Various reasons could be causing you to sweat, such as medical conditions, alcohol consumption or your sleeping environment. Try to regulate your room temperature and look into cooling mattresses and accessories.
Why do I sweat in my sleep when it’s cold?
If you’re in a cold environment and still sweating, there could be underlying medical explanations or conditions. This could include low blood sugar, menopause, hyperhidrosis or anxiety.
Why do I sweat so much in my sleep (male)?
While everyone is different, men tend to sweat more than women as they are generally heavier with more muscle mass. Men also produce more sweat per gland than women.