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5 min read

night sweats - what they are and how to deal with them

Night sweats - there’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night soaking wet, and if this is happening to you on a regular basis, then you’ve probably thought this just can’t be normal. From going through the menopause to medication side effects and anxiety, there are many reasons why night sweats happen, leading to a disturbed and uncomfortable night’s sleep. Read on to find out what night sweats are and what causes them, plus we share our top tips to help you get a more comfortable and blissful night’s sleep.

what are night sweats?

Night sweats are when you experience excessive periods of perspiration that happen when you’re asleep and are more than just simply overheating, which usually occurs if you’ve got a heavy blanket over you or the room temperature is too high. They actually happen when your blood vessels expand, leading to increased blood flow, and then contract, which then causes a sudden and intense wave of heat throughout your body, followed by sweating, reddening of the skin and a fast heartbeat. You’ll find that you wake up during the night, drenched in sweat and your clothes and bedding soaked through. Sometimes night sweats are followed by a cold chill.

what causes night sweats?

If you often wake up during the night drenched in sweat, you’ll most likely be thinking, “why am I sweating so much in my sleep?” Well, your body’s system responsible for temperature regulation is complex and is influenced by a variety of factors, but some of the main reasons why night sweats happen include the menopause, infection, hormone problems and medication side effects. Cancer and diabetes can also cause night sweats.

Women going through the perimenopause and menopause often experience night sweats, which in turn can contribute to poor quality sleep and insomnia, especially if severe. During this time, significant changes in hormones, so the low or changing levels of oestrogen in particular, are the main contributor to night sweats. 

Certain types of medication, such as some antidepressants and steroids, can also lead to night sweats in both women and men, while infections trigger a fever and overheating. Tuberculosis, bacterial and fungal infections are just some of the different kinds of infections, where night sweats are a significant symptom. 

Hormonal problems are connected to night sweats too and are related to changes in the endocrine system, which is responsible for controlling hormone levels in your body. Examples of hormone problems that are linked to night sweats include over-activity of the thyroid and diabetes. 

when to be concerned about night sweats

As there are multiple reasons why you may be experiencing night sweats, it means there’s no single solution to put a stop to them. Make sure to talk to your doctor if your night sweats are frequent, persist overtime, interfere with your sleep and are having an impact on other areas of your day-to-day life, along with other changes in your health. This way you can get to the root cause and work out a suitable treatment plan.

tips for dealing with night sweats for better sleep

Night sweats are not only uncomfortable and annoying, but they can be worrying and disruptive to your sleep too. It’s completely normal for anyone experiencing night sweats to want to know the best way to deal with them to ensure a less disruptive and comfortable night’s sleep. The best approach that you can start to take is a straightforward one when it comes to minimising the severity of night sweats, so you can improve both your overall health and sleep quality.

  • Keep your bedroom cool - although a warm bedroom isn’t the main cause of night sweats, it can trigger them, so creating a sleep environment that’s cool can help to prevent heat from building up around your body. Our core body temperature needs to drop in order for us to access the good quality sleep that we need and hot flashes can be disruptive to sleep. Keep the thermostat set to a low temperature and open up the window to let the cool air flow in.

  • Wear light, breathable clothing - avoid wearing tight fitting clothing to bed as heat will only become trapped. Instead, wear clothing that’s lightweight and breathable to minimise discomfort.

  • Choose cooling bedding - bedding made from natural materials, such as cotton, provides better breathability and increases comfort levels. You may also want to try the Silentnight Cool Touch range, which provides a way to help prevent overheating, aiding with a more comfortable night’s sleep.

  • Drink cold water - a small amount of cool water before going to bed can help you to achieve a more comfortable and pleasant temperature. Furthermore, if you wake up in a sweat, place a cool washcloth on your head or run cold water over your wrists to help you cool down.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods too close to bedtime - these can all lead to spikes in your body temperature and induce sweating, so make sure to avoid eating spicy foods or large meals and drinking alcohol and caffeine in the evening.

  • Lifestyle adjustments - maintaining a healthy weight and keeping stress to a minimum can help to reduce the severity of night sweats. You should avoid exercise too close to bedtime also as your workout will raise your body temperature.

  • Try relaxation techniques - finally, finding the best way to put yourself at ease, such as deep, controlled breathing, really can go a long way to helping you better deal with night sweats.

Hannah Shore, Sleep Knowledge & Researcher Manager at Silentnight adds:

“We often find that during night sweats we create a negative association with the bedroom, making you feel stressed/uneasy/anxious about going to bed as you know your sleep will be disrupted by night sweats. Relaxation techniques are a great way to calm the mind and help get rid of these thoughts before bed.”

Author - Liz Tabron

Liz Tabron

Liz has over 7 years' experience in writing lifestyle, home, health, and eco content. Liz's mission is to make accessible our expert team's knowledge.