The cool side of your pillow is a blessing, but if you sweat a lot at night, it might mean that flipping the pillow is not enough to help your possible underlying health problems. In this article we will look at some of the most common reasons for sweating a lot at night and what, if anything, you can do to help relieve that flushed, hot, sticky, sweaty nighttime feeling and help you rest in cool comfort.
Summer heat or heavy bedding are not the only reason you might sweat a lot at night, but they can certainly contribute. Your body’s temperature can fluctuate through the night as you sleep, so that even a thermostat that is set to keep you cool might not be enough for your body’s peak body temperature at night.
If you sweat a lot at night, this may be why…
Night sweats are a symptom that can be found worldwide, and although most people associate them with menopause, both men and women can feel the heat at night for multiple reasons. In a recent study of worldwide prevalence of people who sweat at night, researchers found that people in every continent around the globe except for Antarctica experienced these symptoms.
For women going through menopause, the researchers say ‘The prevalence of these symptoms varies widely and may be influenced by a range of factors, including climate, diet, lifestyle, women’s roles, and attitudes regarding the end of reproductive life and aging.’ In other words, if your knowledge and beliefs about menopause don’t include that you may sweat a lot at night, then you might either not notice, or not be concerned about it.
What it means if you sweat a lot at night
We humans aren’t covered with fur to keep us warm, so our bodies naturally exchange heat with the air around us. As we sweat, we are creating evaporative cooling with our skin. As the moisture evaporates, the surface of the skin feels cool to the touch, helping us to regulate our internal body temperature. As a result of sweating, we require a greater intake of water. Remember to hydrate throughout the day if you sweat a lot at night.
Many prescription medications have the side effect of making your body sweat at night. For example, tamoxifen for those going through breast cancer treatment is one common culprit of night sweats. Also on the list are medications that lower blood sugar levels as we will discuss further in this article. Another major class of drugs that may make you sweat a lot at night are antidepressants.
Menopause is the most common hormonal change that people associate with being a cause of night sweats, and for women this is sometimes true when natural levels of estrogen decrease with age. But men also experience hormonal changes that can raise body temperature overnight and cause sweating.
Men can in fact experience andropause, where levels of testosterone decrease later in age, causing night sweats. A natural decline in testosterone levels can cause sweating at night, but it is more pronounced in men who are undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Researchers looked at the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy in men who were being treated for prostate cancer and found that ‘Hot flashes did impact on everyday functioning, and night sweats regularly disturbed sleep patterns and led to participants feeling tired and irritable. Participants reported a lack of control over their hot flashes and night sweats. There was reluctance among our sample to disclose the type of symptoms experienced to others.’
A viral illness
A virus will give you a fever and this lingering illness in the body can cause you to sweat more. Sometimes a virus is in your system long term, as in the example of Human Immunodeficiency Virus. People with HIV report more night sweating than others without the disease.
Depression and anxiety
Depressed mood may be linked to body temperature fluctuations, even if you aren’t taking antidepressants. The reasons for this may be in varying levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Anxiety and a history of panic attack are another potential factor that are related to imbalances in neurotransmitters and may be why you may sweat a lot at night.
Changes in your diet
Dietary changes may be a cause of sweating a lot at night. One potential culprit that might be in your diet are soy products. Soy consumption has been linked to sweating a lot at night. Other spicy foods can raise your temperature a little bit while you eat and digest them, so if you eat them right before bed you may notice yourself sweating more than usual, but otherwise the heat factor will decrease as you sleep.