Eww! That unpleasant feeling of waking up soaked in sweat, sheets and clothes included! But don’t worry, you’re not the only one who experiences this, since it’s estimated that 35% of adults aged 20 to 65 have also experienced one or more episodes of night sweats. Polysleep has looked into the matter and explains why we sometimes wake up soaked as if we’d just gotten out of the shower, and especially what we can do about it!
What are night sweats exactly?
It’s excessive sweating at night that happens suddenly. This phenomenon can occur very rarely or can recur several nights in a row. You then wake up in a sweat, with your pajamas glued to your body and with the impression that you fell asleep in the middle of a puddle... let’s just say that there are more pleasant awakenings! Although annoying, night sweats—or hyperhidrosis, to be more scientific—are often easy to control when they have no medical cause; we’ll come back to this later.
What are the causes?
The causes are many and varied, but they are frequently associated with sleep problems, withdrawal, infection or hormonal disorders:
- Restless Leg Syndrome. This disorder is defined as an irrepressible urge to move the legs—and even the arms—during periods of rest.
- Sleep apnea, which consists of involuntary stops in breathing for a few seconds, and can occur several times a night.
- Gastric reflux: also known as heartburn. You know, you go to bed and suddenly wake up with a bad taste in your mouth? That’s what it is.
- An infection accompanied by a fever. You go to bed freezing and you wake up sweating a few hours later.
- Medication. Some medications, especially those used to treat certain lymphomas, can cause night sweats.
- Withdrawal from alcohol or tobacco can also cause night sweats.
What about hormones?
Yes, we often hear about the famous hot flashes that women get during menopause, and no, it’s not exaggerated! In fact, the hormonal imbalance that occurs during menopause is enough to excite the sympathetic nervous system, one of the two autonomic nervous systems, which causes excessive sweating. Note that this sweating can occur at any time of the day but more frequently at night.
Hyperthyroidism (i.e. increased functioning of the thyroid gland) can also be responsible for night sweats in both women and men, and excess testosterone in men can also lead to excessive sweating at night.
When to see your doctor?
If episodes of night sweats occur very rarely, there is no need to worry. But if they happen more often, here are a few things to check before you rush to the doctor!
Are you experiencing a period of stress?
Are you the type of person who gets sweaty just thinking about speaking during your weekly team meeting? Stress could cause you to sweat at night, especially if you have anxiety attacks or nightmares.
Is it very warm in your bedroom?
It might seem unnecessary to mention it, but if you keep the temperature in your bedroom at 25 degrees, you increase your chances of night sweats! In fact, specialists agree that the ideal temperature is between 18 and 20 degrees for optimal sleeping conditions.
Similarly, if you keep your big warm blankets on in the middle of July, you might also get too hot and wake up sweating!
Once these causes have been ruled out, and if you still suffer from excessive sweating at night, make an appointment with your doctor to look for medical causes (hormonal, psychological or other).
In the meantime, put the odds in your favor by eliminating anything that could contribute to night sweats, including avoiding spicy foods and removing the 18 blankets on your bed!
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