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Why Am I Sweating While Sleeping?
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Why Am I Sweating While Sleeping?

Sleep Hyperhidrosis or Night Sweats is actually a serious medical condition requiring treatment.  If your bedclothes are drenched and soaking wet, this is more than just casual over-heated sleeping.  It is really quite important that you consult a physician.

Overheating can happen to anyone, but as to what causes Night Sweats—they are caused by some types of cancer, serious hormone imbalances, or bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis and endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of your heart).

Ordinary Sweating in Sleep

Sweating at night while sleeping, on the other hand, is surprisingly common.  These can be hot or cold sweats and can have innumerable causes from ill-health or psychological pressures or panic, to drug withdrawal, or even too much spicy food for dinner, uncontrolled room temperatures, or it may be entirely self-imposed.  Let’s look at that last one first.

What causes sweating in your sleep?

sweating while sleeping

Self-imposed

Sometimes we bring it on ourselves because we became accustomed to something as a child, and are most comfortable with swaddling.  This helps babies sleep when they are anxious.  It feels like being held and brings comfort.  When we grow up we emulate it by putting lots of pillows and blankets around and on top of ourselves because it is comfortable to feel like you are being held.

When we overdo it, we end up waking up sweaty.  As a solution to this, there are specially made blankets (see our blog entitled weighted blankets) that can be either quite warm, or very well-ventilated to keep you cool, while still providing the feeling of being held.  This is one of the best solutions available for self-imposed sweating while sleeping.  It is also a fantastic aid that people report lets them sleep uninterrupted all night through.

Room Temperature

It may be obvious, but different people prefer different temperatures.  One might be comfortable with the window wide open in winter, while the other huddles in layers of down comforters and blankets.  Overcompensating because of the fear of becoming cold is a sure-fire way to bring on sweating at night while sleeping.

On the flip-side of that coin, a room that is unrelentingly hot will trigger our bodies to flip the cooling switch to maximum.  Waking up sweaty, in wet sheets is never comfortable, but it is your body’s way of protecting you to make sure you don’t get heat stroke. 

This also happens when people move to new climates with no adaptation time.  It is especially common if you move from an arid area to a very humid area, even if there is little temperature change.  Your body still wants to shed heat but the sweat won’t evaporate as quickly as usual so it increases the sweat to try to compensate.  One of the most useful tools is the simple ceiling fan.  It uses next to no electricity, but powerfully enhances your rate of evaporation.

If you are quite overheated and waking up sweaty, it might be so wet that you are afraid of it being pathological Night Sweats.  You should reflect on whether you are prone to them, and consider the circumstances.  People don’t acquire this syndrome spontaneously and it affects only 3% of the population.  There is a 97% chance that it is not true night sweats!

Panic and Psychopathy

Are you alone in a creepy hotel room?  Maybe you’re away from home, at college, for the first time?  Was that a car backfiring, or a gunshot outside?  All sorts of things can lead to dread, or even panic, and that can cause cold sweats.

Simple anxiety can magnify trivial events—especially when you’re on your own in a new environment.  It’s easy to say “don’t panic”, but it is much easier to do something mundane and get your mind off of whatever is bothering you.  In a hotel, order a cup of cocoa from room service; in college, review your new textbooks; hearing sounds, play some tunes on your smartphone.  Just don’t let it get ahead of you.

Illness

This can cause both hot and cold sweats, sometimes alternating.  Something like this is not really to be fooled around with—you should seek out medical assistance when you are ill or fevered.  A body temperature of 40° C/104° F can be fatal.

Food

Maybe Vindaloo was a bad choice for your first ever encounter with Indian food…  Did the Mexican birria overwhelm you?  For some people, Sichuan or Szechwan Chinese Food might be a little too bold in the flavour department.

Whatever the case, for sensitive people spicy food can haunt you for hours.  Just remember not to drink water to stop the burn.  That washes away all the things that are preventing a more intense experience.  Have a bit of butter, or something with fat, like heavy cream, so it can absorb those intense oils.

Chemicals

There can be all sorts of combinations of chemicals which can cause sweaty discomfort.  Drinking alcohol to the point of nausea can cause profuse sweating and real Night Sweats, as mentioned at the beginning.  Even if you do manage to get some of it out of your system by the same route it entered, your body will use any means at its disposal to get rid of toxic amounts of alcohol.  It can be detected in your sweat and other fluids for between 2-80 hours after the event.

If you drink 12 beers, it will take twelve hours to clear your system.  Your liver can only process one serving per hour.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Diabetics, and those with low blood-sugar can experience sweating at night while sleeping; women going through menopause can undergo sweating in their sleep; several medications treating a variety of conditions can cause people to suffer sweating while sleeping.

The Takeaway

sweating while sleeping

Basically all it calls for is a little common sense.  Casual light sweating requires you to alter your environment in some way.  Unexpected sweating could signal a condition that needs attention.  Profound unexplained sweating, fever, and “feeling ill” needs medical attention.

So pay attention to what is happening—don’t get overwrought—and don’t let it keep you up at night!  Z-z-z-z-z-z…