Have you been having night sweats, waking up in the morning covered in sweat, having soaked your t-shirt through, or worse… waking up frequently in the middle of the night, dripping with sweat and cold, or hot and sticky?
Night sweats can be a very scary thing – to think that we are going through such a hefty process in our nocturnal hours is quite disturbing. You may wonder – what am I going through to cause my body to shed so much liquid at night? Am I sick? Is there something wrong with me?
You are not alone.
Night sweats are actually very common and in most cases there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Let’s have a look at some of the science around sweating at night and work out what you can do about this, so you get a peaceful night’s sleep.
How common are night sweats?
Studies suggest that at least 3% of people suffer from night sweats. I believe that this number is much, much higher. Another study showed that 34% of the 363 patients surveyed reported night sweats, one half of whom reported saturating their bedclothes.
Since there are so many things that cause night sweats (more on this later) I believe that almost everyone will experience a night sweat at one stage of their life, often occurring for weeks and months at a time. Sweating is the body’s way of regulating temperature, and sleep is the way the body reenergises itself. I believe that there is one common thread that links almost all night sweats.
What causes night sweats?
According to my sources, there are dozens and dozens of causes of night sweats. Obviously, sickness is a big cause; for example, when we have the flu or a cold, we can sweat at night. Hormonal changes such as with menopause or pregnancy are another common factor in night sweating.
“It makes sense that certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea, periodic leg movements during sleep, painful arousals, and frightening dreams might cause night sweats; in fact, though little evidence exists, these disorders have been included on some lists of possible causes,” according to The Annals Medical Survey.
Certain medications can also cause night sweats and many sources indicate that if you have a severe issue such as cancer, this can also be a cause. But what about those of us who experience night sweating even though we are otherwise healthy?
What do night sweats mean?
I have a theory that night sweats are caused by the processing of strong emotions when we sleep. Our bodies rest and recharge at night be we are always dreaming. When we dream, our brains process information from our waking lives and this can cause us to feel emotions and deep reactions to the things we are processing.
You might find that when you go through periods of strong emotions (for example, a relationship breakup) that your night sweating intensifies. Even if you go to bed calm and wake up in a happy mood, there might still be things going on in your subconscious that you are unaware of, or that you only deeply recognise in your subconscious, deeper brain.
I should point out here that I am not a doctor, and if you are being troubled by frequent night sweats it might be worth seeing your general practitioner for their opinion, to rule out any health issues. I am a nocturnal dream studier and a firm believer that we are doing strong mental processing as we sleep that in many cases manifests as physical sweating. Check out the Dreams section of this website for more information on what you get up to in your sleep.
What can you do to stop sweating at night?
The professionals indicate that there are a few things you can do to try to stop sweating at night – most of which make perfect sense. Spicy foods and lots of eating before bed are a bad idea, as are caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Using heavy blankets, wearing clothes that are too thick and wearing tight clothing is also off-limits.
The only thing I really believe will make a big difference is “avoiding stress”. I believe that most night sweating that is otherwise unexplained is caused by mental processing, that is manifesting in a “dumping of emotions” as we lie dormant. Trying to keep your life as stress free as possible is one of the best cures, and one of the hardest to implement – because we are all human, and we all stress out.
Is something wrong with you? Are you sick?
Many websites would have you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you experience night sweating – such as cancer or lymphoma. By all means, if night sweats are a problem, head to your doctor to discuss this and to rule out any underlying health issues, but for the most part, I think most people that experience night sweats are totally normal and have nothing wrong with them.
Try keeping a journal next to your bed to document when you wake up from a sleep, sweating. Over the course of a few weeks or months, see if you can pinpoint any patterns.
Ask yourself these 10 questions:
- How bad was the sweating (e.g. I had to change my t-shirt 3 times)?
- What were your dreams like (here’s a post on how to remember your dreams)?
- What did you do right before bed? Did you have any heated conversations, stressful thoughts or arguments?
- How were you dressed? Were you hot or cold?
- What is going on in your life right now?
- What did you eat (and when) before bed?
- Any change of habits? Did you smoke, drink or eat something unusual?
- If you slept next to someone, did they sweat as well? Did they notice you sweating?
- Did you fall asleep easily, or did you toss and turn?
- Did the night sweating make you upset? On a scale of 1 to 10, how upset were you?
If night sweats persist, what should I do?
If you are concerned, please see your doctor. In general, I think there are a few things we can all do to try to eliminate stress and end night sweats.
- Let Anxiety Go: Don’t stress over them – stress will make them worse. Simply accept night sweats as your body’s way of dealing with stress and brain processing you are going through.
- Lighten Up: Try different sleeping arrangements; trial different t-shirts, pyjamas, sleeping topless etc. Keep spare pillowcases and t-shirts next to you at night so you can quickly change.
- Down Time: Try to have some ‘down time’ right before bed. Spend 30 minutes meditating or quietly reading something calming.
- Sleep Journal: Even though it is a chore, journal your nights when you wake. You might find that the simple process of evaluation might help to soothe you.
- Eliminate Stress: Try to eliminate as much stress in your life as possible. We all go through times of high stress, so try to accept this as normal. The stressful times will eventually pass.
What are night sweats like for you? How long have they been going on for? Please let me know in the comments below.