Waking up in the middle of the night with your clothes and sheets drenched in sweat can be alarming and uncomfortable. Should you be concerned about your health if you’re experiencing night sweats? You might be asking how to stop night sweats naturally, and wondering if you should see a doctor.
If you’re dealing with night sweats, you want answers to these questions. But first, you need to understand what causes night sweats in the first place.
What Causes Night Sweats?
If you’re experiencing excessive sweating at night, there are several possible reasons.
The Simple Reasons:
- Your sleeping environment is too hot.
- You are sleeping under excessive blankets and duvets.
- The weather is too hot.
- You ate spicy food before bed.
- You exercised right before bed.
- Hormonal disorders
- Chronic sweating condition
- Low blood sugar
- Side effects of medications
- Other undiagnosed ailments1
Now, the simple reasons are pretty straightforward, and they may well be behind your night sweating. But let’s take a better look at some of the more medical-based reasons why you might be experiencing nighttime sweating.
What Causes Menopausal Night Sweats?
When women suddenly experience a sensation of heat, followed by excessive sweating, it’s known as a hot flash. The sensations are caused by increased blood flow – the result of the sudden opening of the blood vessels close to the skin. Sometimes, hot flashes even cause mild heart palpitations.
In addition to hot flashes, menopausal women may also experience severe night sweats. This sweating is completely normal, and it’s one of the most common symptoms of menopause.
How does this work?
Interestingly, recent research compares hot flashes and night sweats to drug withdrawal symptoms in an addict. The body is literally suffering from “estrogen withdrawal” when these hot flashes occur, be it during the day or night.
As your ovaries age, they are no longer able to regulate hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Estrogen levels, in particular, drop significantly.
When estrogen levels drop, this triggers the release of the brain stress hormone norepinephrine. This can play havoc with your body temperature. You might find yourself getting overheated when it’s just a little warm, or freezing when it’s only slightly chilly.2
How Does Hormone Imbalance Lead to Hot Flashes?
Now, a hormone imbalance is often at the root of vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and flushing. Because of this, you could experience them with any condition that involves your hormone-producing glands, or your endocrine system, being out of balance.
If you have a thyroid condition, for example, you could experience hot flashes. Having an under active or overactive thyroid means your hormones aren’t balanced correctly. And so, just as with menopause, this imbalance can trigger flushing, excessive sweating, and night sweats.3
What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis quite literally means too much (hyper) sweating (hidrosis). It is a chronic condition of the sweat glands. While everyone sweats a certain amount, those with hyperhidrosis sweat excessively, often on their palms, feet, head, or underarms. And yes, hyperhidrosis can also cause night sweats.
If someone has hyperhidrosis, it may be caused by a medical condition or by medications, but it can also be just plain genetics.
Some men and women sweat a lot more than others, even when they’re not hot.
Why do some people experience hyperhidrosis? Dermatologists aren’t sure, but they suspect that certain nerves tell the body when to sweat, and those with hyperhidrosis may have overactive nerves.4
Are Severe Night Sweat Episodes Symptoms of Underlying Conditions?
Aside from hormonal conditions, other underlying health conditions might also cause excessive sweating at night.
For one, it’s commonly accepted that infectious diseases, both mild and chronic, are able to elevate body temperature and cause night sweating. Other serious ailments have also been associated with excessive sweating at night.5
A drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) at night can also make you sweat. Nighttime can be a difficult time if you have low blood sugar, as it’s harder to maintain healthy sugar levels while you sleep. You might also experience headaches, restless sleep, or nightmares.6
How about heart disease? If you suspect that you may have a heart condition and you’re suffering from night sweats, you should definitely see your doctor for an expert opinion.
How Can Natural Therapy and Herbs Mitigate Night Sweats?
Now, the question you’re no doubt asking is, “How do I stop these night sweats?!” Well, the truth is, you may not be able to entirely, depending on the cause. For example, night sweats are a very common symptom for menopausal women.
You might, however, be able to lessen the frequency of your night sweats. Here are some natural options to consider for managing night sweats:
1. Watch Your Diet
Hot and spicy foods before bed can lead to night sweats because they raise your body temperature. But acidic foods, caffeine, and sugary, processed foods may also cause you to sweat because they can play havoc with your hormones.7
So, it’s best to avoid all of these a few hours before bedtime.
2. Sleep Lighter
If you’re struggling with night sweats, consider wearing lighter clothing to bed. Also, avoid having too many layers of heavy blankets. And stick to cotton and silk PJs and sheets – these are the best fabrics to help you stay cool, as both breathe well.
3. Limit Alcohol
Drinking alcohol can affect your hormones and your body temperature, and it’s known to induce night sweats – or make them worse. A nice glass of wine may feel like a great release from the stress of menopause, but it may be the worst thing you can do for your body before bed.8
4. Manage Stress Levels
Menopause and menopausal night sweats can be very stressful for some women, but unfortunately, stress only compounds the problem. Anxiety triggers your body’s stress response. This increases your metabolism, respiration, and perspiration – which can result in mild-to-severe night sweats.9
If you’re struggling to manage elevated stress levels, whether from menopause or for some other reason, you might want to consider taking up yoga or meditation practice. Meditating right before bed might prove especially helpful if you have night sweats.
5. Try Acupuncture
Studies have shown that acupuncture therapy may help in the relief of night sweats. One particular study followed over 200 women aged 45 to 60 who’d had at least four hot flashes or night sweats per day in the weeks previous.
The results showed that acupuncture may actually reduce the number of hot flashes and night sweats by up to 36 percent.10
6. Start an Exercise Program
Get moving! Even though exercise may make you hot and sweaty (as it does for everyone), it may actually help to reduce the number and intensity of hot flashes.11 Reducing the intensity of your hot flashes might help alleviate your night sweats.
You can start small, too. Add a daily walk to your routine, take up yoga at home, or join a friendly gym. The important thing is to exercise in some way.
7. Consider Black Cohosh
Black cohosh has received a lot of attention for its potential effects as an herbal remedy to treat hot flashes. This plant is a member of the buttercup family, and its root, or rhizome (underground stem), is what’s used in supplements.
One study found that women who took a tablet of dried black cohosh for 8 weeks had noticeably reduced menopausal symptoms, including sweating and hot flashes. This success also appeared to increase with longer use.12
8. Try Red Clover
While on the topic of herbs, red clover is another herbal remedy that some postmenopausal women believe has helped with their symptoms.
Several clinical trials have found that red clover does indeed have a positive effect on relieving hot flashes. But all of these papers do believe that further trials are required to better confirm these findings.13
How to Stop Night Sweats Naturally
If you’re suffering from night sweats regularly, talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you about any potential risks of medications, herbal supplements, or vitamins that you may be interested in taking.
If you’re menopausal, they can also advise you on the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Going through the menopausal transition can certainly be an anxiety-inducing time. But, interestingly, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (common antidepressants, or SSRIs) might also be beneficial. Studies show SSRIs not only affect stress levels but also decrease the frequency and strength of hot flashes.14
Just remember, if your night sweats are being caused by menopause, you’re in good company. Every woman on Earth will go through menopause in their lifetime. Waking up soaked in sweat is never pleasant, but there are some things you can do to stay dry and comfortable throughout the night.
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