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Why Do I Heat Up When I Sleep
Lifestyle

Why Do I Heat Up When I Sleep?

Tara Youngblood · Oct 11, 2021
Why Do I Heat Up When I Sleep

Why do I get so hot when I sleep?

Picture it: it’s 3am and you’re “eyes wide open” -- unfortunately you woke up sweating again and would love nothing more than to find an easy solution for how to deal with night sweats.

We’ve all been there.

One minute you’re snuggled up in your bed, comfortably falling asleep, and the next you’re kicking off blankets, sweating like you ran a marathon.

So why is it that we can fall asleep so comfortably warm and cozy and wake up an hour later baking? Answer: Most likely, your room/bed is too warm.

In this post, we are going to share some science behind WHY your body gets so hot at night and HOW to sleep through the night.

Why Do I Radiate So Much Heat at Night?

First things first, let’s answer why you woke up sweating!

The most common reason is that your sleeping environment is HOT. If your bedroom temperature is too warm (especially if you’re sleeping in warm pajamas) you may sweat during your sleep, which is normal. (Luckily, there are easy fixes -- which we’ll get into below!)

“But I Don’t Feel Hot When I Fall Asleep!”

That is because your body temperature drops during sleep which releases heat to the surrounding area. If you pile on ten thousand blankets or dress for bed like Ralphie’s little brother in “The Christmas Story,” it’s no wonder you wake up a little toasty. That said, certain materials can trap heat more than others.

While you may love that sherpa-lined wool blanket and your flannel pajama set with those fuzzy plush socks, those may be what’s locking the heat around you and causing overheating at night.

Why Is My Body Cooling Down in the First Place?

Picture it. You are a majestic prehistoric man or woman just chilling in your cave. The sun starts to go down, the temperature begins to drop, and suddenly your brain says, “Hey, sleep sounds like a good idea.”

That’s how we have been wired since the beginning of time. Cooler body temperature signals our brain to close up shop and fall asleep. Similarly, higher body temperatures cue our brain to be more alert.

Long story short: when your body releases heat to bring your temp down, it’s setting you up for a night of awesome sleep.

The Science Behind What Causes Night Sweats

Healthcare professionals generally refer to true night sweats as severe hot flashes that soak through your sheets and pajamas.

However, if your A/C has been cranked to subzero temperatures for weeks, and you can’t remember the last time you used a blanket, consult your doctor to make sure this is not indicative of a more serious medical issue. There’s a long list of reasons why you may experience night sweats. What are some possible conditions that would warrant a call to your doctor?

Idiopathic hyperhidrosis

Idiopathic hyperhidrosis, a condition in which the body chronically produces too much sweat, usually presents without any identifiable medical cause.

Menopause

Women in perimenopause or menopause experience hormone-related hot flashes and/or night sweats.

Menopause Study Results

ChiliSleep was recently involved in a new Wake Forest menopause study, which investigated the role between colder sleep and the worst symptoms of menopause: night sweats and hot flashes. View the Menopause Study Results.

Infection

Infections, including tuberculosis and several bacterial infections (endocarditis, osteomyelitis, abscesses, etc.) can lead to severe sweating at night.

Medication Side Effects

Certain medications can also cause excessive sweating:

  • Migraine medications in the triptan family (zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, etc.) are known to cause excessive sweating as a side effect.
  • Cortisone, prednisone, and prednisolone may be associated with flushing or night sweats.
  • Some antidepressants may be associated with night sweats.
  • Certain diabetes medications, especially if used alongside alcohol, may cause sweating.
  • Over-the-counter medicine taken to lower fever (aspirin or acetaminophen) can also sometimes lead to night sweats.

Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety can cause night sweats because the body's stress response has been activated (with the changes in body temperature, heart rate, etc.). Mainly if you've been having nightmares, it's normal to have a physiological response to the fear of your dream. If none of the above applies to you, then the problem is likely that your bedroom is just too warm.

Remember: Cold Sleep Is Critical for Deep Sleep!

The human body needs to drop its core temperature by about 3°F to initiate sleep and then stay asleep.

In scientific terms, your circadian rhythm is essentially how your body knows when to fall asleep. Your body’s sleep-wake cycle is affected by melatonin secretion and changes in your core body temperature. But sleeping too hot -- and repeatedly waking up due to sweaty sleep -- can really disrupt your sleep quality and throw your body’s natural cycle out of alignment.

Resource: The Health Benefits of Sleeping at Cooler Temperatures

Who Has Night Sweats More: Men or Women?

Although both men and women may experience night sweats, there are some differences between the sexes:

• Men experience less night sweats compared to women, possibly because menopause is a leading cause of night sweats in women. About 80% of women who are going through perimenopause or menopause experience hormone-related hot flashes and/or night sweats.

• Hormones also play a role in night sweats among men, as low testosterone levels have been identified as a potential cause. Temperature-controlled sleep is vital for restoring testosterone levels, repairing muscle after a hard day’s work, and improving cognitive function for starting the day feeling sharp and alert.

• According to researchers, our bodies want to stay at approximately the same temperature, a safe range called the thermoneutral zone. Temperatures lower than this zone cause us to shiver and raise our internal temperature, while higher temperatures provoke sweating to cool us down. Men usually have a lower tolerance for heat than women do, but your sex is only part of how your body determines your thermoneutral zone.

'Life-Changing' Sleep: Keep Your Core Temperature Down

Whether you’re a man or a woman, is there an end to this cycle of waking up hot at night? YES!

Earlier this year I spoke with an elite Air Force service member about his own experiences dealing with night sweats. When Covid-19 hit, he said he was struggling to get more than three hours of sleep and couldn’t keep his core temperature down.

During our interview, he said:

“My wind-down at night can still take me time, because of our adrenaline-filled days. But before I found out about the OOLER, I had trouble staying asleep. My whole shirt would be soaking wet and I’d wake up. I’d eventually fall back asleep and be exhausted. Man, that changed my sleep overnight; I was able to get 8 hours without overheating and wouldn’t wake up in puddles of sweat.”

Tips on How to Sleep Cooler

Chris Winter, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia and author of two books on how to get better sleep, recommends ChiliSleep products for both men and women experiencing night sweats:

“If you like a cold bed, this thing is amazing,” he said. He recommends ChiliSleep to many professional athletes who sweat a lot, and his medical colleague has found it helpful for menopausal patients as well.

In addition to using a bed cooling system, here are some other tips to make your sleep space cooler:

Consider Your Sleepwear 

If you suffer from night sweats, you’re probably no stranger to having to change your pajamas, or even your sheets, in the middle of the night. Not only should you wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing, but you should also pay attention to the fabric. Avoid polyesters and flannels, as they tend to trap body heat and increase the chances of sweating. Instead, choose softer, more natural fabrics like cotton.

Pajamas made from bamboo naturally cool the skin and are 100% biodegradable. Or if natural is your thing, don’t wear anything at all. We won’t judge. You should also keep these fabric tips in mind when purchasing your bedding.

Avoid Alcohol Before Bedtime

Alcohol has a tendency to not only disrupt your sleeping patterns and ability to fall asleep, but it can also have an influence on how much you sweat. Even if you’re not prone to night sweats, when drinking alcohol, your heart rate increases and your blood vessels dilate, which can cause perspiration.

Additionally, avoid drinking hot beverages, consuming caffeine, or eating spicy foods close to bedtime, as these can all influence the severity your night sweats.

Resource: Does Alcohol Help You Sleep?

Take a Deep Breath

Over 45% of Americans say they are concerned about the amount of stress in their lives. Night sweats can also occur due to an over-abundance of stress and anxiety. Practice a variety of relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises. Trying these before bed, or even reading for a few minutes before you fall asleep, could help you relax, reduce the chance of night sweats and sleep better.

Hydration and Sleep

Whether you realize it or not, your body loses a lot of water, minerals and nutrients when you sweat. That being said, it’s important to keep a glass of cold water by your bed at night. If you awake in the middle of the night and find yourself sweating, take a few sips of water to help cool down. If you feel yourself starting to heat up, proactively sip on the cool beverage.

Adjust the Thermostat

If you’re suffering from night sweats, whether they are hot or cold, a quick and easy fix would be to evaluate your room temperature. While you can easily adjust your thermostat to your preference, the temperature change could quickly get expensive, especially depending on the time of year.

Fans are also an easy fix, although depending on the strength and location of the fan, it might not be able to completely cool you down. In today’s industry, there are a variety of products that can help you better control your sleep temperature. Sleep with the thermostat set between 60-67. (Fair warning, this can get pricey in the summertime or if you live somewhere hot).

Take a Hot Bath

Take a hot bath an hour or so before bed. Yes, this will raise your body temperature initially, but remember that part where you have to get out of the tub? That is when your body cools down, which gets you ready for bed.

Cooling Bed Systems to End Your Night Sweats

Chilisleep provides two sleep systems, including the OOLER, a cooling mattress topper, and the Cube, a cooling mattress pad.

ChiliSleep’s mattress pads can be used to cool or heat your bed. Plus, the cooling weighted blanket, the chiliBLANKET, all provide clinically researched and drug-free sleep therapies to improve sleep quality.

Our products are beloved by those who experience hot flashes and mid-sleep sweats. From the New York Times to Consumer Reports, and a wide range of leading industry publications in between, we’ve heard lots of glowing reviews of our innovative sleep tech products.

Reviewers call our products “a life changer” that is “worth every penny” and is “an absolute miracle” as well as “one of the highest-impact purchases I’ve made.”

The best part? You and your partner can set TWO different temperatures! So if your partner prefers to sleep in a warm sauna while you prefer the feel of a chilled ice-box, there’s a personalized temperature solution for each of you! And because ChiliSleep’s hydro-powered sleep systems operate between 55°F-115°F, you can finally find the cool solution YOU need to end your night sweats, once and for all!

Citations:

  1. Prevalence of night sweats in primary care patients: an OKPRN and TAFP-Net collaborative study (2020)

  2. Understanding the pathophysiology of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) that occur in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause life stages (2007)

  3. Late onset hypogonadism: an alternate cause for night sweats in the haematology clinic (2009)

  4. The thermoneutral zone: implications for metabolic studies (2012)

  5. Stress in America™ 2020 (2020)

  6. Night Sweats and Alcohol (2021)

About the Author

Tara Youngblood

Tara Youngblood

Tara Youngblood is ChiliSleep’s co-founder and CEO. An accomplished scientist, author, and speaker, Tara’s unique ideas are revolutionizing the future of sleep health by making sleep easy, approachable, and drug-free.
Learn more about Tara.

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