Nocturnal hyperhidrosis is the medical term for night sweats, the clammy, odorous condition that causes stress and plagues sleep. It's no secret that night sweats are often symptomatic of menopause, but when a woman in her thirties is affected by this unpleasant condition, it's natural to be concerned, but the majority of the time, night sweats are explainable or treatable with a few lifestyle or dietary alterations. Keep reading to discover more about the non-menopausal causes of night sweats, understand when it's best to see a doctor, and find natural sweat-relief techniques.
Why Do We Sweat?
When internal body temperature increases, the hypothalamus gland - which acts as the body's internal thermostat - responds to this change to regain a consistent 37°c temperature by flushing the skin and producing sweat to cool down. When this activity happens nocturnally, it is known as night sweating, and either the sudden change in temperature or the discomfort of sweating itself are likely to awaken the sleeper.
This may sound obvious, but your sleeping environment has the potential to trigger night sweats due to sudden changes in temperature. The aim should be to keep a consistently cool sleeping environment. Ways to do this include:
- Sleep with a window open.
- Avoid using central heating in your bedroom.
- Keep a cold glass of water next to your bed to sip.
- Swap heavy restrictive quilts for layers of cotton sheets.
- Sleep naked, or swap clingy lace or silky nightwear for loose cottons.
Internal activity and consequential increase in body temperature occurs in relation to certain types of food, particularly dietary stimulants and hot drinks. The following should be avoided in the evening as they could contribute to sweating for up to three hours following consumption:
- Alcohol. Alcohol is also likely to make any sweat produced odorous.
- Caffeine. In particular, hot sources of caffeine, such as coffee, should be avoided.
- Spicy foods (e.g., curry or chili).
Often, night sweats can be alleviated by adjusting your diet and environment, but in some cases sweats are associated with medical conditions. These include:
- Anxiety or stress
- Certain medications (e.g., chemotherapy and antidepressants).
- Thyroid disorder
- Sleep apnea
- Certain cancers
- Hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugars)
When to See a Doctor
If you have tried the suggested lifestyle alterations or have noticed any other worrying symptoms (e.g., headaches, fatigue, or pain) it is worth seeing a doctor to identify the cause of your sweats and rule out any serious health concerns. Keeping a record of your sweats and other symptoms before your appointment could help aid the diagnosis process.
There's nothing pleasant about night sweating episodes, and the symptom can lead to a host of related issues, including personal hygiene problems and fatigue. It's important to combat night sweats and, luckily, this can usually done with natural relief methods and herbal remedies. The idea of making dietary and lifestyle changes might be unappealing, but making time for improving your sleep is essential; restful sleep is your body's chance to replenish its energy levels to get the most from every day.
- National Center for Biotechnology.(1990).Fever, Chills, and Night Sweats.Retrieved June 24,2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK324/
- MedlinePlus.(2011).Sweating.Retrieved June 24,2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003218.htm
- National Health Service UK.(2011).Night Sweats.Retrieved June 24,2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/night-sweats/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- Stanford Edu.(1998).Sleep hyperhidrosis. Retrieved June 24,2014, from http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/sweats.html