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Nothing interrupts sleep or creates an incredibly uncomfortable experience the next morning quite like night sweats. I know it all too well: I regularly contend with a feeling of clamminess and the ickiness of damp sheets and pillowcase, which just adds to the innate unpleasantness of my blaring alarm.
I’ve always been a pretty sweaty person in general, drenching a yoga mat more than the folks doing downward dogs around me, or wiping my too-dewy face due to August humidity or a toasty subway car that’s dozens of degrees warmer than the winter weather outside.
Night sweats don’t make me as self-conscious since only my boyfriend and myself witness it, but it’s very annoying and interrupts a solid night’s sleep. Sometimes I wake myself up at 2 a.m. because I’m sweaty, making me feel less rested the next day.
Dr. Noelani González, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West, explains that evening perspiration can be caused by a vast range of things, including menopause, chemotherapy, and certain medications, like NSAIDs (such as Aleve and Advil), anti-nausea medications, and antipyretics, aka anti-fever medications.
Dr. González says that other factors you might not realize are causing or worsening nighttime sweating, which is considered secondary (not primary) hyperhidrosis, include excessive heat, pregnancy, fever, infections, consuming hot or spicy foods and beverages, and withdrawal from alcohol, and drugs like heroin, and cocaine.
Personally, I’ve found my excessive sweating is caused mostly by certain prescription medications I take daily, worsening when I drink alcohol, eat a heat-packed bowl of Szechuan peppercorn-doused Dan Dan noodles, or experience a ton of stress.
“The first step is reaching out to your healthcare providers to address any conditions or medications that could be contributing to symptoms,” recommends Dr. Katherine Revelle, MD, a psychiatrist based in New England, who has personally grappled with post-partum night sweats. “If no underlying causes can be found, the focus moves to self-care and comfort.”
Here are six tips for night sweaters seeking a more comfortable and less disruptive sleeping experience:
Create an ideal bedroom environment for cool, comfortable sleep, starting with your sheets
First things first: make sure you’re slumbering on the right bedding.
“For sheets, both high thread-count cotton and bamboo are breathable natural fibers that feel cool against the skin and allow moisture to evaporate,” Revelle recommends, though the price difference between the two types of fiber can be significant. “In my experience, high thread-count cotton sheets that matched the silkiness of less costly bamboo sheets came with a prohibitively high price tag,” Revelle says. This best-selling set on Amazon is less than $100.
If you’re open to spending a bit more, consider the unique cotton options from Japanese brand Aizome, which I switched to last summer. The proprietary cotton fabric was developed with dermatologists for those with skin sensitivities like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
While I was initially interested in Aizome for my easily irritated, eczema-prone skin, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how effective they are at keeping me cool. I was initially concerned that they would feel stiff and wrinkly, but they’re just the right amount of crispness while being soft on the skin.
And when I do sometimes sweat while sleeping on them, they seem to wick wetness away better than regular cotton, eliminating that truly gross feeling of waking up in a clammy pool of perspiration. Before using these sheets, I’d dazedly layer a towel or two between my sheets, pillow, and body if I woke up in the middle of the night on damp cotton sheets, which feels lumpy and is prone to tangling.
Try bedding accessories that protect your mattress and keep you cool
“In my own experience as a post-partum nighttime sweater, great sheets help, but don’t forget about the mattress pad,” Dr. Revelle says. If you’re soaking through your sheets at night, a waterproof mattress pad might seem like a reasonable mattress-protecting choice. However, those waterproof barriers are impermeable by design, trapping heat and moisture where body and mattress make contact: Your mattress might stay dry, but you won’t.
Revelle’s solution? A layer of cotton crib mattress protectors underneath the fitted sheet. “They’re easy to swap out and made for somewhat less sweltering nights.”
Also, consider getting a comforter that targets the issue of overheating and sweating while slumbering. Buffy makes a comforter constructed from eucalyptus fibers, designed to regulate body temperature.
Side sleepers might benefit from cooling pillows for their legs
There are also cooling pillows with a layer of gel along the surface on the market, but Revelle notes these seemingly comfy bed accessories “might have the same heat-trapping issue as a waterproof mattress pad.”
Personally, I’ve had great luck with a cooling gel and charcoal-infused memory foam leg pillow, intended to be wedged between your thighs or calves for side sleeping. I initially stumbled on it while searching for a new, side sleeper-specific pillow for my head, and it alleviates hip tightness and soreness by putting the legs in a more ergonomic position while also cooling them.
If you toss and turn often while sleeping like me, the pillow’s likely to end up on the floor, at the foot of the bed, or even tossed across the room on some mornings. But it’s a major upgrade from a regular pillow wedged between your knees and it cools my inner thighs (an area I find particularly irksome when overheated) quite well.
Consider a fan by your bed or even between your sheets
Dr. Revelle notes that fans, including undersheet fans, “are a pricey but interesting option for chronic nighttime sweaters.” Consider trying a regular fan positioned at mattress level first to see if a constant breeze makes a difference (or just makes for a blustery bedroom environment) before nabbing a device expressly for sleeping.
Dyson makes hybrid fan/air purifier options that are ultra-quiet, thanks to their bladeless design, and can be easily moved around the house when not being used at night. They’re also attractive enough to moonlight as a chic decor accessory. Some models are Wi-Fi-enabled so you can control the airflow via your phone or Amazon Alexa in a sleepy daze if you wake up mid-slumber in need of more or less breeze.
If that doesn’t cut it, try an undersheet fan, which creates breeze between the sheets instead of just in the general direction of the bed. This is especially great if you sleep with a partner who likes a much toastier, breeze-free sleeping experience.
Bedjet’s devices get tucked under the bed or mounted vertically if there’s no under-bed space (such as a platform bed frame, or if you use every precious inch under the bed for storage), with a tube that tucks between the sheets at the foot or side of the bed to control airflow. They’re equipped with a remote and smartphone connectivity to control the flow via the company’s app. The newest model is a pricier, souped-up version of the V2 iteration here (though you might want to try the V2 before investing even more), and it’s 30% smaller. Another undersheet fan brand to check out is bFan, which is tube-free and thus keeps airflow more fixed in place (albeit, less concealed visually) than BedJet’s construction. It’s also around half the price of BedJet’s models.
Wear PJs best suited for sweat and overheating
To minimize perspiration and increase comfort while sleeping, be sure to scrutinize your sheets and your sleepwear.
Opt for natural fibers known for being breathable, like cotton and bamboo, instead of synthetic materials. I love the paper-thin, ultra-soft pieces from Saint Haven, a brand designed for sensitive skin, particularly eczema, as well as Lusome’s line of cooling PJs and loungewear, which include some pretty, lace-trimmed and piped styles that look far more stylish than most cooling sleepwear brands.
Neither are cheap, but from personal experience, I can attest to how extremely comfortable and game-changing both brands’ pieces are for sweaty sleepers. For much more affordable alternatives check out Uniqlo’s AIRism line, which is priced at $20 or less per item; options are much more limited than Lusome or Saint Haven’s styles, and include basic silhouettes like a tank or pair of leggings.
Create and stick to a pre-bedtime ritual to chill out mentally and physically
Make a point of building some time to mellow out before turning in each night.
“Sweating is mediated by several different body systems; some are more adaptable to at-home intervention than others,” Dr. Revelle says. “The sympathetic nervous system, which is the regulator of the ‘fight or flight’ stress and sweat response, ramps up in response to anxiety and tension, but can be offset by a relaxing nighttime routine.”
That wind-down ritual could include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and focused breathing exercises, for example, which “have all been shown to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity,” she says. Try adding a meditation app like Headspace to your evening routine to help zen out mentally for a chiller night’s sleep.
If you’re thinking that there are many tips here, you’re right. Dr. González acknowledges: “Avoiding triggers is half the battle.” In addition to tweaking a couple of aspects of your evening routine, she recommends bringing in the experts if there isn’t enough improvement. “See a board-certified professional who can provide you with the right treatment approach,” Dr. González advises, which could include Drysol, a prescription-strength antiperspirant; Qbrexza, antiperspirant wipes; or Robinul, an oral medication that can be taken to decrease sweating. A more targeted option, if the dampness primarily afflicts the underarms: Botox injections, or the more permanent option of laser treatments.
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