Why do I get so hot when I sleep?

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There are a lot of possible answers when asking yourself “Why do I get so hot when I sleep?”. We keep finding new ways to make the comfiest sleep experience, whether using a night light or the best mattress topper and futon you can find. But tossing and turning from getting hot is another common issue that prevents you from having that well-deserved good night’s sleep.

Have you ever had an annoyingly sweaty sleep that takes you up in the middle of the night? Many factors in our bodies, pre-sleep routine, and environment can cause us to heat up while sleeping. Luckily, we’re here to talk about why you get so hot when you sleep and how we can solve it!

What happens when you sleep?

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In a span of 1 to 2 hours after we fall asleep, our sleep cycle consists of two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or non-rapid eye movement sleep. Your brain is still active as you snooze, which explains dreams restoring energy. The body goes through a cycle from Non-REM sleep stages to REM sleep. However, each rapid eye movement stage that passes gets longer. 

In non-rapid eye movement sleep, you undergo three stages where everything starts to slow down until you reach deep sleep. Here’s a quick overrun of non-REM sleep:

Stage 1: The first stage is where you start to fall asleep, and everything begins to slow down. If you wake up at this stage, you’ll feel unrested. You may also experience sudden jolts which are common. 

Stage 2: Your body temperature initially drops, and your eye movement stops. It’s mixed with tense and relaxed muscles as everything transitions into a deep sleep.

Stage 3: The last stage is where you finally reach deep sleep. You experience slow-wave sleep or delta sleep. Here, your body is in its most restful state.

After the 3 stages, you go through rapid eye movement sleep. Here, your brain activity increases, and your muscles relax more. Your body goes through various changes such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid eye movement, and faster breathing. In this stage, you may also feel hot and begin to have night sweats.  

Your REM sleep cycle is the longest during infancy and decreases as you get older.

Why do I get so hot when I sleep that I end up sweating?

Aside from experiencing so much heat in your room when sleeping, excessive sweating at night can be traced to reasons with different heat-retaining properties. Here are some possible reasons that may be affecting your sleep system:

Your body temperature

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Despite not feeling hot when you go to sleep, your core body temperature cools down once you hit the hay and begins to warm you up when you feel cold. But, it can make us feel too warm, leading to night sweats and feeling hot at night.

Your body releases heat into your surroundings once your temperature drops, making you feel hotter while you sleep. One study shows that the human body can release up to 100 watts of excess heat, affecting your sleep environment.

Sleep Environment

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Sleeping in thick flannel pajamas and under thick blankets may seem cozy when you sleep, but it can cause your body to heat up faster. Your mattress may not have breathable and regulating temperature properties, leading it to trap heat and cause a hot and uncomfy sleep. 

Another reason behind the sleep environment being a reason is that your room may have absorbed heat from the hot weather during day time. Once it’s nighttime, the heat absorbed is released to adjust the room’s temperature. As a result, the higher temperatures provoke sweating. Hot or cold temperature rooms can also disturb your REM sleep.

Chronic Sweating

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Chronic sweating pertains to Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis, a condition where the body chronically produces too much sweat without any medical or environmental causes. 

Nighttime Routines

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Your pre-bed habits may also cause your core temperature to heat up right before sleep, making you feel so hot during sleep. It also decreases slow-wave sleep which is part of the non-REM sleep cycle. Here are some things you might be doing that can lead to sleeping hot:  

Drinking Caffeine: A cup of coffee can be tempting to stay awake to work at night, but drinking coffee close to bedtime can increase your body temperature, making you feel warm and have a hard time falling asleep.

Alcoholic drinks: These can help you fall asleep faster but can disrupt the body’s natural cycle. Having a bottle or a few sips of wine can be a good idea to unwind after a tiring day, but drinking increases your heart rate and widens the blood vessels in your skin, which causes sweating. 

Sweating can also be a withdrawal symptom from drinking when removing alcohol from your system. But these are temporary and will go away once your body has adjusted. 

Stressful Activities: Stress can cause your blood vessels to get narrower, causing your skin temperature to drop and your core temperature to rise. It’s best to unwind and ensure you’re well-rested before falling asleep.

Exercise: Working out right before you sleep can cause your body’s heart rate and temperature to increase, leaving you feeling hot even when you’re relaxed later on while sleeping. 

Spicy Food: Eating something spicy for dinner or a midnight snack before crashing into bed can soothe your cravings, but can also cause night sweats.  

Things that affect night sweating

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Other factors can influence your body heat and make you sleep hot at night. The following activities and conditions often cause high body temperature:

Anxiety

Anxiety is a common and valid occurrence in individuals. It can cause you to experience panic attacks which are sudden episodes of extreme fear or panic that affect the body. 

Panic attacks may have a trigger or come up out of the blue; they can cause heart palpitations, chest pain, hot flashes or chills, trouble breathing, hyperventilation, trembling or shaking, etc. These symptoms can cause sweating as it is part of the body’s stress response. 

Your body may also go through rapid heart rate and body temperature changes, leaving the body exposed to inner heat.

Hormonal Imbalance

You may be experiencing hormone-related hot flashes from hormonal imbalance, a result of trouble in the endocrine system. Too much or too little production of hormones like serotonin leads to effects like night sweats. It can also be a side effect of hormonal therapy medication that controls your amount of hormones.

Additionally, hormonal imbalances are known to affect women’s mental health such as PCOS and other

Menopause

Night sweats or hot flashes can also be the first sign of menopause due to hormonal changes like estrogen and progesterone that can tamper with your body temperature. 80% of women have hormone-related night sweats and hot flashes once they experience premenopause and menopause.

Infection

Night sweats may signal bacterial infections that cause the body to overheat. Here are some that can lead to intense night sweats:

  • tuberculosis
  • endocarditis (heart valve inflammation)
  • osteomyelitis (bone inflammation)
  • abscesses 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

Sleeping hot can also be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a common sleep disorder that affects a person’s breathing during sleep. People with OSA experience blockage in their airways which narrows and collapses, leading to health risks when left untreated. 

Hypoglycemia

A condition of having lower blood sugar levels. You may also experience night sweats when taking insulin and oral anti-diabetic to lower your blood sugar.

Medication side effects

Some medicines you drink before sleeping can raise your body temperature and cause night sweating. Here are the certain medications that have night sweats as possible side effects:

  • Over-the-counter medicine for fever such as Acetaminophen and Aspirin can affect your body’s temperature regulation, leading to overheating and sweating.
  • Migraine Medication: zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, etc.
  • Cancer treatment drugs
  • Hormone therapy medications like some antidepressants: Tricyclics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
  • Some diabetes medications can increase sweating, especially if you take alcoholic drinks before sleeping.
  • Opioids and withdrawal from using them can result in sweating.

Consult with your doctor if you are taking any nighttime medications that can have increased sweating as a side effect.

When should you be concerned about night sweats?

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While it may be annoying waking up and asking yourself “why do I get so hot when I sleep?”, night sweats don’t necessarily mean anything serious! In fact, the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine noted that most patients who report night sweats to their doctors do not have a life-threatening disease causing it, and does not affect their life expectancy.

On the other hand, while your night sweats may not be as serious, they can disturb your sleep and cause distress for those less tolerant of how night sweats feel, tampering with your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Occasional night sweats are mostly harmless and can be your environment and sleeping habits. But if you start experiencing other symptoms, then it’s best to hear from your doctor to be sure. 

Here are some symptoms you should look out for when you’re experiencing night sweats: 

  • Coughs
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fever
  • Night-after-night severe hot flashes
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss

If you experience night sweats daily, it’s best to write down what other symptoms you may be feeling every night or morning so that your doctor can note the patterns. Rise mentions that the common questions you’ll receive are about your medical history, and symptoms, and may also request you to undergo blood tests to find if you have any underlying medical condition.

Tips on how to sleep cooler

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Night sweats can be a product of what we do right before bed. But when treating it, you should first consider and find out its cause. Aside from wondering “why do I get so hot when I sleep”, finding how you can lower your body temperature to prevent feeling hot at night is also another thing to consider.

Now that we’ve covered the possible reasons behind night sweats but you’re still unsure and don’t feel any other symptoms, here are some body cooling tips that may help regulate your core temperature.

Consult your doctor

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The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor; they may recommend switching medications that do not have night sweats as side effects. They can also provide treatment options like hormone therapy, medicine, and lifestyle practices fit for you that can reduce night sweating. 

Tweak room temperature 

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Tweaking your bedtime temperature can help cool your body to lessen the amount of heat absorbed that can cause night sweats. The best room temperature to improve sleep quality is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celcius. 

This may differ per person, but doctors recommend a bedtime temperature ranging from 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celcius for better sleep.

Another suggestion is to use air conditioning or an electric fan to circulate the air around you. You can also open your window for fresh air if it’s quiet at night. While during the day, close the curtains or blinds to reduce heat build-up from sun exposure!

Go natural and easy on bedding

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A comfortable sleeping environment is one of the key factors to staying cool at night. Switching to natural or breathable fabric covers and mattress toppers can regulate temperature. Materials like 100% natural cotton, wool, latex, and bamboo naturally cool your room while protecting you from chemicals, and lessen allergic reactions.

One of the reasons why you feel so hot is that you may be sleeping in thick pajamas and a comforter. Be cautious as using lots of layers and materials in your bedding can trap body heat.

Upgrading your beds can also let you stop sleeping hot. Cooling mattress pads topped with cooling sheets are also highly recommended for a nice and cold sleep.

Take a warm bath

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Your body temperature drops when taking a warm bath as it also gives a natural cool-down effect in your body that helps promote sleepiness. Your circadian rhythm is sensitive and may be worn out from the day, but taking a warm bath an hour or two before crashing into bed will help ease your body temperature to cool down. Trust in your body’s ability to naturally cool down with the right sleeping practices!

Relax before sleeping

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Avoid doing stressful activities and exercising close to your bedtime. Your heart rate and body temperature may still be high, causing you to overheat while sleeping. You also can do some relaxing activities to destress your body like listening to calming music that focuses on sleep sounds, reading a book, or doing yoga which also provides deep breathing exercises. 

Also, avoid drinking caffeine and alcoholic drinks, and steer away from spicy and large meals before bedtime. It may seem tempting or relaxing, but it can rapidly raise your heart rate and cause overheating at night.

One step in preventing overheating is creating a bedtime routine that can unwind your body for better sleep quality.

Check your temperature

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A fever is the first sign of an infection. Check your body temperature with a thermometer to ensure you don’t have a fever if you keep waking up feeling hot and having night sweats. Drink fluids and rest to recover. You can relieve fever symptoms with a sponge bath using lukewarm water. 

Conclusion

When uncovering the question, “why do I get so hot when I sleep” every night, you also discover how you need to change your lifestyle and the health conditions you may be experiencing. The number one solution is to speak with your doctor so they can recommend any drug-free sleep therapies or sleep medicine that can prevent your body from overheating.

Even the small things matter. We tend to pressure ourselves to finish loads of work before hitting the hay, tensing up our bodies. From cutting down on caffeine to self-care at night to unwind, we prepare our bodies for sleep.

Temperature-controlled sleep goes a long way for your body, it’s a part of sleep quality and is one of the most effective ways to get a good night’s rest. By sleeping comfortably, we can wake up feeling refreshed throughout the day!

Other references

Fry, Alexa. “Why Am I Shivering or Sweating at Night?” Sleep Foundation, 18 Mar. 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/why-am-i-shivering-or-sweating-at-night.

“Night Sweats.” American Osteopathic Association, 18 Nov. 2021, https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/night-sweats/#:~:text=Practical%20reasons%20for%20why%20someone,or%20hot%20drinks%20before%20bedtime.

“Night Sweats.” NHS Choices, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/night-sweats/#:~:text=See%20a%20GP%20if%20you,losing%20weight%20for%20no%20reason.