by Dr Rupert Mason, Medical Advisor for DermaTherapy UK (www.dermatherapybedding.co.uk)
Over the past few months we’ve all got used to waking up during the night feeling hot and sweaty because of the balmy nights of summer, but what could be causing some of us to continue with the discomfort of night sweats after Autumn has cast its cooler shadows?
There are an incredible number of reasons why people of all ages become overheated at night and it’s not just the menopause. Here’s a few for you to think about...
1. Alcohol: Strangely enough, both too much alcohol and withdrawal from regular alcohol can lead to night sweats. This can be regardless of whether you are a regular drinker or just have the occasional tipple. Alcohol affects the central nervous system, the circulatory system, and virtually every part of your body. Drinking can increase your heart rate and widen blood vessels in your skin, triggering perspiration. If you have night sweats but you haven’t consumed alcohol recently, and you’re a regular drinker, it may be a sign of alcohol withdrawal. Your body loses a lot of moisture when you sweat profusely, so it’s important to replenish fluids by drinking plenty of water. You can also rinse your skin to remove excess salt from dried sweat, change your sheets before you get back into bed and keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
2. Illness and Medications: Night sweats may be related to illness or some medicines used to treat illness. The type of illness that is most commonly associated is a viral infection such as a respiratory infection or influenza. The infection causes the body temperature to rise which precipitates the sweats. Occasionally night sweats can be a sign of more serious diseases such as diabetes or over active thyroid but these are usually associated with other more debilitating symptoms. If you are concerned about your general state of well-being including your sweating it is sensible to consult your doctor who may want to check that there is no serious underlying cause. If you’ve started a new prescription medication at around the same time that your night sweats began, it may not be a coincidence. Some medications such as antidepressants, can trigger night sweats as a side effect, so if you are on regular medication it is also worth checking with your doctor whether it is contributing to the problem.
3. Stress: Stress is probably one of the most common causes of night sweats. You can help to manage stress and anxiety with healthy habits like relaxation and breathing techniques, daily exercise (even if it’s just a walk around the block), and mindful meditation. Yoga, running, and reading are also great stress relievers. But remember- all things in moderation. If you over-exercise you may run the risk of losing the benefit of your stress relief for the reasons explained below.
4. Exercise: When you exercise your body creates heat which it stores in its core and gradually loses it over a period of time. However, if you increase your exercise levels to levels of intensity similar to athletic training then the body finds that it can’t give up the extra heat whilst you are still active so chooses to get rid of it when you stop exercising – when you go to sleep! This can be a particular problem for professional athletes. Don’t give up the exercise, just tone it down a bit.
5. Your mattress and protective under sheets: Over the past two decades advances in technology have created new methods of cradling our bodies during sleep and, perhaps the most significant development has been the memory foam mattress. The material conforms to your body shape which provides a snug comfort but does not allow much air to circulate around you. Some people may find this too claustrophobic and it makes them feel hot and clammy as a result. Plastic undersheets are often used to protect mattresses particularly in hotels and these can cause some people to feel excessively hot at night. There are some simple solutions to help you feel cooler such as using a lighter duvet or perhaps even breathable pyjamas that are also great for use with sensitive skin, or maybe consider changing your choice of bedding.
6. Your choice of bedding: When, if ever, did you consider your bedding as a major cause of you overheating in bed? When you overheat, perspiration and heat are transmitted from your body to the nearest surfaces that you are in contact with – the sheet and pillow case that you are resting on. If these surfaces can’t disperse the perspiration quickly and efficiently then they will remain in close contact with you, leaving the sleep surface hot and damp. This will, in turn disturb your sleep. Even high thread count cotton and silk sheets, designed for softness can leave you overheating as the close weave of the fibres, which are responsible for the softness also serve to trap heat and moisture within the fabric because there are no pores within the fabric for the air and moisture to pass through. Just like a parachute, these fabrics trap air and moisture on one side and prevent it dissipating. There are modern synthetic fibres which are designed to wick away moisture, creating a smooth, fresh surface that stays cool and dry. DermaTherapy bedding was initially developed for hospital use to prevent pressure sores. This hi-tech fabric also benefits from an antimicrobial protective finish which keeps it clean and fresh.
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