If night sweating is ruining your sleep (and bed sheets and pyjamas), you’re not alone. According to the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Medicine, night sweats affect approximately 3 percent of the population. The first time I experienced the hellish grip of night sweating was just after my 22nd birthday: it was not at all disconcerting or alarming, and was the perfect way to start my morning.
I’ll spare you the details pre-breakfast, but it was unpleasant and wet. It got so bad at one stage that I thought I should draft up a pre-sleep disclaimer for my partner. I spent a lot of time deciphering what it could be, from the foods I was consuming to the exercise I was doing and everything in between. Was it hormonal? I was a relatively healthy 22-year-old with a history of high blood pressure, a dodgy kidney and a crooked spine (‘what a catch’ I know), but sweating uncontrollably at night was never an adverse reaction to any of these problems.
I found this website helpful – despite its low-budget appearance – in the first few weeks of waking up on the surface of the sun. I tried some of their recommendations including adjusting the temperature in my room and avoiding sleeping in certain materials. I waited a further few months before ditching doctor Google and seeing my GP, like many young college-goers at the time, any money I had went on food (priorities).
Sweating while sleeping can be a sign of a hormone imbalance; your body’s response to infection; thyroid issues; a reaction to sleeping in an overly-heated environment (it seems simple, but try turning off the radiator); or a reaction to certain medications (10 to 15% of women on antidepressants can get night sweats). My biggest worry was that I would be one of the 1,000 women under the age of 30 going through early onset menopause.
A chat with my doctor and a quick blood test was able to tell me that night sweats young women are not uncommon. Phew. The chat also debunked my theory that my sweating was directly related to taking the pill or drinking too much tea.
When it’s time to get checked
Night sweats can be, but are not always, a sign of something more serious. If you have any inkling of concern that something in your body is out of whack, get checked. The Mayo Clinic recommends visiting your GP if night sweats are occurring on a regular basis and interrupt your sleep, if the sweating is accompanied by a fever, weight loss, localized pain, cough or other symptoms of concern, or if they come on after your menopause symptoms have been absent for months to years.
Nasty diseases aside, you could also be one of the millions of people who have what’s called ‘Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis’ which, simply put, is annoying excessive sweating with an unknown cause. So don’t sweat it next time you wake up drenched in sweat and it wasn’t from a saucy dream.
If you’re experiencing similar symptoms, get in touch to discuss your experiences, but please also talk to your doctor, since I am not one.