It’s the middle of the night and suddenly you wake up with your PJ’s sticking to your skin, drenched with sweat. The covers go flying off and you might even open the window to get some air. Then 5 minutes later, you have chills and are freezing, grabbing for those same covers you threw off just minutes earlier. Sound familiar?
If you are a woman, you automatically associate these night sweats with menopause or even PMS (premenstrual syndrome). In fact, night sweats are listed as something that is “normal” for perimenopause. But what if you have these same symptoms and are a woman in your 30’s or even a man?
Excessive sweating at night is a complaint we have seen in all ages and sexes. While we typically associate this symptom with menopause, night sweats are usually an indication that you have an underlying imbalance or even illness.
Let’s go through why your body sweats, what the underlying causes could be, and some suggestions to get rid of those night sweats, so you can have a dry night of sleep.
Anatomy of the night sweat - or why would your body sweat at night?
A study published in 2006, showed that 41% of the patients queried experienced night sweats, making it more widespread of a symptom than previously thought, and neither the frequency nor the severity was associated with gender.
Night sweats are defined as drenching sweats that soak clothes and bedding and disturb sleep.
What happens when you start sweating at night is that your blood vessels expand, causing increased blood flow, and then contract. This causes a sudden wave of heat that spreads throughout the body, followed by sweating, reddening of the skin, and rapid heartbeat. Often, the night sweat is followed by a cold chill.
Body temperature is usually regulated around a set point. For those of us in the US, we think of this as the magic 98.6-degree Fahrenheit that we use to check to see if a fever is present. To keep your body at a constant temperature, you have a ‘thermostat’ that is regulated by your hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus is a gland that has the master control over your hormone (endocrine) system. It is sends out hormone messengers to regulate body temperature, telling your body to sweat or giving your brain a message that makes you move into the shade. It also increases your body temperature, giving you a fever, when your body is trying to fight off infection (since bacteria don’t like high temperatures, this works great!).
While you sleep at night, the job of the body is to repair, reset hormones, and rid itself of waste and toxins. Your immune system kicks into gear repairing muscles, organs, and other cells that might have been damaged during the day. Your liver and kidneys start getting rid of waste products and toxins accumulated throughout the day by changing their chemical state so they can be removed through urination or bowel movements.
The hormone system is regulated by feedback mechanisms, relying on the presence or absence of the hormone in the blood to know when to turn things on and off. And they work in a feedback web, where one hormone can affect the other, ultimately affecting how the hypothalamus is functioning. For instance, the body’s internal clock should regulate the balance between the two hormones of melatonin and cortisol, but chronic stress can dysregulate this delicate balance, producing an imbalanced feedback loop back to the hypothalamus. Essentially, night sweats are a sign that one or more of these systems are imbalanced.
I like to think of night sweats as mini fevers, where the body is trying to get rid of toxins through sweat or fight off an infection or virus that might be subclinical. But it also could be a misfire of that hypothalamus due to hormone imbalances and the feedback loop not working properly.
What Causes night sweats?
Night sweats have been associated with a long list of clinical and subclinical conditions, here's some of the ones we have seen the most in our clinical practice:
· Sex Hormone Imbalance
· Stress Hormone Imbalance
· Blood Sugar Dysregulation
· Overactive Thyroid
Immune System Activation
· Infections – Bacterial/Fungal
· Gut microbiome imbalance
· Autoimmune disease
· Vitamin B deficiency
· Liver/Kidney dysfunction
How to have a dry night of sleep.
Avoid high carb/sugar foods right before going to bed so that your blood sugar doesn’t spike and then crash during the middle of the night. Low blood sugar triggers a stress response that signals a hormone cascade.
Speaking of stress, make sure you are going to sleep in a rest, reset, and digest mode (parasympathetic). Dim lights, turn off screens and maybe even take a nice Epsom salt bath an hour before sleeping. This will help ensure that the cortisol hormone has lowered, and melatonin hormone has increased.
Removing or reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption will help your detoxification pathways. The liver must detoxify both alcohol and caffeine through the same toxin removal pathways and too much can overwhelm the liver and force the body to react by trying to remove toxins through the skin.
Certain medications that affect these three systems have been known to increase night sweats so talk to your doctor if you are taking any of these medications: some antidepressants and diabetes medications, steroids, acetaminophen, aspirin, and high blood pressure drugs.
Schedule a free consult – we can recommend different testing options that can help us find the root cause if these tips aren’t working.
Night sweats can wreak havoc on the quality of life for a woman having hormonal fluctuations, however, women in menopause are not the only ones that suffer with this symptom. It’s a more wide-spread symptom that affects all ages and sexes. It could be an indication of a hormone imbalance, nutrition deficiency, or it can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition like an infection or detoxification issue.
Our experience is that nights sweat are usually accompanied by other symptoms, and taken together, help us figure out where the imbalance could be. These suite of symptoms suggest where to start digging for information by helping us figure out the appropriate specialty test to use to find that information. For instance, the Dutch hormone tests help us identify sex or stress hormones that might be out of balance. The GI MAP stool testing can tell us whether you have a fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infection, and blood testing can help us figure out inflammation levels and look at thyroid and liver functioning. These specialty tests can help us pinpoint the dysfunction, so we can make a plan together that reverses it and gets you healing!
Book a Free Consultation Now if you need more help digging into the root cause.