Nighttime temperature regulation might not be the stuff of titillating conversation, but turns out it’s very important to your health and wellbeing.
People may sleep hot for many reasons, from warm bedroom temperatures to anxiety, medication, and a variety of medical conditions. Not only can this cause discomfort that makes it harder to fall and stay asleep, but ample research suggests body temperature regulation is strongly linked with human sleep cycles. Overheating at night can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm, thereby disrupting sleep.
If you’re prone to sleeping hot, all hope for quality sleep is not lost. Below, we’ll detail several potential causes of overheating at night. Then, we’ll share plenty of proven tips for how to stay cool while sleeping all year round.
Why Do I Sleep Hot?
Often, the simplest explanation for sleeping hot is (surprise!) warm temperatures. Most of us have experienced the discomfort of lying spread-eagle on top of the sheets in the peak of summer—particularly folks who don’t have the luxury of air conditioning. However, hot temps aren’t the only possible reason why you might sleep hot. Here are seven other factors that could be the culprit behind nighttime temperature flares.
As a general term, night sweats are exactly what they sound like: sweating (often excessive) that occurs at night. People who experience night sweats might wake up drenched in sweat that has soaked through their pajamas and/or bedding. Not surprisingly, the intensity of night sweats can cause nighttime wakeups and disrupt sleep.
Night sweats happen when blood vessels throughout the body expand, causing increased blood flow, and then contract. This results in a quick wave of heat spreading throughout the body. Night sweats are often accompanied by reddened skin and a fast heartbeat.
Night sweats can result from a variety of factors, including hot weather, a too-warm bedroom, too-warm bedding, illness and infections, perimenopause and menopause, hormonal diseases, substance abuse, neurologic disorders, anxiety and panic disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), HIV, tuberculosis, and more. We’ll explore several of these causes in more detail below.
Anxiety and associated conditions, such as panic disorder, can cause sweating during the day and night. Even people who don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder could experience night sweats due to run-of-the-mill stress and worry. If you’re among the many people who deal with stress and/or anxiety regularly, consider adding some emotional wellness tools to your bedtime arsenal.
Cold or Flu Infection
Among other unpleasant symptoms, viral infections such as the cold or flu can cause night sweats. This might be due to a spiking fever and/or the body’s immune response to infection. Night sweats combined with other cold and flu symptoms can make it challenging to obtain the rest that’s necessary for recovering from illness.
People with diabetes may suffer from a condition called nocturnal hypoglycemia, in which blood glucose drops to problematic levels during sleep. This can make a person feel hot, clammy, and/or sweaty. Additionally, it can cause a sense of restlessness and irritability. Together, all of these factors can prevent a sound night’s sleep.
Hyperthyroidism causes an imbalance of the thyroid hormone, which influences everything from a person’s metabolism and heart rate to cholesterol levels, bone health, energy, menstrual cycles, mood, and sleep. Hyperthyroidism can also cause sweating, raised body temperature, and sensitivity to heat. All of these factors can make it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep at night.
In general, menopause is known to reduce sleep quality and provoke sleep disturbances. This could stem from a range of factors, including hormonal fluctuations, sweating, and nighttime hot flashes. These hot flashes provoke extreme heat in the body, which can cause nighttime wakeups and diminish sleep quality.
A wide range of medications—including asthma inhalers and medications for migraines, breast cancer, and heartburn—can cause overheating at night. Other medications that could induce night sweats include:
- Acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Over-the-counter pain relievers work by dilating blood vessels to allow heat to escape through the skin. This can lower a fever, but it can also cause sweating.
- Antidepressants. There are many classes of antidepressants, and each of them can provoke sweating and overheating. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), in particular, impact the hypothalamus, which is responsible for establishing the core body temperature at which sweating kicks in. This can result in excessive sweating.
- Hormone therapy drugs. Medications for hormone therapy, such as those used to manage menopausal symptoms, can cause nighttime sweating.
- Medications that decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications often work by altering blood sugar. Sweating is a common side effect of that process.
- Steroids. Prescription steroids, such as cortisone and prednisone, are another common cause of night sweats.
Nighttime sweating is often a symptom of sleep apnea. A 2013 study found that people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) were three times more likely to experience night sweats than those without OSA. Overheating is one of many ways that sleep apnea can make it harder to obtain quality sleep.
How To Stay Cool When It’s Hot Outside
Live in a region where it’s always hot? Can’t beat the summer heat? Here’s how you can sleep cool when the temperatures outside are rising.
Lower your bedroom’s temperature.
The ideal temperature for sleeping is generally on the cooler side—between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note that this isn’t an exact range; every person has a slightly different “sweet spot” when it comes to their ideal bedroom temperature.) If it’s hot out, you’ll probably need the help of an air conditioner or fan(s) to achieve a lower bedroom temperature.
Shut out the sun.
Normally, exposure to natural sunlight is a good thing. But when it comes to your bedroom’s temperature, think twice before letting the sun bake the room all day. Keep your bedroom cool throughout the day and night by keeping the blinds closed or using blackout curtains.
Wear light and breathable cotton clothing.
Cotton apparel has an open weave that allows air to pass through, therefore making it a good choice for hot nights. Invest in all-cotton pajamas to help you sleep cool, and wear a loose fit for even more breathability. (If that doesn’t work, it might be worth sleeping in the buff.) Avoid synthetic fabrics, which could contribute to overheating.
Reduce “sweat triggers.”
Consuming certain substances—such as alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, warm beverages, and spicy foods—can contribute to overheating at night. Avoid these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime or cut them out completely to reduce your chances of sleeping hot.
Turn off electronics in the bedroom.
TVs, laptops, and other electronics all run on electricity and emit heat. In fact, a single laptop can generate around 50 watts of heat. When you pair this with the heat generated from other electronics, it can have a notable impact on the temperature in your bedroom. An added perk of shutting down electronics in the bedroom? Their blue light (which has been shown to interfere with circadian rhythms) won’t inhibit your sleep.
Use a cooling pillow.
Some pillows are explicitly designed to support sleeping cool. Different cooling pillows employ a variety of cooling materials such as Phase Change Material technology, moisture-wicking fabrics, ventilated fillings, and/or cooling infusions. Find the right pillow for you with our roundup of best cooling pillows.
Enlist the help of cooling bedding.
The wrong bedding can contribute to overheating and exacerbate night sweats, while bedding that’s designed for sleeping cool can reduce or eliminate these issues. Upgrade your sleep space with a cooling weighted blanket, a cooling comforter, and/or cooling sheets.
Avoid daytime naps.
Hot weather can make people feel lethargic during the day because our bodies have to use extra energy to regulate their internal temperature. This can make a midday snooze highly tempting. But if you’re finding that your sleep is disturbed at night, it could be helpful to avoid napping during the day. Save the urge to snooze for bedtime to increase your chances of sleeping through the night.
Try the Bedjet Climate Comfort System.
The Bedjet unit is a unique product that helps cool your bed using a stream of cooling air aimed at the mattress. (In the winter, you can also use the Bedjet to make the bed warmer.) Pair it with your bedding or with the Bedjet AirComforter.
Desperate? Try an ice pack.
If you’ve tried the tips above and you’re still tossing and turning in the heat, relief could be found in the freezer. Place an ice pack on sweaty areas—such as the wrists, back of the knees, neck, and so on—to help your body cool down quickly. (Just be sure not to use an ice pack for more than 15 minutes at a time.) Or place an ice pack under your pillow, let it sit for a bit, and then flip the pillow over so you can rest your face on the cool side. Another option? Cold washrags draped over your neck and/or wrists.
Tips to Help You Sleep Cool Year-Round
Even when outside temperatures drop, it’s still possible to overheat in bed. Use these helpful tips to stay cool at night 365 days a year.
Lower the bedroom thermostat.
No matter the temperature outside, a cool bedroom helps promote sound sleep. Just as in hotter months, aim to keep the bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. To achieve this temp, you might need to enlist the help of a fan or air conditioner. Or, if it’s cold outside, consider cracking a window to allow some cool air to circulate around the room.
Darken the room.
Just as in the summer months, blocking sunlight from entering your bedroom will help the room stay cool. Use blackout curtains and/or keep the blinds closed during the day. Also, consider the material of your window coverings. Some research suggests medium-colored drapes with white plastic backing can limit temperature increases indoors.
Use a cooling mattress topper.
If your mattress is prone to sleeping hot (as is the case for a lot of foam beds), then it might be worth adding a cooling mattress topper to create a more comfortable sleep surface. Or up the ante and invest in a cooling mattress designed specifically for hot sleepers.
Take a warm bath before bed.
A warm bath can help you relax before bedtime, which is useful for drifting off to sleep once you’ve climbed into bed. It could further support sleep by lowering your body temperature. How does warm water help you feel cooler? It’s because of the changes that happen after you get out of the tub. While you’re sitting in a warm bath, your body’s core temperature rises. When you climb out, that core temperature drops quickly. This cooling effect on the body can help people feel sleepy, making it easier to drift off to dreamland. The emphasis on baths here is key; a shower won’t have quite the same effect, because the body’s core isn’t immersed in warm water.
Cool your feet.
Cooling down your feet is a quick way to lower the temperature of your skin and body overall. So it’s a good idea to sleep without socks if you’re trying to stay cool. For an extra boost, consider cooling a pair of socks in the fridge or freezer in the hours leading up to bedtime and then wearing the cold socks for a bit while you settle into bed. This can quickly lower your body temperature and reduce the chances of overheating.
Drinking plenty of water during the day can promote better sleep at night. This is true for several reasons: Proper hydration reduces the risk of headaches, muscle cramps, and dry mouth—all of which can make it harder to fall and stay asleep—and drinking cool water can help lower body temperature. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a glass of cold water near your bed. Take a few sips before shutting off the light or if you wake up in the night due to overheating. Just be sure to stick to water. As noted above, caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate night sweats, so avoid beverages that contain these substances before bed.
If your night sweats are caused by medication, it could be worth talking to your doctor about adjusting your dosage, the time of day when you take the medication, or the drug in question. Don’t make changes to your medication schedule without consulting a medical professional, but do feel free to advocate for yourself if your existing medication regimen is interfering with your sleep.
A person might sleep hot for a variety of reasons, from sickness or anxiety to medications or plain old high temperatures. No matter the cause, overheating at night can interfere with a person’s ability to fall and stay asleep.
Since quality sleep is critical for physical and mental health, it’s important to adopt strategies to help you stay cool at night. This might look like regulating your bedroom temperature, sleeping in breathable apparel, investing in a cooling mattress and/or cooling bedding, cooling down your feet before bed, or avoiding spicy foods and warm beverages prior to bedtime.
If you’ve tried all the strategies outlined above and are still struggling with sleeping hot, it’s a good idea to chat with a doctor. Frequent night sweats could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Obtaining a diagnosis could help you manage the underlying cause of night sweats—thereby contributing to better sleep and greater health overall.