In the 2004 sleeper hit comedy Napoleon Dynamite, one of the titular character's best friends, Pedro, experiences a personal heat wave. He tries everything to combat it: drinking water, taking a bath, and eventually shaving his head full of hair. For those of us who regularly get hot and sweaty at night, we feel Pedro's pain.
Here are 10 common reasons why you may find yourself in a pool of sweat while sleeping, and various options to remedy this uncomfortable and downright icky, sticky experience.
1. Room Temperature Reset
Physiologically speaking, our bodies are supposed to regulate body temperature, but this only works to a certain degree -- pun intended. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain's temperature-regulating cells basically chill out and allow the outside temp of your bedroom to set your body temperature.
Recently, Real Sleep looked at reasons why sleeping in the buff may be good for us. One of those reasons had to do with bedding materials interacting with your skin and/or internal temperature. However, according to Sleep.org, the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees, but most people don't follow that guidance. (Personally, in the winter I prefer a toasty 68 to 71 degrees; in the summer more like 65 to 67.) If you don't abide by the recommended temperature, you may find yourself hot and sweaty at night, or in the wee hours of the morning, as the case may be.
2. The Sleepwear Solution
Your choice of pajamas, loungewear, lingerie and other undergarments may be having an effect on your body heat while sleeping, says Sleep.org. The best way to address this is to focus on the fabric first. Choosing a material that feels good against your skin is paramount. For instance, when I was in my teens and during college, I'd look through the Victoria's Secret catalog and order satin pajamas because they looked so sleek and sensual -- OK maybe TLC's "Creep" video had something to do with it, too. But as it turned out, I found satin (and silk) PJs too cool and slippery against my skin. It wasn't the right "body heat feel" for me -- I was either too cold in the winter or sweating up my silky underthings in the summer. In my early twenties, I decided I liked the feeling of cotton jersey best -- however, cotton doesn't do a great job of wicking away moisture. Depending on your own individual night temperature, local climate and season, trying different fabric options like flannel, silk, bamboo and special moisture wicking material blends might be right for you (FYI: wool and fleece are never great options). We recently recommended Lusomé sleepwear for advanced moisture management technology fabric.
3. Bedding or Bust
It seems obvious, but much like your choice in sleepwear materials, your bed sheet choice can also be responsible for trapping your personal body heat and making you extra sweaty. Depending on the fabric and/or the weave and thread-count, you might be overheating your sleepy self. As mentioned above, flannel and satin used as sheet fabric aren't super breathable and may make you hotter. Also, higher thread count sheets and tighter weaves can cut off air circulation. Switching to cotton sheets with a lower thread count (Real Sleep suggests 200 - 300 count) will do wonders for keeping your nighttime warmth at bay. Bustle recently recommended a bunch of bed sheet fabrics that help keep you cool, including the aforementioned bamboo, linen, moisture wicking 1,500-thread count sheets, temperature regulated viscose, breathable Egyptian cotton, microfiber and organic cotton.
4. Pillows and Perspiration
It may surprise you, but even more so than just your bedsheets alone, your pillow has incredible heating powers all on its own because when your head is warm, so is the rest of your body. Down pillows, for instance, can envelope your noggin' in heat, as can some memory foam products if they're not made with cooling gel. Natural materials, like buckwheat and bamboo, once again, run cooler. Health.com has a bunch of good, cooling pillow recommendations. If you don't want to get rid of your pillows, though, you can try other tricks like putting an ice pack under the case (or a Chillow cooling relief pad) or simply and frequently flipping the pillow over.
5. Mattresses Matter
Here at Real Sleep, we know your mattress makes all the difference in not only how well you sleep, but how good you feel during the waking hours of the day too. Our memory foam mattresses are resistant to dust mites and naturally anti-microbial, so allergy sufferers can be assured a good night's rest. Plus, they have a 100% organic cotton mattress cover which breathes naturally and allows for air to circulate around your body and bedsheets. Consumer Reports recently suggested a short list of mattresses that had a cooling effect on testers; for example, products that included cooling gel within a memory foam layer.
6. Co-Sleeping Partners
Whether your bed mate is a spouse, significant other or sweet and furry pet, sometimes sleeping in close proximity with another person or animal can impact your body heat or interrupt your zzz's in various other ways. Still, it's often comforting to sleep with another body in the bed -- unless their excessive bodily warmth overpowers your own. You may consider setting up a long body pillow boundary between you two, or consider sleeping separately some nights.
p.s. While writing this, I can't help but recall the mid-'80s Genesis video "Land of Confusion," where President Reagan and First Lady Nancy wake up in an absolute pool of sweat.
7. Menopause and Hormonal Health
During or just before menopause, women's hormone levels begin to fluctuate, causing many to experience uncomfortable hot flashes and frequent night sweats. It's the change in estrogen levels that throws women's bodies out of whack, meanwhile the hypothalamus that regulates body temperature also fluctuates inconveniently. However, menopause isn't the only culprit. An overactive thyroid, a.k.a. hyperthyroidism, can cause excessive sweating in younger women. And, of course, men grapple with the issue of nighttime sweats too. For them, low levels of testosterone may be the root cause.
Fever, infection and more serious medical conditions can all cause or contribute to night sweats. Endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), urinary tract infections, osteomyelitis (inflammation in the bones) and HIV can all include sweating during sleep as a common symptom. Certain kinds of cancer, such as lymphoma, as well as autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, gastroesophageal reflux disease, tuberculosis, sleep apnea, and panic disorders may make someone susceptible to night sweats. Generally, a number of other illness symptoms will also be present. Speak with a doctor if any of these ailments are affecting you and seem seriously health related.
9. Medications and Supplements
Tangential to the medical issues above, various medications and supplements can also cause side effects like night sweats. Generally speaking, overheating while sleeping is a pretty common side effect of many medications, including SSRIs for depression. Again, consult your doctor if night sweats become an ongoing problem.
Warm summer evenings may lead to sweaty nights. Be sure to drink plenty of water every morning to replenish your H2O reserves. Alcohol, soda, coffee, and certain teas (plus, any and all caffeinated drinks) should be drunk long before bedtime and in moderation to prevent a case of the sweats.
In conclusion, and in honor of helping to solve Pedro's and our collective nighttime hot and bothered sweat problems, here's Napoleon dancing to "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai. Good night, good luck and stay cool, sleepers.