How much sweating is normal?
We all sweat; the process is natural and helps us to release excess heat and thus regulate our body temperature. Even when we do nothing at all, we sweat - about 0.5 to 1 litre of fluids is lost every day in that manner. In general, however, this process goes unnoticed; only when our sweat glands are activated, for example during physical activity or hot weather, do we start to sweat noticeably.
Sweating at night also isn’t unusual; on average, we lose one cup of fluid per night. Only when it starts to disturb our sleep, we can talk of excessive sweating. Those affected by it wake up drenched in sweat and, in the worst case, have to change their sleepwear and bedding. That is the big problem with night sweats: whatever we wear becomes damp and clammy and cools down the body to such an extent that our core body temperature falls below the optimal value. And if we get too cold, we start trembling – usually the moment sleep is no longer possible.
In Switzerland, about a quarter of the population suffers from some type of sleep disorder (most common: waking up several times during the night). Another study from the UK shows that a third of resident patients mentioned regular night sweats when talking to their GP. This shows: the problem affects many of us. But what are possible causes of night sweats? And what helps us find relief?
Causes for night sweats
Night sweats can have many triggers: oftentimes the cause is easily found in a duvet that might be too warm for the season, the room that is too warm or even a stressful day at work. But other factors can also contribute to sweating in sleep:
Diet & night sweats
Diet has a great influence on the quality of our sleep. For example, heavy, spicy or well-seasoned foods make us sweat more. The same applies to caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
You can find more details about the effect of nutrition on sleep here.
Sport & exercise
It has been scientifically proven that athletes sweat less than people who do not exercise. It’s also been shown that regular exercise improves sleep. However, if sport is practised too close to bedtime, it can quickly become counterproductive: the metabolism is running at full speed and the body is too warmed up for sleep. More on the topic of sleep and sport can be found here.
Room temperature & humidity
Due to central heating and improved house insulation, our bedrooms are about 5ºC warmer today than they were 50 years ago. This might feel comfortable during the day, but can affect our sleep quality if we can't release excess heat. For optimal sleep, the room temperature should not exceed 18ºC.
Humidity also has a great influence on the quality of our sleep: it should be neither too high nor too low. If it is higher than 50-55%, this can further night sweats, as the air is already saturated, and moisture remains on the skin.
Bed & bedding
When it comes to bedding, breathability should be your top priority. This applies not only to the duvet and bed linen, but also the mattress and possible mattress protectors. An optimal bed climate is dry; any moisture that occurs should be absorbed by the mattress and bedding and wicked away from your body. If you tend to sweat at night, you should also change the bedding more often, as the moisture-absorbing properties of the materials are exhausted more quickly. Removable mattress covers are also practical in such cases.
Pajamas & nightwear
As with bedding, breathability should be at the top of the list for pyjamas & nightwear. After all, they are closest to your body and thus have the most direct influence on your quality of sleep. If the material is not breathable enough, excess body heat cannot be dissipated and the body overheats. For people who suffer from night sweats, moisture regulation obviously also plays an important role. Ideal materials are those that absorb moisture well, but also quickly wick it away from the skin. If this is not the case, the fabric can quickly feel damp & clammy - which is not only unpleasant, but will also cool down the body excessively.
Best pajamas for night sweats
The NATTWELLTM fabric used in our Balance collection was developed to optimally support the body's natural temperature regulation. It combines the breathability of natural fibres with the high moisture management normally found in synthetic fabrics. Thanks to this, excess heat can escape easily, while moisture is wicked away from the skin. The fabric will feel pleasantly dry throughout the night - making it the best pajamas for night sweats.
Our physical condition probably has the greatest influence on the quality of sleep. Health problems such as stress, medications, but also hormonal changes can affect how well we sleep at night.
In this day and age, stress is so present for all of us that a stress-free live is almost unimaginable. Everyday live is hectic and its often difficult to leave the restlessness of the day behind in the evening.
Stress doesn’t have to be a negative thing per se; it is a normal physical reaction that helps us to act quickly in dangerous or important situations. Feeling stressed from time to time is therefore absolutely normal. However, if stress becomes chronic, it can have a lasting effect on the quality of our sleep. The big problem is that the relationship between stress and sleep is reciprocal. So not only can stress disrupt our sleep, but too little sleep in turn promotes the feeling of stress: a so-called stress-sleep cycle develops that is hard to break.
Hormonal changes during the menopause cause sleep disturbances for many women. Up to 60% of women report being affected by insomnia during the menopause. One of the most commonly cited reasons for impaired sleep during the menopause are hot flashes. Researchers believe that hot flashes and subsequent night sweats are linked to a drop in oestrogen levels. This fools the brain into thinking that the body is overheating and thus "forces" blood vessels to dilate in order to cool down, which in turn increases the blood flow to the skin and leads to flushing and finally night sweats.
You can read more about sleep disorders during the menopause on the following page.
Night sweats are also common during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Many women report suffering from hot flashes during this time. As already mentioned in the section beforehand, it’s usually hormonal changes that lead to increased sweating at night. However, in the case of pregnancy, increased blood circulation in the body also promotes temperature fluctuations and nightly sweating.
Finally, taking certain medications can also disturb the body's natural temperature balance. Night sweats are a known side effect for drugs affecting the vegetative nervous system, such as antidepressants. However, more common medications such as paracetamol or blood sugar-lowering drugs can also cause night sweats. In those cases, it is essential you speak to your doctor about it.
How to find relief for night sweats
Most important of all is to find the cause for your night sweats. Is it due to the sleeping environment? Or stress? Or could there be physical changes such as pregnancy or menopause that cause the nightly hot and cold sweats? If the reason for the increased sweating is known, it can be addressed specifically.
However, there are also measures you can take to prevent night sweats, regardless of the cause:
- Optimize your sleeping environment: Ventilate the bedroom well before going to bed and bring down the room temperature - Adjust the duvet to the ambient temperature - Breathable bedding and nightwear, preferably made of natural materials such as Tencel, cotton or linen
- Create a sleep routine for yourself: Create a personal sleep or evening routine: e.g. drink a cup of tea before bed, read for 15 minutes or do a short meditation / relaxation exercise - Set up screen times: put away the mobile phone & computer about 30 minutes before bedtime
- Adjust your diet: Avoid hard-to-digest or spicy foods late at night - Reduce consumption of alcohol, nicotine and coffee where possible
- Regular exercise: doing sports 1-2 times a week can improve sleep quality by up to 65%
- Alternating showers: People who tend to run hot should not take ice-cold showers - this promotes sweating even more. Alternating hot and cold showers, on the other hand, gets the circulation going and contracts the skin pores. Regular use can even reduce the production of sweat.
- Sage tea: Sage is a well-known home remedy for excessive sweating. It is best to prepare the tea about 1 hour before going to bed. It should infuse for about 10 minutes and then be drunk lukewarm or even cold to make sure there is no additional heat supplied.