Are you pregnant? Have you woken up in the middle of the night to find your clothes soaked through with sweat?
Sleeping through the night is hard enough when you’re expecting, but many women find themselves at the mercy of intense sweating that only makes things worse.
This can be especially frustrating because getting a healthy night of sleep is essential for any mother and the baby she’s carrying.
You’re probably got burning questions. Why are you experiencing night sweats? What can be done about them?
What Are Night Sweats?
Nocturnal hyperhidrosis, or night sweats, refers to the overabundance of perspiration some women experience during pregnancy while they sleep.
Night sweats are not simply feeling hotter at night, or sweating more than you normally would — they mean sweating in excess.
If you’re experiencing night sweats, you’ll likely sweat through your clothing. Most pregnant women with nocturnal hyperhidrosis find they can’t sleep through the night because their bedding becomes soaked.
Other symptoms are also commonly linked with night sweats:
What Causes Pregnancy Night Sweats?
Night sweats are a physical and neurological phenomenon — let us explain. Your brain controls your body temperature. When your body becomes too hot, a part of your brain called the hypothalamus goes to work, causing your body to produce sweat. As sweat evaporates on the skin, you cool down.
It’s not that you’re superheated when you’re pregnant — so what’s causing the hypothalamus to turn up your body’s air conditioning?
During pregnancy, your hormones change at a rapid pace. When your estrogen drops, the hypothalamus believes you’re too hot, and sends signals to your body to start sweating (source). Because the hypothalamus also controls sleep, the sweating generally occurs at night.
The Trimesters And Night Sweats
When are you most likely to experience night sweats? According to the general ebb and flow of hormones, you have a higher chance of experiencing night sweats during your first and third trimesters. This is when your body will experience the most hormonal fluctuations (source).
Your second trimester should be smooth sailing, and most women find their hormones start to return to their normal levels approximately a month after giving birth.
However, every woman is different and your experience with night sweats may be unique. You should always talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Other Causes for Night Sweats
During pregnancy, nights sweats are fairly common and not an indicator of any serious illness. However, if you are experiencing night sweats and you are not pregnant, or it has been a significant amount of time since you have given birth, talk with your doctor.
Night sweats have been linked to certain disorders, medications, and even cancer. Your doctor can ensure your night sweats are not being caused by something more serious.
It is also important to note that many women will also get night sweats during menopause as their estrogen levels drop.
When thinking of night sweats, think “hormone fluctuations”, particularly with estrogen. Many of my patients say their night sweats are worse shortly after delivery, when pregnancy hormone levels change rapidly.
Editor's Note:Christine Traxler, MD, BS
5 Ways To Treat Night Sweats
As you ride the hormonal roller coaster known as pregnancy, you’ve probably realized that controlling your hormones is impossible. Unfortunately, this means completely avoiding night sweats is also impossible.
However, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of night sweats happening to you, and make excessive sweating bearable.
Here are five things to keep in mind if you are suffering from night sweats:
1. Evaluate Your Environment
First and foremost, keep your environment cool. Run the air conditioner at night or invest in some extra fans.
Then, take a look at your bedding. Are there lots of blankets? Remove as many extra sheets as you can. Make sure your bedding is made of light, breathable fabric such as cotton. Avoid synthetic fabrics and comforters with heavy batting.
2. Evaluate Your Diet
Spicy, acidic foods do not just feel hot on your tongue. They can trigger a higher body temperature and night sweats.
Do your best to avoid (source):
You also want to avoid eating or drinking approximately two to three hours before you go to bed.
3. Evaluate Your Clothes
What do you wear to bed? Most pregnant women experiencing night sweats should keep their layers to a minimum and stick to light, natural fabrics.
Another option? Try athletic wear. While synthetic fabrics are normally a big no-no, many pieces of athletic wear have been designed to wick away moisture from the body. Just make sure they are not too tight and restrictive.
4. Evaluate Your Weight
Some weight gain can contribute to rising body temperatures. Discuss with your doctor what a healthy pregnancy weight looks like for you. Exercise when possible, but avoid doing so right before bed or during the hottest parts of the day.
Stay cool in the pool
5. Evaluate Your Emotions
There’s a reason intense emotions such as anger are described as making you “hot-headed.” They can actually raise your body temperature. Try to reduce stress and anxiety in your life — this can help relief of night sweats and improve your overall health.
We suggest you create a bedtime routine designed to calm you down. Every night, try to put down the phone or other electronic devices at least thirty minutes before bed.
Some things you can try to produce a calmer mental state before sleeping include:
- Reading a magazine.
- Talking with a partner.
How To Go Back to Sleep After Night Sweats
What should you do when you wake up in the middle of the night, soaked in sweat?
These few tips will help you get back to sleep with ease.
1. Be Prepared
Keep a few essentials nearby to avoid fumbling in the wee hours of the morning. These items might include a change of clothes, a bottle of water, a small fan, and a towel.
When you wake up, wipe yourself off and drink some water. If you find yourself getting rashes or sores on your skin, pat down with some talc-free baby powder once your skin is dry.
2. Make A Change
It’s not always easy to change the sheets and bedding at night. If you don’t have time or energy, lay a large, comfortable towel over the bed to sleep on. Then, place a new sheet or lightweight blanket on top of you. You can handle the sheets in the morning!
The most important thing to do is relax so you can get back to sleep. You may feel embarrassed, frustrated, and exhausted, but this isn’t your fault, and it’s perfectly natural.
Take some of the stress away by setting up a “falling back asleep” routine. Listen to soothing sounds, sip on some water, or take deep breaths.
What To Buy For Night Sweats
If you experience night sweats frequently during pregnancy, there are a wide variety of products on the market to help reduce or alleviate some of the symptoms.
They’re only a Google or Amazon search away.
1. Cooling Pillow Mats
Slip one of these underneath your pillow to help easily disperse body heat. Some cooling mats also double as ice or heating packs.
2. Moisture-Wicking Sheets
Much like athletic gear, moisture-wicking sheets are designed to draw sweat away from the body, keeping your skin dry.
3. Cooling Body Mists
Some companies offer body sprays that have a natural cooling effect when in contact with the skin. Spritz them on in the middle of the night to experience some instant heat relief.
4. Bed Cooling Systems
Although on the more expensive side when it comes to night sweat solutions, a bed cooling system is a great idea if you have a partner who needs their side warm while you stay cool.
This is because some models have features that allow to you regulate both sides of the bed to different temperatures.
Surviving Night Sweats
With a little bit of know-how and preparation, you can survive night sweats. Even though it may be uncomfortable, excessive sweating is a natural part of pregnancy for many women.
If you’re concerned for any reason, do not hesitate to talk with your doctor.
Have you experienced night sweats? Have ideas on keeping it cool? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!
If you know a mama-to-be who’s experiencing sweaty sleep, share this with them and pass on the relief.