Tossing and turning in damp bed sheets. Waking up feeling drenched. The need to shower ASAP when you get out of bed. It’s all because of those dreaded night sweats. Does this sound familiar to you? There are nearly 110,000 Google searches a month in the U.S. for “night sweats,” and that’s not counting the tens of thousands of people searching for “night sweats causes” or “sweating in sleep.” Suffice it to say, it’s a sticky issue—especially if you’re over 50. Read on to find out the common causes of excessive nighttime perspiration as you age, and what you can do to help mitigate that unwanted moisture.
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After 12 months of not having a menstrual period, a person could very well be experiencing the natural biological process known as menopause. The average age is 51 in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic, but it can happen before your 50s too. And with menopause, you can expect physical symptoms that include, yes, hot flashes.
“For many women, their menopausal hot flashes are the worst at night,” Danielle Kelvas, MD, Chief Medical Advisor for Sleepline, tells Best Life. Hot flashes vary in frequency and intensity, per Johns Hopkins Medicine, but for 80 percent of women, hot flashes occur for two years or less. Not dealing with menopause, but still sweating it out at bedtime? Keep reading.
Turns out, your late-night snack could be the culprit. “Eating in general before bed causes our digestive system to secrete numerous hormones that can disrupt sleep,” says Kelvas. Plus, she adds, “Eating introduces energy into the body, so our digestive system ramps up metabolism. This process slightly increases our core body temperature, when normally our body temp should slightly decrease with the onset of rest and sleep.”
Other night sweat causes, she says, are metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or insulin resistance. And that’s not all. According to the Mayo Clinic, additional causes of night sweats can include medications, anxiety disorders, alcohol use disorder, and a whole host of other conditions and illnesses.
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While it’s not going to cure the underlying issue causing your night sweats, many people swear by cooling pillows. “A cooling pillow can prevent heat build-up during the night,” Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Sleeping Ocean, tells Best Life. If it’s a breathable pillow, it will allow the heat to dissipate instead of letting it accumulate. If the pillow uses gel particles, they will draw the excess heat away from the sleeper and lock it in. This is why cooling pillows can be a significant aid when dealing with night sweats.” Read on to see some of Savy’s specific product recommendations.
Give the GhostPillow by GhostBed a try. Savy explains, “It’s a memory foam pillow that excels at pressure alleviation. The foam is infused with gel and has small air channels for enhanced breathability, allowing this pillow to remain cool throughout the night.”
According to its product description, it also has a “cool-to-the-touch cover” that neutralizes heat on both sides of the pillow—as well as over 4,000 five-star reviews. One reviewer shared, “This is a great pillow. I haven’t woken up due to sweating, and I can comfortably sleep on my back or side.”
Savy also recommends the Kapok Pillow by Layla. “Kapok is a natural fiber. It’s super-breathable and also wicks the excess moisture away pretty well,” he says. “This means the Layla pillow can aid thermoregulation during sleep. Plus, it’s very comfortable and adjusts to the sleeper’s loft preferences.”
One verified buyer on Laya’s site shared, “Very comfortable and cooling. The adjustability of this pillow is key.” Forbes also gave it a shoutout in their 2022 roundup of the best pillows for side sleepers, saying “In a nutshell, the Layla Kapok has it all: softness and support, sustainability, adjustability, washability, hygienic and cooling features, and of course, great customer reviews.”
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The Latex Pillow by Saatva is another of Savy’s recommendations. “This model uses shredded latex for the core and thin, plushy fibers for the comfort layer. Therefore, the air travels freely through the pillow. That’s how the Saatva prevents heat accumulation,” he explains.
One reviewer on Saatva’s website says she noticed a change in her quality of sleep on the very first night. She wrote, “Normally, I wake up several times throughout the night to rearrange pillows that have gotten hot or flat in the bed. Instead, the Saatva pillow carried me from night to morning, maintaining both temperature and comfort. A must for some quality bedtime.”
In addition to a cooling pillow, Tony Klespis, a certified sleep science coach and sleep accessories reviewer at Mattress Clarity, tells Best Life that cooling sheets can help, too. “Certain materials such as bamboo or percale weave cotton can help to keep you cool at night.” And here’s another great tip: “While many people associate a higher thread count sheet with higher quality, a lower thread count sheet is actually better for air flow which is better for keeping you cool,” Klespis says.
He also recommends using blackout curtains to prevent excess sunlight from heating your room during the day, keeping your thermostat at 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, and avoiding food and substances that make you sweat (like caffeine and alcohol).
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