August 14, 2017

Night Sweats and Hot Flashes – the science of thermoregulation during sleep

sleeping hotWe all know the feeling: after a long day, all you want is a night of rest. But, instead, you find yourself lying awake in bed. At some point, you are overcome by warmth. It’s as if suddenly you are too hot. Night sweating is a common issue that causes more than just soggy bed sheets; restless tossing and turning leaves you in want of deep, refreshing sleep.

During warm weather, the effects of sleeping hot can be further intensified as the temperature in your bedroom rises. Bedding that is too heavy and not breathable is also a culprit for night sweats. Regardless of the season outside, creating a comfortable “microclimate” in your bedroom is important to help you sleep through the night.

In addition to external factors such as improper eating habits in the evening or lack of a relaxing bedtime routine, our circadian rhythm and body temperature are interdependent to our sleep-wake cycle. The average human body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But, that temperature varies between individuals and is subject to natural fluctuations from day to day.

Our body temperature reaches its maximum in the early evening, and then decreases during the course of the night until it reaches its lowest point right before early morning. The difference between our bodies’ maximum and minimum temperature can be up to nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reduction and regulation of our body temperature at night is vital to rejuvenating rest. While we sleep, the metabolism decelerates, muscle activity is reduced to a minimum, and excess heat generated by the previously more productive metabolism is released. The body lowers its core temperature to facilitate slower physiological processes.

Our biological default to cool ourselves down is sweating. When our sweat glands produce moisture, the evaporation of the liquid off the skin’s surface produces a cooling effect. When we are in bed, however, the heat released from our body often gets trapped and becomes excessive—so we are awoken by sweat-soaked sheets. Moreover, this extreme sweating cranks up the metabolism that should be getting its rest also!

So, if you want to turn sweaty dreams into sweet dreams, consider the sleep environment in your bedroom—from the air temperature to the linens and the materials in your mattress and pillows!

Hot flashes and excessive sweating may also be symptoms of other conditions, so please remember to always consult your physician.

comments powered by Disqus