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Asking for a Friend: Why Do I Get Night Sweats?

It’s uncomfortable and maybe a little embarrassing, but waking up in the middle of the night or in the morning drenched in sweat is pretty common, and not just for women going through menopause, says Jennifer Caudle, a board-certified family physician and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. “This is something that a lot of patients will ask me about—just wondering if it’s normal. And the first thing I’d say to a young, otherwise healthy woman, is that there’s a good chance the cause is environmental.” In other words, you’re keeping your room too warm, or you’re cocooning yourself in a too-heavy quilt. (And then there are 9 Reasons Your Sweat Smells.) 

But if you’ve already tried cracking a window, blasting the A/C, and ditching the comforter to no avail, there may be something else going on.

Medications are a big trigger for nighttime perspiration, says Caudle. Antidepressants, some types of birth control or hormone therapy, and cholesterol-lowering drugs, for example, may cause you to sweat while you sleep. If you’re on any daily drug, she recommends asking your doctor if it could be behind your sweats. (Try these 15 Ways to Sweat-Proof Your Beauty Routine.) 

The problem can also be a sign of more serious health issues, like an over- or under-active thyroid or, according to a recent study in the journal BMJ Open, sleep apnea. If you wake up sweaty every night without fail, or if you notice other health issues—like if you start losing or gaining weight for no reason, are running a fever, or are even just experiencing an unexplained “off” feeling—head to your doctor.

But if you’re an otherwise healthy, happy woman (who’s absolutely sure she’s not starting menopause—symptoms can start popping up in your mid-thirties, well before your periods become irregular!), chances are you’re just tucking yourself in too tightly. 

If you can’t take your thermostat down a few notches, or if you’re addicted to feeling the weight of a comforter on you as you sleep (guilty!), consider investing in a cooling gel pillow like the Dreamfinity Memory Foam pillow ($51; amazon.com). Also smart: stashing a fresh pair of PJs by your bed to make changing easier if you wake up drenched midway through the night. Even better, wear something made of sweat-wicking materials, like Lusome PJs (from $48; lusome.com)—the dryLon fabric absorbs sweat but dries nearly instantly, so you won’t wake up feeling like you're wearing a wetsuit. Or Raven & Crow sets, which are made from a breathable material of 70 percent bamboo and 30 percent cotton, making them both temperature controlled and sustainable.

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