Night sweats are uncomfortable, to say the least. During one particular night of restless and sweaty tossing and turning, I even went so far as to grab a frozen lasagna from the freezer and place it strategically in my pillowcase in a desperate attempt to cool my body down. I don’t think “drenched” is what Beyoncé meant by waking up like this.
I’m not alone, though (well, maybe on the lasagna front) because more than 40 percent of women in an Australian study stated they experienced night sweats at least once in the past month, according to Partha Nandi, M.D.
But is sweating in your sleep the problem itself, or a symptom of a larger problem? If you’ve already tried cranking up the AC and swapping out your comforter for a lighter sheet, but you’re still waking up with your sheets soaked, it may be a sign of something more serious.
“I think people think night sweats are just because it’s hot,” says Neomi Shah, M.D., associate professor, pulmonary and sleep medicine, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “But it may be from underlying health issues that can be serious or life threatening.”
That said, don’t freak out if you get them once in a while, Shah says. Sometimes really basic things like acid reflux and stress can trigger night sweats by activating your body’s adrenaline. But if they persist for more than two or three months, see your general practitioner to get to the bottom of it.
We talked to the experts about a few things—some scary, some not—that could be causing you to wake up soaking wet.