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People who live with hypothyroidism struggle with heat regulation. Cold intolerance is the most common thermal symptom of hypothyroidism. However, some people may also experience night sweats. When the thyroid gland is compromised, and hormone levels are off-balance, you can experience uncomfortable temperature-related symptoms.
The thyroid gland is the thermostat of the body. A healthy thyroid sends signals (hormones) throughout the body to generate and stabilize heat. When you are low in thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), your body does not have enough signals to create energy for heat production. Therefore, most people with hypothyroidism have cold intolerance; that is, they are always cold even when temperatures outside of the body do not warrant feeling cold.
People with thyroid issues may experience night sweats. However, night sweats are not one of the hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism. Heat intolerance and sweating are symptoms more commonly linked to hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). Sweating has also been linked to a number of other medical conditions including:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Bone marrow disorders
- Hormone imbalance
While night sweats are not typically associated with low thyroid hormone, this uncomfortable symptom does associate with hormone imbalance and autoimmune disorders. Indeed, many people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition involving chronic inflammation of the thyroid.
The majority of people living with hypothyroidism are women, most commonly diagnosed in middle age. The American Thyroid Association found that women are five to eight times more likely to develop hypothyroidism compared to men, which may suggest a hormonal link. Studies find that estrogen may have a direct effect on thyroid cell receptors. Although more research is needed to understand this link further, it may explain why women are more likely to have thyroid disorders.
Women in middle age are most likely to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It's plausible that hypothyroidism and menopause share similar symptoms, and each condition may aggravate the other. A study found that women with thyroid dysfunction and severe menopausal symptoms, such as night sweats, found significant improvement in their menopause symptoms by treating their thyroid.
If you have hypothyroidism, it is essential to rule out other medical conditions that may be causing your night sweats.
It may be worthwhile to test your thyroid function if you find yourself waking in the night with soaked pajamas and sheets. Slight irregularities in your thyroid can throw off your thermoregulation.
The following is a list of suggested strategies to relieve night sweats.
Find the right thyroid medication
Your body requires thyroid hormone replacement medication for optimal functioning if you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's thyroiditis. By replenishing your body with thyroid hormone, your metabolic processes will be able to regulate body temperature more effectively. When choosing thyroid medication with your doctor, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
If you are a woman in menopause, the right thyroid medication may reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. Furthermore, regulating your thyroid may decrease your risk of complications related to both hypothyroidism and menopause.
Stay away from dietary and environmental triggers
Certain foods, smells, and environments can increase your risk of having night sweats.
- Avoid spicy foods before bedtime
- Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine before sleep
- Avoid smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke
- Avoid sleeping in a warm room
- Avoid stress or sleeping in a stressful environment
Prepare your sleep environment
If you repeatedly struggle with night sweats, consider taking some preventative steps to lower your risk of waking up in wet sheets.
- Turn down the thermostat and turn up the fan.
- Wear light, loose-fitting pajamas, or skip them altogether. If you find you also struggle with cold intolerance, consider wearing layers to bed that can easily be removed.
- Use light blankets or sheets.
- Have a glass of cold water next to the bed.
- Consider using pillows and mattress pads designed to cool your body as you sleep.
Establish a bedtime routine
Much like a child has a specific bedtime routine to help them wind down for rest, adults also benefit from having a routine. Wind down the same way each day: take a cool shower, shut screens off at least an hour before sleep, avoid late-night snacking, do yoga, massage, or journal. Allowing your body and mind to relax can signal your body that it is time to rest.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Exercising during the day can improve sleep quality and decrease stress. Similarly, controlling your weight may help reduce night sweats and difficulty resting.
Some foods and supplements like omega-3s may help relieve night sweats. However, most supplements that aim to treat night sweats gear toward treating menopausal vasomotor symptoms in women like night sweats and hot flashes.
There are plenty of strategies you may try to get rid of pesky night sweats. The best tactic is to find the right thyroid medication and dosage to control your hypothyroidism. Once you find the correct medicine for your body, your thermostat has a strong chance to reset. If you have tried the above strategies without relief, consult your thyroid doctor to stay comfortable all night.