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Night Sweats and Diabetes – Nocturnal Hypoglycemia

Do you find yourself sweating in bed when it’s cold? Or find yourself waking at night drenched in sweat and feeling hot and? You’re not alone. Night sweats are a common symptom of nocturnal hypoglycemia – the night-time low blood sugar episodes experienced by some diabetics.


What causes night sweats in diabetics?

The main cause of night sweats in diabetics is low blood sugar at night (hypogylcemia). When blood sugar levels drop, this can cause a number of sleep-disturbing symptoms, including headaches and excessive sweating. While night sweats can occur across the whole body, in people experiencing nocturnal hypoglycemia, the neck often becomes noticeably sweaty, making this a key sign to look out for. So what causes diabetes and night sweats? Essentially, this is anything that could cause glucose levels to drop overnight. Some of the most common causes include:
  • Insulin use: Hypoglycemia is more common in diabetics who use insulin to manage their condition.
  • Exercise: Being more active means you’ll have used more glucose during the day. In particular, exercising in the hours before bed increases the chances of low blood sugar at night.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol in the hours before bed can decrease your liver’s ability to produce glucose overnight.

Dealing with low blood sugar and night sweats

For the most part, dealing with diabetic night sweats means making sure that you manage your condition to reduce the risk of experiencing hypoglycemia at night.

The following tips can help diabetes and sweating:
  • Test your glucose levels before bed: If levels are already on the low side, you can take preventative action before going to sleep.
  • Watch what you eat in the evening:
    • Avoid wine, beer or other alcoholic drinks in the hours before bed
    • Increase snacking if you’ve been more physically active during the day
    • Avoid hot and spicy foods as these can cause diabetic night sweats (in fact, they can even cause night sweats in non-diabetics)
  • Reschedule your exercise routine: If you usually workout in the evening, try moving this to earlier in the day.
  • Speak with your GP: They may be able to advise on changes to your medication to help ease any symptoms of diabetic night sweats. It’s also important to remember that while night sweats are quite common for diabetics, they can also be a sign of other underlying conditions. Discuss your night sweats with your GP to eliminate any other possible causes.

How to get relief from diabetic night sweats

Taking steps to prevent the nocturnal hypoglycemia that can cause diabetic night sweats is the first and most important thing. But there are also a number of steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms and get a better night’s sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool: Turn heating off or down to an absolute minimum in the hours before bed. You can also try leaving a window open or keeping a fan running to improve ventilation.
  • Choose natural nightwear: Sleep in natural fibres such as cotton, wool or silk. These materials are more breathable and more effective at absorbing moisture than synthetic alternatives such as polyester. So, you can stay cool and avoid that clammy feeling of diabetic night sweats.
  • Sleep in natural bedding: As with nightwear, bedding made from natural fibres is more effective at regulating temperature and absorbing moisture. For maximum benefit try wool bedding as this natural fibre is more absorbent than feather/down alternatives. Partner a wool duvet, pillows and protector with cotton sheets and covers for best performance.

Got questions about nocturnal hypoglycemia and want to get some guidance about diabetic night sweats? Want to know more about your health and sleep? Learn about the other reasons for night sweats, from hot flushes to medication and more. Visit our Sleep Health & Advice Hub today.