What is nocturnal hypoglycaemia?Not heard diabetic night sweats referred to as nocturnal hypoglycaemia before? Nocturnal hypoglycaemia is when a hypoglycemic episode happens as you sleep. It is more common in people who control their diabetes with insulin and often you will only realise you’ve experienced a night time hypo on waking up. You may only discover night time hypos when you wake with some or all of the following nocturnal hypoglycemia symptoms:
- Clammy neck
- Damp from excessive sweating
- Feeling fatigued
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 of nocturnal diabetes 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 sweatsFor the most part, dealing with diabetic night sweats and nocturnal hypoglycaemia means making sure that you manage your condition to reduce the risk of experiencing low blood sugar levels at night.
The following tips can help:
- 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 night sweats even in those who don’t have diabetes
- 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 nocturnal hypoglycaemia symptoms. 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 sweatsTaking 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 of diabetic night sweats 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 fibers 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.
- Sleep in natural bedding: As with nightwear, bedding made from natural fibers is more effective at regulating temperature and absorbing moisture. For maximum benefit try wool bedding as this natural fiber is more absorbent than feather/down alternatives. Partner a wool duvet, pillows and protector with cotton sheets and covers for best performance.