If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, night sweats are a common side effect, particularly in patients suffering from anorexia. But this symptom can also appear alongside other conditions like anxiety and stress, hormone imbalances, diet, and other health problems. This article will focus on what’s causing it, its link with eating disorders, and what you can do to relieve it.
We’ve all had the uncomfortable experience of waking up to a swimming pool instead of our bed. And believe me, having to change your soaking sheets 3 times a night isn’t fun when you have a busy day ahead of you obsessing over whether you should eat that slice of pizza.
In America alone, an estimated 30 million people live with an eating disorder. And only 1 in 10 women suffering from the condition seek proper treatment.
While an eating disorder takes over your life in more ways than you can imagine, night sweats can be yet another embarrassing symptom. If it happens a few times a week, you might just take it as an inconvenience. But what if it lasts longer? Should you call a doctor? How long is it supposed to last? And what should you do about it?
What are night sweats?
Supported by the nervous system, sweating is your body’s way of regulating its temperature.
While it’s common to experience night sweats at some point or other in your life, it is often linked to an underlying condition like an eating disorder.
But what are night sweats?
Night sweats are repeated episodes of extreme perspiration that may soak your nightclothes or bedding and are related to an underlying medical condition or illness.
In extreme cases, you may wake up multiple times a night and have to change your clothes and linen; you may even have to turn your mattress over or sleep elsewhere for the night.
Common symptoms of night sweats
Below are the most common symptoms of night sweats:
- Sweating to the point where you have to change your clothes and bedsheets.
- A sudden rush of heat to your head is also called “hot flushes.”
- Rising body temperature and puffy, red skin, also called “flushing.”
To say it’s unpleasant is putting it lightly. But usually, it goes away on its own and can last from a few days to a few months.
What causes night sweats?
It’s not uncommon for people to experience night sweats during a pivotal moment in their lives. Any changes in your body or your environment can affect your biochemistry, and it often manifests itself in surprising ways.
But what causes night sweats exactly?
When you sweat, your blood vessels expand, which increases blood flow and causes your blood vessels to contract again.
As a result, you experience a sudden rise in temperature, an accelerated heartbeat, sweating, and sometimes, cold chills.
Common causes of night sweats
The most common causes of night sweats are:
- Hormonal changes
- Stress and anxiety
- Certain types of cancer
- Dietary habits
- Alcohol consumption
How can an eating disorder cause night sweats?
Eating disorders disrupt the way your body operates, and they can affect everything from your digestive system to your organs’ ability to function properly.
Because of malnutrition and calorie deficit, an eating disorder impacts your hormone levels, which in turn affects your sleep, your metabolism rate and induces high levels of anxiety.
All of which can cause a bad case of night sweats.
As your eating habits become more and more inconsistent, your body is constantly adjusting to new eating behaviors and has a hard time regulating your blood sugar levels. This results in hormonal imbalances.
And it often leads to inconsistent menstrual cycles and a low sex drive in women.
As a result, estrogen levels are low, and your body is struggling to regulate its temperature, which leads to excessive perspiration.
The same is true for men, except that hormonal changes cause a drop in testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction, resulting in a rise in temperature and night sweats.
Night sweats while recovering from an eating disorder
As I mentioned in the introduction, night sweats are a common symptom among people recovering from an eating disorder.
For many, focusing on what you eat is an easy way of regaining a sense of control in your life by monitoring how you look or feel. Whether that’s counting calories, over-exercising, or restricting certain food groups, it’s not always easy to dissociate from.
Because of this, the recovery process will be a long and frustrating one. And unfortunately, the first few weeks are filled with uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, belching, fullness, hunger cravings, and more.
Why are you having night sweats during recovery?
The simple answer is that your body’s metabolism is adapting to your new diet. And depending on what disorder you’re recovering from, the adjustment process will be different.
For instance, people suffering from a binge-eating disorder might experience night sweats because of excess weight or eat a large number of fatty foods quickly.
It all depends on how long you’ve been suffering from the disorder, as well as other factors like general lifestyle, location, stress levels, genetics, and more.
Night sweats while recovering from anorexia
If you’re recovering from anorexia nervosa, your dietician might put together a meal plan that will help your body repair the damage caused by years of calorie restrictions.
Because of starvation, your body starts to shut down to preserve every ounce of energy it still has to keep your organs alive. It leads to many problems like low heart rate, low body temperature, thin hair, and brittle nails.
As a result, the damage caused by anorexia nervosa is considerable, and your body needs a lot of energy and time to repair it. This often results in a daily intake of up to 2500 or 3000 calories during treatment.
You won’t use your body to that, hence the uncomfortable symptoms.
This is why night sweats are so common among people in recovery. Your body doesn’t know what to do with all this energy. So your body temperature rises, causing night sweats in the first few months.
But don’t worry, this is a normal part of treatment, and it will pass. You just have to get through the first few weeks and trust that your body is doing its best to heal.
What can I do to avoid night sweats?
If you’re experiencing night sweats because of an eating disorder, the first thing you should do is seek help from a doctor as soon as possible.
As I mentioned above, eating disorders are detrimental to your health. If left untreated for too long, they can result in serious health complications in the future.
In the meantime, below are a few things you can do to avoid them:
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine: Because caffeine and alcohol stimulate blood flow, switching to herbal teas and non-alcoholic beverages will help you control your temperature.
Sleep with a fan next to your bed: By keeping the bedroom cool, you’re helping your body stay below a certain temperature, and hopefully, alleviate hot flushes during the night.
Avoid eating simple carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, white rice, or even dishes like pizza are best avoided until your symptoms subside. Instead, stick to whole-grain foods and make sure you eat plenty of protein and fiber.
Avoid spicy foods: Because spicy foods contain capsaicin, which naturally generates heat when ingested, it will increase your blood flow and make your night sweats worse. Try to avoid dishes containing curry, chili peppers, and paprika.
Leave an interval of two or three hours before going to bed: This is a good way of keeping your digestive system healthy and help your body stay cool while you sleep.
Keep your body temperature low before bed: The best way to do this is by taking a cold shower, wearing light cotton clothes, and avoiding hot beverages just before you go to sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does anorexia cause night sweats?
Night sweats are a common symptom in people recovering from anorexia. This is due to an increase in your metabolism. Usually, night sweats only last a few weeks.
How long is Hypermetabolism anorexia?
The hyperbolic period usually lasts between 3 and 6 months after the refeeding process. This is the period during which you increase your calorie intake to gain weight.
Why do I sweat after binge-eating?
When you eat too much food, your gut receives an increase in blood flow to help digestion. As a result, your heart rate goes up, your temperature rises, and you might start sweating.
What heart rate do anorexics have?
People suffering from anorexia tend to have a heart rate of 40 beats per minute. This is called Bradycardia and can have side effects like fatigue, dizziness, and low energy.
Is bradycardia a symptom of anorexia?
Bradycardia is a common symptom of anorexia. This is caused by a heart rate below 50 beats per minute and low blood pressure, which are both side effects of anorexia. Bradycardia is caused by your body’s attempt to sustain enough energy to support itself.
As we’ve discussed in this article, an eating disorder is a very serious psychological and physical condition. It can influence every aspect of your behavior, and in some cases, even cost your life.
This is why seeing a doctor is crucial for your well-being or that of your loved one.
Recovery is a tough path to take, and your physical and mental health will suffer before it gets better. Unfortunately, night sweats are just a part of that journey.
Luckily, by putting the steps we discussed above into practice, you can help your body manage its temperature. And get a good night’s sleep without any interruption.
By keeping your bedroom cool, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, spicy foods, and hot drinks before bed, you can help reduce the risk of night sweats and keep getting better.
Just remember that you are not alone in this. Many people out there know exactly how you feel and know what you are going through.
Forcing yourself to stay in touch with friends and family helps. And perhaps joining a focus group could be incredibly beneficial.
Full recovery is possible; you just need to take it one step at a time.