8 Ways to Prevent Night Sweats

Do you ever wake up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night—even if the thermostat is turned low? Try these diabetes-friendly ways to prevent night sweats.

Stephanie Guzowski
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If you’ve ever awakened a few hours after drifting off to sleep, wrapped in damp sheets and dripping with sweat, you know how disruptive it can be to a good night’s rest.

Why might your body’s own thermostat be going haywire? “Night sweats are usually related to hypoglycemia, an episode of low blood sugar,” says L.A.-based diabetes educator Lori Zanini, RD. “Other signs of nighttime hypoglycemia include waking up with a headache and having nightmares,” both caused by fitful sleep.

A variety of circumstances can throw your blood sugar off balance, from injecting the incorrect amount of insulin to eating or exercising differently than usual. “Focus on preventing your nighttime lows, rather than reacting to the symptoms caused by the lows,” says Zanini. Here’s how:

Eat a bedtime snack. “A protein-rich snack is absorbed and processed by the liver slowly enough to ensure blood sugar remains stable throughout the night,” says Zanini. Opt for one that contains at least 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates and one to two ounces of protein. Some ideas include:

  • ¾ cup of blueberries and ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • Slice of whole-wheat, high-fiber toast with 1 to 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • One or two servings of string cheese

Ask yourself: Have I been more active today? If the answer is “yes,” be sure to adjust for the extra physical activity by snacking or taking less blood sugar-lowering medication to compensate for burning extra sugar.

Avoid late-night drinking. Consuming alcohol in the evening can put you at risk for low blood sugar, since your liver is busy clearing the alcohol from your blood, instead of producing glucose.

If you choose to drink alcohol (one-glass maximum for women and two for men per day, according to the American Diabetes Association) check your blood sugar before going to bed to make sure it’s at a safe level—between 100 and 140 mg/dL. If your blood sugar’s low, eat a snack to raise it.

Remember to always check blood sugar at bedtime. Knowing what your blood sugar is before dozing off puts you in the position to prevent a potential low by injecting insulin or eating a snack to raise blood sugar levels.

Every so often, test your blood sugar at 3 am. Monitoring during the middle of the night can let you know what’s happening—and that information can help you make changes in your routine. For instance, you may notice a pattern between your nighttime lows and exercising too close to bedtime, which can lower blood sugar.

Adjust your insulin regimen. Speak with your healthcare team to see if switching from longer-acting insulin to rapid-acting insulin with dinner or at nighttime may help you control your blood sugar more effectively. Rapid-acting insulin begins working within 15 minutes and stops lowering blood glucose after three to five hours. Keep in mind: Taking too much rapid-acting insulin to cover bedtime snacks causes low blood sugar hours later when you’re asleep.

Consider a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). This device “reads” your blood sugar levels throughout the day and night, giving you a window into your blood sugar patterns. What’s more, you can set an alarm to sound if blood sugar goes too high or low, so you’ll know you need to treat. Ask your healthcare professional if a CGM is right for you.

Be prepared, just in case. Keep a glucose monitor and fast-acting glucose, such as glucose tablets, gel or juice (remove wrappers and loosen caps ahead of time!) nearby on your nightstand. “If you experience hypoglycemia, despite taking precautions,” says Zanini. “The best you can do is make treating a nighttime low as easy as possible.”

May 2014