First of all: Night sweats in eating disorder recovery are pretty common and normal. There is nothing wrong with you – even when waking up in the middle of the night, being soaked in your own sweat, not being able to fall asleep again, when you´re having a day full of food choices ahead of you, is absolutely NO fun.
The good news are: Night sweats are temporary. One day you´ll be able to go to bed, just like a normal person again. Staying over at other people´s house won´t end in an embarrassing event for the rest of your life!
So, let´s talk about all of that. Especially why it´s happening!
Symptoms of night sweats
Something, that might be very obvious for most people: Sweating is your bodies way of temperature regulation.
Common symptoms of night sweats:
- a sudden rush of eat to your head
- rising body temperature
- repeated episodes of extreme perspiration
- waking up in the middle of the time multiple times a night
- red, puffy skin
- maybe even have to change your clothes and bedsheets.
Usually the night sweats will decrease over time itself. In recovery it might last just a few days, some experience over three to six months. However, if they last longer, you should see a doctor, as more medical conditions can be the underlying issue.
What causes sweating in general?
Any changes in your body or environment can affect your biochemistry. When blood vessels expand (due to increasing temperature), the blood flow increases, which makes your blood vessels contract again. As a result, you experience a sudden rise in temperature (due to the increased blood flow), accompanied by accelerated heartbeat and sweating. Your increased body temperature and the colder temperature of your environment might even lead to cold chills.
How eating disorders can cause night sweats
Disordered eating habits have an effect on your body functions, how it operates. And surprise: It especially disrupts your digestive system to function properly. Malnutrition also causes imbalances of your hormonal system, which regulates your sleep, metabolism rate, stress and anxiety.
Whilst your body is fighting to keep you alive, it shuts down other less life-sustaining functions, like the production of estrogen (in woman) or testosterone (in men), which helps in regulating your bodies temperature and metabolic rate.
Now that your changing your diet and probably also increasing your caloric intake, your weakened metabolism is slowly adapting to your recovery diet. A higher caloric intake in eating disorder recovery is really necessary to heal all the damages your eating disorder caused on your body. But it might happen, that your body first doesn´t know, how to handle the excess energy, which can lead to a rise in body temperature and excessive night sweating. Also the increased blood flow, which helps your digestion might increase your temperature as your heart rate goes up. (the same counts for when you´re having a binge episode)
How hormones impact your eating habits and metabolism, I am also addressing in this blog post: Extreme hunger
Eating less is not the solution for it
Eating less also means sustaining your obsessive food thoughts. Eating less means not giving your body all the nutrients it needs. Eating less means keeping your metabolic rate low.
Eating more and enduring the night sweats for a few weeks, means recovering from your eating disorder fully, repairing your hormonal system, and having a higher metabolic rate in general. Night sweats are temporary, and even when they are extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable, don´t let them be your reason to give up. And there are even a few things you can do to make them more endurable.
A video you might want to watch about healing your metabolism when recovering from an eating disorder.
Tips to deal with night sweats
- avoid caffeine and alcohol as these stimulate your blood flow
- sleep with a fan next to your bed or open windows.
- sleep in underwear or no clothes at all
- choosing whole grain options over simple carbohydrates
- be careful with spices that generate heat (curry, chilli peppers, paprika)
- eat two to three hours before bed
- lower your body temperature before bed: cold shower, light cotton clothes, cold beverages
And most of all: Always remember, that night sweats and your metabolic adjustment to your new diet are temporary. Eating disorder recovery is possible!
The only way out is through!