I’ve never been a morning person, but dragging myself out of bed has gotten harder in recent years thanks to a fun new factor: night sweats. For the blissfully unfamiliar, let me tell you: it feels incredibly unpleasant to wake up clammy with chalk-outline-at-a-murder-scene type of sweat marks on your bed sheets.
Night sweats are often associated with middle-aged women going through menopause and while that’s a reality—an average of 27 million women experience menopause each year, and for 80%, the hormonal shift is symptomatic, per the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ 2016 findings—for many other women, myself included, they can be caused by a vast range of triggers. These include standard pain relievers, blood pressure medications, thyroid conditions, autoimmune diseases, the flu, alcohol, spicy foods, anxiety, your cycle—the list goes on. And, like so many afflictions that affect mostly women, we just aren’t talking about it. “Some studies suggest that although nighttime sweating can have a significant negative impact on sleep quality, and quality of life, it’s often under-reported to care providers,” says Dr. Katherine Revelle, MD, a psychiatrist based in New England.
Prescription meds for anxiety and depression—and, often, the anxiety itself—can cause night sweats as well, says Dr. Revelle. “Stress and anxiety leave us in a prolonged ‘fight or flight’ state, telling our nervous system to stay vigilant, including our sweat glands,” she explains. “Night sweats are a common side effect of anxiety disorders, as well as the medications used to treat them: Roughly 10% of patients taking SSRI’s, the most common class of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, experience night sweats.”
I’m probably among that minority of people taking SSRIs that deals with this particular side effect, though the effectiveness of the meds for helping manage and improve my anxiety and depression is valuable enough for me to continue taking them, but weighing the pros and cons is a personal choice. I’m willing to deal with the night sweats but I’ve taken to seeking out remedies that might make them less intense—including testing out the several sleepwear brands that promise to stop moisture in its tracks.
I wondered if certain fabrics, brands, or sleepwear silhouettes really help ultra-sweaty sleepers regulate body temperature and reduce perspiration. Are these just glorified loungewear made from fancy-sounding fibers or do they actually make a difference? Let’s find out.
Lara Smith, founder and CEO of Lusomé, a Canada-based sleepwear brand for night sweats, was inspired to launch the brand in 2014 because of her sister’s fraught sleep due to excessive sweating from chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Smith spent two years working on the technology with a premium fabric mill famous for textile innovation for high-end technical sports brands. There are cozy, modest styles like piped tops and sleepshirts as well as saucier, lace- and mesh-trimmed options (strappy minidresses, tanks, and V necks). Now with over 35 styles available, its five core styles remain most popular, like its bestselling Donna PJ set. Those pants are one of my go-to’s because they have an ultra-comfortable fit, with a soft, wide elastic waistband and billowy wide legs. While I love how the matching top looks, the buttons tend to come undone while sleeping (or even just lounging around awake). So, if you’re on the bustier side, I suggest sticking to the brand’s pants and nighties, like a curve-skimming, 3/4 -sleeved, lace-trimmed, knee-length style that’s surprisingly sexy despite being so covered-up.
As for the science behind the sweat-free snoozing experience? “Our technology starts at the fiber stage with a very unique knitting technique, which causes a pull-push reaction, and as soon as moisture hits our fabric, there is a rapid pull-away from the skin surface through to the top of the fabric, where it is pushed away from the fabric into the air,” Smith explains.
This brand’s BambooDreams sleepwear collection is slightly more affordable than Lusomé. While some styles are similar—classic piped sets and shirt dresses, plus nightgowns with various lengths and sleeve options—Yala’s aesthetic is a bit more basic and functional. While Yala doesn’t have a proprietary material like Lusomé, the sustainability-focused brand’s sleepwear is made of a fiber known for its breathability and moisture-wicking properties: organic, sustainable bamboo which is transformed into viscose via a closed-loop process. “Viscose from bamboo is a naturally flowing fabric ideal for creating flattering, comfortable garments that move with you,” according to a rep for the brand. “It is soft, thin, and breathable. Unlike cotton, bamboo wicks moisture away from the body for comfort throughout the night.” How does it feel? Slinky and super-soft, with much more stretch than Lusome pieces, but also more sheerness. (Aka, you’ll want to throw on a robe or hoodie over Yala PJs before answering the door for your Seamless delivery to cover up nip exposure.) I also like the looser cut through the arms and hips of Yala’s nightgowns versus Lusome’s, comfier for both vegging for a Netflix binge and sleeping in.
A niche loungewear brand that’s definitely worth a try for sweaty sleeper is Saint Haven. While designed for those with ultra-sensitive skin, particularly eczema, the proprietary material is extremely soft, thin, and breathable, and helps minimize sweating while sleeping for me while also being a godsend for soothing my fickle, severe eczema (which, for me, worsens with perspiration, and at night). Many of Saint Haven’s designs are intended to be snug, though a couple styles, like the relaxed pant and T-shirt dress, have a looser, body-skimming fit. The mesh detailing, which trims the necklines, sleeves, and hems and pops up as a cool waistband inset on those pants, is a stylish detail that’s not as itchy or irritating as lace—and gets bonus points for providing a little extra airflow for sweaty slumbering. Initially, I worried the paper-thin material would wear out quickly and get beat up when laundered (I’m really not a hand-wash-only type of girl, especially for items that tend to get sweaty), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how they’ve held up. Air-drying is ideal, though I honestly have forgotten to do so on a number laundry days, and the dryer hasn’t completely wreaked havoc, thankfully.
This hip loungewear label is perhaps best known for their slinky, stylish, machine washable silk PJs, and though I haven’t splurged on those (yet), their Cool Pima collection is most of interest for us sweaty slumbers. The Cool Pima pieces are enticingly billed as “like sleeping with an ocean breeze, a fan, and having someone else do your laundry — all in one.” I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of their muscle tee, which I’d call a tank top as sleepwear, workout garb, and versatile travel item. The insets under the pits add a subtle yet interesting design detail, and the higher neckline helps soak up neck sweat, which I find particularly pesky, whether working out or sleeping. There are matching shorts, too, though I personally find pants or nightgowns to be the most comfortable—the former can absorb any sleep sweat instead of my thighs or calves grossly sticking together, while the latter allows for max airflow—plus, Lunya’s shorts run too snug for my wider hips, resulting in a waistband annoyingly rides up and a pesky mid-slumber wedgie. I haven’t test-driven Lunya’s Cool Pima dress yet, but it’s next on my list of sweat-conquering PJs to try.
More options for sweaty sleepers
Other labels in the space include Cool Jams, Sleepytime, and Fishers Finery.
Sleep is a $70 billion industry—we throw our money at a dreamier night’s rest, promise ourselves we’ll prioritize it, and then gripe when we’re still, inevitably, so tired. Despite our collective obsession with sleep, we seem totally unable to get more of it. In fact, we’re clocking fewer hours than ever. So this month, we’re taking a look at what’s getting in the way—and what to do about it.