Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects your spine. And when it comes to sleep and AS, the struggle is real.
In addition to causing back pain and stiffness, AS can also lead to sleep disturbances. Falling asleep, and staying asleep, may feel like a climb Mount Everest-level feat.
To make matters even less fun, according to the Arthritis Society, you might also wake up with soaked sheets from night sweats. Here, we take a look at the connection between AS and night sweats and offer tips for staying dry and getting a better night’s snooze.
Ugh, night sweats. Let’s first acknowledge how annoying they are. You wake up soaked, sometimes with chills because your body has cooled itself down. Meanwhile, you’re lying in a wet mess of pajamas and sheets.
BJC Health reports, according to Dr. Irwin Lim and a person living with AS, that the dreaded night sweats are a symptom of the condition. But what’s the connection between AS and waking up clammy?
Having an autoimmune condition like AS can simply cause night sweats. According to the Spondylitis Association of America fever can also be a symptom of AS, and if your body is trying to lower its temperature, you will likely sweat.
Night sweats can also be a side effect of some medications you take for AS or something else. Sleep disruptions can also cause night sweats. Awakening at night feeling achy is also common with AS.
Researchers are still studying the causes of night sweats in general. That said, an old, small 2006 study found a link between night sweats and daytime tiredness and also waking up with pain.
So, AS pain alone may be causing you to wake up drenched — and so could the strain that AS places on you during the day.
Additionally, a 2019 study found a link between AS and a risk for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing.
According to a small 2013 study, night sweats are a common symptom of sleep apnea, especially when it’s left untreated. So, it’s possible that your night sweats could be related to disordered breathing while you sleep.
If you wake feeling like you’re in the middle of a hot yoga class, try to cool yourself down so you can get back to sleep. Keep a glass of water on your nightstand to quickly replenish lost fluids. Place an athletic cooling towel on your neck to chill you out while you head back to dreamland.
If you’re drenched, you may need to change into fresh pajamas or simply strip off the ones you have on and sleep the rest of the night in the nude.
Swapping sheets in the wee hours will add to lost sleep time. Instead, keep a microfiber towel handy to lay between you and the wet area. Or, if possible, simply shift to a dry spot on your bed.
If you wake up with chills after a sweaty sleep session, resist the urge to bundle up with more layers to get back to sleep. This can cause you to overheat again and start a frustrating cycle of interrupted Zzz’s. Instead, take steps to get dry, which can warm you up without adding extra heat.
A few tricks may help keep you from waking up a hot (or cold) sweaty mess.
Invest in some new digs for yourself and your bed. Cooling sheets, made from breathable, moisture-wicking materials, as opposed to cotton, can help draw heat away from your body.
Grab some new PJs while you’re at it. Sleeping in an old band T-shirt can trap heat and sweat against your skin and make you wake up feeling like you’ve actually been to a raucous show.
If you have your heat cranked in the winter to keep you cozy, turn down the temperature at night. The ideal temp varies person to person, but experts say setting the thermostat between 60 and 67°F might help you get a better night’s sleep.
In the summer months, temperature control can get a little trickier, unless you’re cranking the AC. If it’s warm, try sleeping with just a sheet over you. You can also opt for a bedroom fan. As an added bonus, the whir can help block out the ambient sound of your roommate’s TV.
Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and spicy foods have all been proven to be triggers for night sweats in different groups of people.
Keep caffeine consumption to the morning hours and booze consumption to a minimum. If you’re planning on curry for dinner, order that takeout early or skip the heat altogether.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, cigarettes can also drive inflammation and exacerbate other AS symptoms. So, if you smoke or vape, ask your doctor about strategies to help you quit.
Some medications can also help with night sweats. If you’re continuing to experience dreamland drenching, talk with your healthcare provider about your options.
The occasional sweaty night is nothing to worry about. But if night sweats continue on the regular even after you’ve made a few of the suggested tweaks above, talk with your healthcare provider.
Although night sweats can be related to AS, they may also indicate that something else is going on.
Hopefully, the above tips and tricks can help prevent you from waking up and feeling like you’ve been in the sauna or gone for a swim.
Sleep is such an important part of managing chronic pain and stress, and you deserve the best rest possible. If you continue having night sweats, don’t hesitate to talk with your doc, who might just have a solution to keep you dry.