Night sweats are defined as drenching sweats that require you to change your bedclothes (1). Excessive sweating in babies can affect their sleep. Although it might worry you to see your baby sweating in sleep, it’s not always a sign of a medical condition.
Read this post to learn about the causes and treatment for babies sweating at night and know when to consult a doctor.
Is Night Sweat In Babies Normal?
A baby sweating at night is not always a cause for concern. Various reasons cause nocturnal sweating, and not all of them indicate a problem. Consult a pediatrician in the case of sudden onset of heavy sweating that continues for a prolonged period and is accompanied by other symptoms of an illness.
Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS, a Greater Boston-based medical expert, explains, “Night sweats are typically divided into primary (regular sweating that happens during deep sleep or when it’s warm in the room) and secondary (sweating caused by health issues such as fever).”
Why Do Babies Sweat While Sleeping?
The following are a few reasons that might cause sweating in babies at night.
- Crying: Excess crying can make a baby tired and exhausted, and it might lead to sweating. This type of sweating usually subsides once the baby stops crying.
- Position: Very young babies cannot move by themselves and might be in the same position for a few hours. In such a scenario, the baby might feel warm and sweat more.
- High room temperature: High room temperature might cause discomfort to the babies, and they might sweat. Sweating is a natural defense mechanism of the body against overheating. The combination of sweating with red skin might indicate overheating of the body (2).
- Too many layers of clothes: Wearing too many layers of clothes or covering the baby with layers of blankets might cause increased body temperature and subsequent sweating. Getting too hot has been linked with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or sudden unexpected death in an infant (SUDI) (3). It is suggested to dress the baby according to the weather and not overdress.
- Deep sleep: Babies often sweat in the phase of deep sleep sweat. It is usually not a cause of concern.
- Location of sweat glands: It is common to see sweating on the baby’s head while they are asleep. Unlike adults, babies have most of their sweat glands located on their heads. The sweat glands develop first on the scalp and then the forehead. Sweat glands of palms, soles, and armpits develop later. Hence, babies tend to have the droplets of sweat the forehead and scalp (4).
- Fever: Babies with fever often exhibit sweating at night. They might develop a fever during an episode of cold or infection (5).
- Medicines: Medicines like acetaminophen that are given to babies to reduce the fever, might also cause sweating.
- Infant sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is seen in one to three percent of children. Symptoms include snoring, difficulty in breathing during sleep, or mouth-breathing during sleep. Sweating is often seen in babies with sleep apnea (6).
- Hyperhidrosis: Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by excessive sweating. The exact cause of hyperhidrosis has not been identified, and the condition might be localized to a part of the body (7).
- Congenital heart disease(CHD): Sweating often increases in babies with CHD, especially those with a higher tendency towards congenital heart failure(CHF) (8). Sweating and excessive crying are one of the first symptoms of babies with CHF (9).
Discuss with your doctor if you have any doubts regarding the excess sweating in your baby. Observing the baby’s sweating pattern and making some changes might help in bringing down the amount of sweat.
Tips To Deal With Baby’s Sweating While Sleeping
Bringing a few changes to the baby’s surroundings might help in reducing night sweats in babies.
- Room temperature: It is recommended to keep the room temperature between 68 to 72°F (20 to 22°C). Most baby monitors report the temperature of the room, or you can buy a room thermometer. The baby’s room temperature should feel between warm and cool and not hot.
- Comfortable clothing: Dress the baby in comfortable and season-appropriate clothing. Doctors suggest keeping the baby warm like they would be in the womb. Excessive clothing can easily overheat the baby. Choose breathable fabric and comfortable clothing.
- Control crying: Excessive crying can cause sweating. Therefore, it is essential to find and fix the problem that is making the baby cry. It might be hunger, a wet diaper, or a bad dream. Soothe the baby and place them back to sleep. Try moving the baby to another spot for sleep, if possible.
- Hydration: Keep the baby hydrated to compensate for the fluids lost due to sweating.
If the baby continues to be sweaty, then they might have a fever. Do not hesitate to consult a pediatrician as the first line of management.
When To Consult A Doctor For Baby’s Night Sweating?
Making a few changes might usually resolve the sweating problem in babies. However, you should see a doctor soon if the following signs and symptoms occur.
- Your baby has a body temperature higher than 38°C or 100.4°F (10).
- If they snore, gasp for breath, or take long pauses between breathing while sleeping, it might indicate that he/she has obstructive sleep apnea. They might also exhibit difficulty in feeding (6).
- The baby is not gaining weight normally, and especially when sweating happens while the baby tries to feed.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. At what age do babies start sweating?
Some studies note that newborn babies do not usually sweat for about the first two weeks of life (4). They are born with sweat glands, but the glands are not fully developed yet. The sweating usually begins around the end of two weeks, although it may vary depending on the baby.
2. Is sweating a sign of teething?
No, sweating is not related to teething. Sweating might happen due to fever, and many parents believe that there is an association between fever and teething. But research studies show that teething and high fever are not related (11).
Although sweating is a common phenomenon and might be due to common factors, keep an eye out for any concerning signs and symptoms. If you notice your baby sweating in sleep, ensure that they are hydrated, dress them in comfortable clothing, and adjust the temperature of the room. However, if they show signs of high fever, have trouble breathing, or are not achieving developmental milestones at the right age, it is advised that you consult the doctor or the pediatrician immediately and seek medical care.
Infographic: Tips To Deal With Baby’s Sweating While Sleeping
Babies may sweat while sleeping if it is too hot or due to underlying conditions. This can be uncomfortable for them and interfere with their sleep schedule. So if your baby struggles to sleep due to sweat, we present some ways to minimize the chances or prevent the condition. Read on!
2. Room Temperature; Red Nose
3. Williams SM, Taylor BJ and Mitchell EA; Sudden infant death syndrome: insulation from bedding and clothing and its effect modifiers. The National Cot Death Study Group.; U.S. National Library of Medicine
4. K. G. FOSTER, E. N. HEY AND G. KATZ, THE RESPONSE OF THE SWEAT GLANDS OF THE NEW-BORN BABY TO THERMAL STIMULI AND TO INTRADERMAL ACETYLCHOLINE; The Journal of Physiology
5. Lawrence Dall and James F. Stanford, Fever, Chills, and Night Sweats; U.S. National Library of Medicine
6. C. CAROLYN THIEDKE, Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems in Childhood; American Family Physician
7. Hyperhidrosis; Cleveland Clinic
8. Blanche P. Alter, Emily E. Czapek and Richard D. Rowe, SWEATING IN CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE, Official Journal Of The American Academy Of Pediatrics
9. Mukti Sharma et al, Congestive Heart Failure in Infants and Children, U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. EgidioBarbi et al, Fever in Children: Pearls and Pitfalls; U.S. National Library of Medicine
11. Teething; Seattle Children’s Hospital
12. Helping Babies Sleep Safely; CDC
13. When your baby or infant has a fever; Medline Plus