It’s cold outside, why am I still sweating? My hypothalamus?
Seasonal drops in temperature are a welcome environmental change for people like you and me, those who just “run hot” all day and night. I can distinctly remember overheating at my grandmother’s house one Christmas Eve while everyone was opening presents. I, a 13-year-old at the time, had to step outside and stand in the snow with no coat on to cool down. I had no idea my hypothalamus was to blame.
Clearly, as a 13-year-old I didn’t realize that I would one day start a bedding company for people with night sweats and hot flashes, but I do believe that that is when I became interested in both physical and mental health. Specifically, I was fascinated by the powers of the brain and how this one small organ could respond to and oversee everything that was going in my body. As the founder of Wicked Sheets, I have become particularly fond of the hypothalamus and how it contributes to almost every single one of my customer’s sleeping habits and varying comfort levels.
What is the hypothalamus?
Quick science lesson: The hypothalamus is the part of our brains that is responsible for the production of many of the body’s essential hormones, those chemical substances that help control different cells and organs. The hormones from the hypothalamus govern physiological functions such as temperature regulation (the one we’re most interested in!), thirst, hunger, sleep, mood, sex drive, and the release of other hormones within the body. This area of the brain also houses the pituitary gland and other important glands in the body.
The hypothalamus’ primary function is homeostasis, which is to maintain the body’s status quo system-wide. It uses a “set-point” to regulate the body’s systems, including electrolyte and fluid balance (i.e., sweat production), body temperature, blood pressure, and body weight. It receives inputs from all over the body, then makes the proper changes if anything differentiates from this set-point. The set-point can temporarily change, but remains remarkably fixed from day-to-day.
When talking to our customers, I typically try to explain that sweat production is good. It can certainly be burdensome and cause unnecessary waking, but nonetheless it’s an important function. In times like this, when weather is cooling down and people are still finding themselves waking in a pool of sweat at night, it’s important to remember that your hypothalamus is just doing its job: working as an internal thermostat to maintain homeostatic balance.
Do you think your internal thermostat might be “broken”? For most of our customers, I’d say theirs are on the fritz, but that’s why we exist. Changes in your sleep environment are a good place to start. Removing excess layers on your bed, avoiding the 3 F’s in the bedroom (feathers, fleece, and fur), and investing in temperature regulating sheets, pillows, mattress pads, and even a cool mattress are all going to help you better manage your internal thermostat and sleep more comfortably.
So when it gets cold outside and you still find yourself sweating, take solace in the fact that your body is just doing it’s job. You may just naturally be someone like myself who runs hot regardless of the weather. As always, we do suggest scheduling an appointment with your physician if you believe that your sweating or hot flashes are excessive and interfering with daily functioning. In the meantime, let Wicked Sheets help manage your nighttime routine and keep you cool and dry while you sleep.
Happy Holidays and here’s to your health!