What It Means When You Wake Up With Smelly Armpits

Your nighttime routine is rejuvenating. The day's stressors are behind you, you take a nice long shower, moisturize your skin, put on your favorite pair of pajamas, and slip under the covers. You would think that you'd wake up the next morning feeling all peachy and fragrant but then you catch a whiff of your armpits — smelly. What gives?

Welcome to uncovering one of the things you never realized was making you smell bad — your elevated body temperature at night caused by your sleeping environment, according to the director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Dr. Albert Wu (via The Healthy). Sweat itself is odorless, but when the bacteria on your skin interact with the perspiration caused by a warm bedroom or too much bedding, you might wake up with smelly armpits, Dr. Wu noted. It is not uncommon to experience varying body temperatures at night but when you sweat as a result of it, you will notice the signs in the morning. 

It's important to note that there are non-serious reasons why you might sweat a little more at night and then there are night sweats, more serious reasons why you might sweat through your night clothes. Let's take a look at more non-serious reasons why you might have the unpleasant morning surprise of smelly underarms. 

You were stressed when you went to bed or had too many glasses of wine

It's not just an overheated bedroom, those weighted blankets, unbreathable mattresses, or long-sleeved pajamas that could be causing smelly armpits. Stress can be the culprit too, according to neurologist and sleep medicine expert at Houston Methodist, Dr. Aarthi Ram. Overthinking the day's worries or getting anxious over a work deadline the next day can all be reasons for your mind to get worked up before you head to bed and an overactive mind means a sweaty body too, per Dr. Ram. 

Another thing that can elevate your body temperature at night is alcohol — more specifically having some before bedtime, according to the neurologist. "Alcohol relaxes the airways, which can make breathing harder. In addition, it also acts as a stimulant in that it leads to increased heart rate. Both of these can increase your body temperature," Dr. Ram explained. Eating spicy food for dinner and exercising before you head to bed can also cause your body temperature to rise at night, per the American Osteopathic Association

Smelly underarms might also just mean that you have poor personal hygiene. If you think any one of these explanations could be the reason why you smell in the morning, start by having a shower before you go to sleep and making sure your sleep environment is cool. Try meditation or reading exercises and avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and exercising too close to bedtime. 

More serious reasons you might be waking up with body odor

There might be surprising things your body odor is trying to tell you — one of which is that the medications you're taking are causing smelly underarms. As explained by Dr. Aarthi Ram, per Houston Methodist, antidepressants, hormone therapy pills, hypertension, and hypoglycemia medications can also cause you to perspire during the night.

Speaking of hypoglycemia, that is one underlying condition that can cause night sweats too. Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar levels are lower than what they're supposed to be, and you may experience the side effects of this at night — one of which is sweating. Other health conditions that cause night sweats include acid reflux, infections, tuberculosis, diabetes, lymphoma and other cancers, sweating disorders like hyperhidrosis, and hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, it's an overactive thyroid gland that can lead to night sweats. Menopause and mental health conditions like depression can cause you to perspire too. 

Smelly armpits when you wake up is one thing but waking up drenched in sweat regularly is a whole other story, per osteopathic internal medicine specialist from Wheaton, Illinois, Dr. Laura M. Rosch (via American Osteopathic Association). If you feel like something more serious is causing your nighttime perspiring, it won't hurt to see a doctor about it. Getting to the root of the problem is the first step to finding relief from this unpleasant symptom.