Though admittedly unpleasant, sweating is just your body’s way of cooling you down. To do this, your brain’s temperature control system (called the hypothalamus) first activates your sweat glands to produce sweat. Once the sweat evaporates from your skin, it then releases heat energy, which, in turn, cools your body down.
You can sweat at any time of day for any reason, but if you find yourself waking up sweating and are not sure why, then you may be suffering from night sweats.
Let’s take a look at what night sweats are, possible night sweat causes, and how to manage them down below. At the end, you’ll be better equipped for handling or preventing this condition.
- 1 What Are Night Sweats?
- 2 Causes of Night Sweats
- 3 When to Be Concerned About Night Sweats
- 4 How to Stop Night Sweats
- 5 How to Manage Night Sweats
- 6 Conclusion
What Are Night Sweats?
Night sweats, also known as sleep hyperhidrosis, is a condition where you find yourself excessively sweating while sleeping, or waking up only to find your sheets drenched in your perspiration.
True night sweats differ from waking up sweaty due to using heavy blankets or sleeping in a stuffy room. This condition is not caused by your environment, but some underlying medical condition that you have.
Causes of Night Sweats
Certain medications, such as antidepressants, hormones, diabetes medications, pain relievers, steroids, and (ironically) fever reducers like aspirin or acetaminophen, may cause night sweats.
Some commonly prescribed medications associated with night sweats include:
- Naproxen sodium.
- Nicotine replacement.
You should always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any possible side effects your medications could bring, so as to prevent night sweats from occurring.
However, if you’ve already experienced night sweats for more than a few weeks, be sure you talk to your doctor about it, so they can adjust your prescription.
Alternatively, if you abuse drugs such as alcohol or heroin, then such abuse may be causing your night sweats instead.
Infections can cause fevers, which, in turn, may cause night sweats. Certain infections are more likely to cause your night sweats over other types. The most common of these include:
- Bacterial infections like endocarditis (which is the inflammation of the heart valves) and osteomyelitis (which is inflammation within the bones).
- Human immunodeficiency virus (more commonly referred to as HIV).
If you’ve had a fever for the past few days (or even weeks) that has caused you to sweat throughout the night, talk to your doctor, so they can see if your night sweats are indeed caused by an infection.
Hormone conditions, such as pheochromocytoma, carcinoid syndrome, and hyperthyroidism, may cause night sweats.
This is because your brain’s hypothalamus doubles as both your body’s temperature regulator and the part of your brain that releases and inhibits your hormones. Imbalanced hormones can be a sign that something is wrong with your hypothalamus, resulting in a failure to maintain the appropriate body temperature.
Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy to relieve your symptoms.
Night sweats in women are one of the most common signs that they are undergoing either perimenopause or menopause proper. These are periods in a woman’s later life where they produce less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in their ovaries. They may also find that their menstrual periods become irregular or will stop altogether.
Perimenopause is more of a transition step between normal periods and menopause. It will usually occur between the ages 40 to 50.
You’ll know if you’ve reached menopause when you have not had your period for at least 12 months in a row. The average age for menopause is 51.
This sudden, dramatic decrease in estrogen production creates an imbalance of hormones within an older woman’s body, which can lead to hot flashes and night sweats.
It may help to keep your bedroom cool and well-ventilated, and to avoid alcohol before bed. Furthermore, ask your doctor about temporarily undergoing hormone replacement therapy until your body becomes more settled.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause night sweats. People who take insulin or oral anti-diabetic medications to combat that may find themselves sweating throughout the night.
Neurological conditions, such as autonomic dysreflexia, post-traumatic syringomyelia, stroke, and autonomic neuropathy, may cause night sweats – though this is typically uncommon.
Night sweats can even be an early symptom of some cancer types, with lymphoma and leukemia being the most common. However, cancer is rarely diagnosed from night sweats alone. Patients with undiagnosed cancer may show other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and fevers.
Idiopathic hyperhidrosis, otherwise known as chronic sweating, is a condition in which your body simply produces too much sweat without any identifiable environmental or medical cause.
If you often deal with high stress situations or you suffer from anxiety, then you are more prone to sweating during the day. This stress-induced sweat can often carry over into the night hours as well.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and hyperthyroidism may also cause night sweats. Be sure to check with your doctor and see if these conditions may be affecting you.
What Causes Night Sweats In Men?
Some men claim that their night sweats are due to a phenomenon they dub “manopause”, which is basically male menopause.
They speculate that they do not produce as much testosterone in their later years as they did before, though there is actually little evidence that proves this phenomenon exists.
More likely, their night sweats are due to at least one of causes listed above (outside of menopause, of course).
When to Be Concerned About Night Sweats
While night sweats might seem relatively harmless, they can be the symptom of a more serious (perhaps even life-threatening) disease or infection. Therefore, it is crucial for you to consider your symptoms and make a decision: Are these night sweats due to an overly warm bedroom or too many covers on your bed? Or is it worth seeing the doctor?
You will know if your night sweats are serious when they occur on a regular basis, despite your efforts to cool your bedroom down. Other worrisome signs include the sweats interrupting your sleep, being accompanied by a high fever, or coinciding with troubling things like unexplained weight loss.
How to Stop Night Sweats
Typically, your doctor will take a thorough look at your medical history, and may order several laboratory and radiographic studies on top of a physical examination.
If they still cannot grasp a proper diagnosis from these tests, they may also order a purified protein derivative, complete blood count, human immunodeficiency virus test, thyroid-stimulating hormone test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate evaluation, chest radiograph, and possibly even chest and abdominal computed tomographic scans and a bone marrow biopsy.
These tests can be conducted by internists, family practice specialists, gynecologists, or other specialists, including endocrinologists, neurologists, infectious disease specialists, or oncologists, depending on the underlying condition accompanied by these night sweats.
Once your doctor figures out the cause of your night sweats, they will then treat that underlying condition, rather than the night sweats themselves.
If your night sweats are a side effect of medications, then discontinuing or changing them may help relieve symptoms.
Your doctor may also suggest an alternative form of therapy in place of taking medications.
Any infections, hormonal disorders, or other conditions will be treated directly by your doctors, which may then relieve your night sweats.
Your doctor may prescribe hormone therapy if you have reached menopause. This may mean taking estrogen either alone or along with progestin. The therapy can also help relieve other menopause symptoms, including bone loss and vaginal dryness.
Keep in mind that estrogen replacement therapy is not recommended for women with a history of breast cancer. This therapy does pose some risks, including blood clots and gallbladder inflammation.
If you do not want to undergo hormone therapy, then your doctor may prescribe medications such as:
- Megestrol (which is also used to treat breast and uterine cancers).
- Clonidine (which is also used to treat high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, anxiety, and other similar conditions).
Night sweats will fortunately improve once menopause is complete.
If you do not wish to take any medications to treat this condition, however, feel free to follow the non-medicated solutions down below.
How to Manage Night Sweats
Sometimes night sweats are unavoidable, even with treatment. Therefore, it helps to know how to reduce your symptoms throughout the night as much as possible.
It is best to avoid certain triggers that can elicit hot flashes and night sweats, including:
- Smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke.
- Wearing tight, restrictive sleepwear.
- Drinking alcohol and/or caffeine before bed.
- Eating spicy foods.
- Using heavy blankets or sheets on your bed.
- Sleeping in a warm room.
Create a Quality Sleep Environment
It will also help to develop a comfortably cool sleeping environment. This can mean:
- Following a calming routine before bedtime to reduce any residual stress from the day, such as performing deep breathing or other relaxation exercises.
- Wearing layers of loose-fitted, light, or cotton pajamas while sleeping, which can be easily removed in the night to adjust your body temperature.
- Stacking layers of thin blankets or sheets onto your bed and removing them throughout the night as you see fit.
- Using a bedside fan or opening your windows.
- Turning your thermostat down before you go to bed.
- Using cooling sprays and cooling gels on yourself.
- Using cooling pillows or turning your pillows often to rest your head on a cool surface.
- Keeping a cold pack under your pillow or even within the pillowcase while resting on it.
- Sipping cool water that you keep on your bedside table throughout the night.
Performing certain activities during the day may also help reduce symptoms. This can include:
- Exercising during the day (walking, swimming, dancing, and bicycling are all great workouts).
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Adding more natural foods and supplements to your diet.
This last one is especially important for reducing night sweats and hot flashes, as well as improving your overall health.
Research is mixed about how effective certain supplements really are in treating hot flashes and night sweats in women in particular. However, some women find that taking them does relieve some of their symptoms.
Consuming black cohosh supplement capsules or black cohosh food-grade oil may be an appropriate short-term treatment for your hot flashes and night sweats, though taking it may induce other issues such as digestive distress, abnormal bleeding, or blood clots. You should avoid these taking these supplements altogether if you have a liver problem.
Ingesting evening primrose supplement capsules or evening primrose food-grade oil may help relieve hot flashes, though they may also cause nausea and diarrhea. Your doctor may advise against you taking these if you already take certain medications, such as blood thinners.
Eating flax seeds or taking flaxseed supplement capsules or flaxseed oil (also called linseed oil) may also reduce hot flashes.
Choosing to eat certain foods may help relieve your symptoms, too. For instance, you can eat one to two servings of soy a day to decrease the frequency and intensity of your hot flashes.
Check with Your Doctor
It is always a good idea to consult your doctor about prescription therapies or over-the-counter (or OTC, for short) supplements beforehand, as these products may have significant side effects that could interfere with the potency or overall effectiveness of your other medications.
Night sweats can feel pretty gross to deal with (especially during the morning after), but they are typically easy to manage. Creating a nice, cool bedroom environment and avoiding certain triggers before bed can ease your symptoms.
However, if you suspect that your night sweats are the symptom of a much more dangerous condition, then talk to your doctor as soon as possible.