Night Sweats: Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Night Sweats: Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Written by Nectarsleep editorial team

Fact checked

Last Updated on Jun 14, 2022

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    Sweating is a routine occurrence and a central part of our body’s temperature regulation mechanism. Sweating profusely is plausible while you are in a sauna or toiling hard in the gym. But, waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, is a completely different thing. Night sweats can be described as sweating more than what is needed for regulating the body’s temperature at night.

    Night sweats can start while sleeping and without any physical exertion. They aren’t caused by thicker blankets or warmer bedrooms. Instead, other underlying illnesses & hormonal imbalances may be responsible for the excessive sweating in your sleep.

    Night sweats deteriorate sleep quality, affect a bed partner, and cause serious discomfort. As a result of which, it's natural for you to be inquisitive about the causes of night sweats and how they can be prevented.

    What Are Night Sweats?

    Your body perspires to cool itself, and every one of us sweats throughout the day. But, night sweats aren’t just normal sweating during the night, it's an abnormality. Night sweats are episodes of mild to profuse sweating that occur during night hours. The sweating may get so intense that it may drench your clothes and even your bedding. 

    People have described experiences of night sweats as feeling as though they’ve plunged into a pool of water. Night sweats are contingent upon underlying conditions and thus can occur in a comfortably cool room as well.

    If you too experience night sweats, and your bed sheets and pillows become so saturated that it becomes impossible to sleep on them, then you should come in contact with a doctor immediately.

    Are Night Sweat And Hot Flashes Different?

    An abrupt rise in body temperature is called hot flashes. Hot flashes have no fixed time for occurrence and can occur at any time, and whenever they occur during nighttime and trigger heavy perspiration, they are categorized as night sweats.

    In some contexts, night sweats are also known as hot flushes but are different from flushing. Flushing is a reddening of the face and skin due to high blood flow. While night sweats can follow flushing, flushing itself doesn’t cause intense sweating.

    What Causes Night Sweats?

    Night sweats are actually a lot more common than you might think, among both women and men. In a survey, 41 out of 100 people conceded to experiencing night sweats within the previous month or so. Out of these, 23 experienced solely night sweats, whereas 18 suffered from it during both day and night. The condition was more prevalent among the age group of 41 to 55 years. Now, let’s look at the causes of night sweats in detail.

    Menopausal Transition

    The phase of the menopausal transition in women is accompanied by hot flashes that can cause waking up sweating at night. It frequents women who are approaching the menopause stage and can, in fact, predate the actual menopause by some years.

    Endocrine Disorders

    Disorders in the endocrine system affect the hormonal balance of our body which can be associated with sweating or flushing. The hormonal disorders include:

    • Pheochromocytoma, a condition in which the adrenal gland develops a tumor that over secretes hormones called catecholamines) or;
    • Carcinoid syndrome, wherein tumors of the lungs or gastrointestinal system overproduce certain types of hormones and;
    • Lastly, Hyperthyroidism (increased levels of thyroid hormone) is also an abnormality of the endocrine system that can cause night sweats.

    Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis

    It is a condition in which people suffer from chronically excessive perspiration, in otherwise healthy people, without any specific underlying issue. The sweating can be generalized or focal (mainly around the armpits, palms, feet, and face). 

    A large epidemiological survey revealed that out of 150,000 households in the US, focal hyperhidrosis affects 2.8% of the total population. The condition is prevalent in both males and females equally, and its occurrence peaked among individuals aged between 25–64 years.

    Underlying Infections

    Typically, TB or tuberculosis is the most widespread infection related to night sweats. Nevertheless, some bacterial infections mentioned below can also be the reason for the occurrence of night sweats:

    • AIDS (infection with HIV).
    • Abscesses (for instance, tonsils, boils, perianal, appendix, peritonsillar, and diverticulitis).
    • Inflation in infected bones, also known as osteomyelitis.
    • Inflation within the heart valves, also known as endocarditis.

    Antidepressants

    Being on certain medications can also result in night sweats. When a person is not suffering from signs of infection or tumor, then the side effect of a medication can be the chief reason behind night sweats.

    Antidepressants are often accused of causing night sweats. As high as 22% of those who take antidepressants complain of night sweats as a side effect (especially venlafaxine and sertraline). 

    Cancer

    Night sweats are forewarnings of some types of cancers. Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer that can be associated with night sweats. Night sweats can also serve as an early warning of the following types of cancer.

    • Carcinoid tumors
    • Mesothelioma
    • Lymphoma
    • Leukemia
    • Liver cancer
    • Bone cancer

    However, it's still not clear as to why some cancer types cause night sweats. One explanation says that it's due to the body that is trying to fight off cancer. When cancers cause a fever, your body may sweat profusely as it tends to cool down. In other cases, night sweats happen due to cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, hormone-altering drugs, and morphine.

    If cancer is the underlying cause behind your night sweats, then you’re likely to experience other symptoms like fever and unnatural weight loss. Sweating under the influence of fever and other medical conditions results in sweating around the neck and chest at night.

    Other Causes

    Hypoglycemia: When the sugar levels come down, you can experience sweating at night, especially if you are taking medications such as insulin and not eating properly. 

    Lifestyle factors: An individual’s lifestyle can also play a role in night sweats. Some of these include:

    • Have hot beverages just before bedtime.
    • Turning your thermostat too high.
    • Excessive alcohol intake.
    • Eating spicy foods for dinner.
    • An absence of air-conditioning during hot weather.
    • Exercising before going to bed.

    Neurologic conditions: In some rare cases, neurological conditions may result in an unusual increase in the amount of sweating people experience, leading to night sweats and hot flashes. Stroke, dysreflexia, post-traumatic syringomyelia, and autonomic neuropathy are the conditions that cause this.

    Pregnancy: For many ladies, night sweats while pregnant is considered a normal phenomenon. It is a result of the body's journey through the excitement of pregnancy

    Male Hypogonadism: Low levels of testosterone can result in night sweats in men. Around 40% of men, 45 years or greater, have low testosterone levels due to many reasons, and even otherwise, fitter males have a 20% probability of having low levels of testosterone if they are more than 60 years old.

    Symptoms Of Night Sweats

    The symptoms associated with night sweats rely on the underlying condition that’s causing it. Let’s read about some symptoms of the same:

    • Night sweats can occur as a side effect of an existing medication.
    • Fever can be a reason for sudden experiences of shaking and chill while sleeping.
    • Cancers (leukemia and lymphoma) and certain infections.
    • Some women transitioning into menopause also complain of excessive perspiration combined with other signs such as dryness of the vagina, mood swings, and hot flashes during the daytime.
    • Abrupt loss in weight.

    How Are Night Sweats Treated?

    Night sweat treatment is a subjective matter. It may be different for each patient; thus, it must always be treated under the supervision of a practitioner. However, medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and changes in environment and behavior are notable mentions among the possible treatments for the same.

    Medications

    Taking medications for underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism may cause excessive sweating while sleeping. Consider changing your dose timings or replacing the medication altogether to observe a change.

    Sometimes there’s an infection such as tuberculosis or hormonal imbalance, that’s the reason for sweating at night. Taking medicines for the infection or hormonal therapy can help with relieving symptoms. Visiting the doctor is the best resort to know about the pros and cons of treating night sweats with medicines.  

    CBT

    CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a kind of talk therapy used to treat health conditions such as insomnia, depression, or anxiety. Despite several self-directed programs available online, it's best to visit a counselor or psychiatrist in person for the therapy.

    Studies suggest that CBT is quite effective in decreasing the frequency of night sweats and also improves mood and behavior in menopausal women. The compatibility of CBT with other treatments, like behavior modification, increases its effectiveness when combined with the latter.

    Lifestyle Modification

    Lifestyle modifications are a simpler way to treat night sweats. Tiny changes such as reducing intake of caffeine and alcohol, avoiding spicy food, drinking plenty of water, practicing relaxation techniques, and wearing breathable outfits to bed are potential lifestyle modifications that can be tried out.

    When To See A Doctor

    Having night sweats once in a blue moon is usually not a worrisome matter. But do talk to your doctor if you’re having night sweats and related symptoms quite often. These might inter-alia include chills, fever, ache, and unusual decrement in body weight.

    Noting down the frequency, duration, and associated symptoms during the episodes of sweating will help your doctor find the actual cause behind your sweating.

    How To Prevent Night Sweats

    Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of suffering from night sweats. Simpler modifications such as changing eating habits, changing the way you dress, and avoiding harmful substances like intoxicants, can be surprisingly effective in providing relief. Below are some actions you can take that also includes home remedies for night sweats:

    • Have a diet full of phytoestrogens and vitamin E and B12 as they help stabilize the hormonal level.
    • Focusing on low-impact exercises as increased intensity of your exercise can increase night sweats.
    • Sleep in loose, breathable nightwear so that sweating in normal amounts evaporates and doesn't interrupt your sleep.
    • Keep a check on alcohol and caffeine consumption as they have antidiuretic characteristics that reduce the kidney’s water reabsorption abilities.
    • Avoid using tobacco and drugs as excessive consumption of the same may result in night sweats in the form of side effects.
    • Sleep in a cooler setting as it will help your body remain cool and sweat less.
    • Try to maintain your weight as a reduction in weight has proven positive effects on efforts to reduce night sweats. 
    • Avoid spicy foods, especially if you have menopause, as it can worsen your night sweats.

    If you doubt that your night sweats are due to an underlying infection or other ailments, seek immediate medical attention. Ask your doctor for details on your specific condition, its treatment options, and ways to prevent it.

    Night sweats can be frustrating and ruin your sleep. In most cases, they’re not something to worry about. But sometimes, they might occur due to an underlying issue that requires immediate medical attention.

    Your doctor should help reveal the cause of your night sweats and also recommend ways in which you can prevent or eradicate them altogether according to the nature and reason for the problem.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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    1. James W. Mold, MD, MPH, Michelle Roberts, BA, and Hesham M. Aboshady.

      Prevalence and Predictors of Night Sweats, Day Sweats, and Hot Flashes in Older Primary Care Patients: An OKPRN Study

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1466726/

    2. WILLIAM BRIM. Staff Perspective: Night Sweats - About Nocturnal Hyperhidrosis

      https://deploymentpsych.org/blog/staff-perspective-night-sweats-about-nocturnal-hyperhidrosis

    3. Sam NortonJoseph ChilcotMyra S Hunter.

      Cognitive-behavior therapy for menopausal symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats): moderators and mediators of treatment effects

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24149919/

    4. Myra S. Hunter and Joseph Chilcot. 

      Is cognitive behaviour therapy an effective option for women who have troublesome menopausal symptoms?

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8453849/

    5. Alexis K. Matusiewicz, BA,a,b Christopher J. Hopwood, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology,c Annie N. Banducci, BA,a,b and C.W. Lejuez. The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Personality Disorders.

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