Sweat can feel like a sticky nuisance, but it is often a healthy sign that the body is working hard to regulate body temperature. However, if you are waking up every night drenched in sweat, soaking your sheets and pajamas, it may be worth investigating underlying causes. Let us dive into frequently asked questions on night sweats – you just might find the perspiration revelation you’ve been looking for! 

Night Sweats FAQs 

Is it normal to sweat during sleep?  

There is a difference between night sweats and sweating at night. It is normal for people to occasionally sweat during sleep, especially if their bedroom is too hot or their blankets too heavy. This sweating is from overheating and is generally mild and usually unrelated to a medical condition. This type of sweating is different from night sweats, which tend to be more frequent and intense. 

What exactly are night sweats? 

Night sweats entail excessive sweating during sleep; repeated, ongoing instances of extreme perspiration that can drench bedding and clothes. Night sweats may be an indicator of an underlying medical condition. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Night sweats occur when blood vessels expand, causing increased blood flow, and then contract. This causes a sudden wave of heat that spreads throughout the body, followed by sweating, reddening of the skin, and rapid heartbeat. Often, the night sweat is followed by a cold chill.”

When should I see a doctor about my night sweats? 

Are your night sweats a cause for concern? It may feel like an uncomfortable topic to broach, but if you are experiencing frequent, persistent night sweats which are affecting your sleep quality, or if your night sweats are accompanied by other symptoms- consult with a medical professional. They can help investigate the cause of your night sweats and help create a tailored treatment plan for you.  

What causes night sweats? 

Everybody is unique, shaped by their genetic chemistry and personal experiences, resulting in the causes of night sweats varying for each individual. Only a doctor can determine the true root of your night sweats, but there are a handful of common causes that appear frequently: 

Menopause 

Women going through menopause experience significant changes to their estrogen and progesterone levels (influential hormones), which leads to one of menopause’s most common symptoms: hot flashes. Menopause night sweats and hot flashes come on suddenly, making you feel intensely flushed and overheated. They typically last for a few minutes and can appear many times throughout the day, even when you’re sleeping.  

Menopause night sweats, hot flashes, and other menopausal symptoms can interrupt a woman’s sleep for years. 26 % of menopausal women experience severe sleep-disrupting symptoms that impact daytime functioning.  

Medications 

Some medications list night sweats as a known side effect, including select antidepressants, hormone treatments, and diabetes medications. Caffeine, alcohol, and drug use can also cause spikes in body temperature, thus increasing the likelihood of night sweats.  

Infections 

When our body is fighting an infection, we often develop a fever and feel overheated, which can trigger night sweats. Night sweats are commonly noted as symptoms of tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as bacterial and fungal infections.   

Stress and anxiety 

Similar to how they can cause sweating during the day, stress and anxiety can lead to night sweats, especially in people who regularly experience night terrors or panic disorders.  

Hormonal changes 

Hormone imbalances and changes to the endocrine system may lead to night sweats. This can include pheochromocytoma, a hormone-secreting tumor that occurs in adrenal glands; carcinoid syndrome, which is when a tumor produces excessive amounts of serotonin in someone with liver metastasis; and hyperthyroidism, which is an overproduction of the thyroxine hormone by the thyroid. 

Other potential causes 

The list of other possible causes of night sweats is a long one. A few examples include untreated sleep apnea which has been associated with nocturnal sweating; Hyperhidrosis – a harmless condition that makes you sweat excessively; Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) which causes heartburn and indigestion; or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which could be a culprit. Always speak to a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

How can I treat or alleviate my night sweats? 

Treatment for night sweats must be personalized to be truly effective, but popular methods include: 

  • A change in your sleeping environment. Ensure you are keeping your room cool since warmer temperatures can trigger night sweats. Wearing loose clothing that will not trap heat, drinking cold water before bed, and sleeping with lighter bedding can also help. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  A form of talk therapy most commonly used to treat depression, CBT has the potential to reduce the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats in menopausal women.  
  • Medications. If your night sweats are a side effect of your medication, alternative medication or dosage options may alleviate your night sweats. Additionally, medications, hormone therapies, and supplements for menopausal women can reduce night sweats. Talk to your doctor about which treatment plan is right for you. 
  • Meditation: If stress and anxiety are causing your night sweats, meditating before bed can help ease your mind and relax your body, potentially easing night sweats.

If you believe your night sweats could be tied to a medical condition, alleviating your night sweats will go hand-in-hand with properly treating your condition. Seek counsel from a medical professional. As common as night sweats are, they are also irritating, unpleasant, and could be your body’s way of telling you something. Listen carefully and try to stay cool.