Night Sweats:
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Animated Illustration of a Man Covered in Sweat Sitting on the Edge of His Bed

Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only.

Repeated instances of extreme night sweating can be incredibly uncomfortable and create obstacles to quality rest. After a poor night's sleep, most individuals feel moody, tired and experience lower productivity or a lack of concentration. Sleep is not only an essential factor in our health, it’s critical to our daily performance, making treatment paramount for our well-being.

Night sweats could be a side effect of certain medications, and in some circumstances, could be indicative of autoimmune disease, hormonal issues, or even cancer. If your night sweats are related to a severe underlying medical problem, identifying the issue could be life-changing.

Section 1

Night Sweats Vs Hot Flashes

Section 2

How Common Are Night Sweats?

Section 3

Common Causes

Section 4

Home Solutions to Night Sweats

Section 5

Professional Solutions

Section 6

When to See a Doctor

Section 1

Night Sweats Vs Hot Flashes

Section 2

How Common Are Night Sweats?

Section 3

Common Causes

Section 4

Home Solutions to Night Sweats

Section 5

Professional Solutions

Section 6

When to see a doctor

Night Sweats Vs Hot Flashes

Night sweats occur when we get too hot, and the blood vessels in our skin expand to increase blood flow to release heat. The body then transfers this energy from our bodies to the environment[1] through sweat, which is then released and evaporated.

Hot flashes are periods of sudden, intense warmth that typically affect your face, neck, and chest area. Your skin may become sweaty and red, or appear as if you're blushing.

Night sweats and hot flashes can be related, but they can occur separately from one another as well. Hot flashes often arise due to menopause or other conditions that alter hormone production, and the hormonal shift can cause both of these issues. However, night sweats can happen due to various other conditions, too; so, while menopause and hot flashes are mutually exclusive, menopause and night sweats are not.

How Common Are Night Sweats?

illustration of a woman having hot flashes and night sweats
Determining exactly how common night sweats are poses a challenge as many people don't report the issue. However, one study showed that out of 2,000 individuals 41% experienced[2] night sweats, as reported to their physicians, and they seem to be most common in people between the ages of 41 and 55.

Common Causes

Many factors can cause night sweats, and identifying the root issue could be half the battle in getting better sleep.

Conditions

Stress & Anxiety

Anxiety can present in many ways, and night sweats can be one symptom of your body expressing stress due to chronic anxiety or panic attacks. The issue of night sweating itself could even spark further anxiety, creating a cycle. Stress is known to cause multiple physical responses, including higher blood pressure, depression, and acne[3]. When we feel as though we're under pressure, it's not uncommon for our body to exert energy— like sweating— however it can to find relief.
Illustration of a Frustrated Woman Who Can't Fall Asleep

Obesity

Individuals who are overweight may experience night sweats due to their bodies working overtime to regulate temperature and blood pressure. Folks come in all shapes and sizes and we’re behind the body positivity movement, however, weight can still cause serious health concerns and may require adjustment to protect our health.

Medications

Antidepressants

Some antidepressants or SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are known to induce night sweats. About 22% of individuals who take antidepressants report excessive sweating[4], particularly those on venlafaxine and sertraline; this occurs because SSRIs can change how your body regulates its internal core temperature.

 

However, some SSRI medications show decreased susceptibility to sweating, so discussing alternatives with your doctor could be an option.

Illustration of a Young Depressed Woman

Migraine Medication & Pain Relievers (Opioids)

Triptan medications are used to treat migraines and cluster headaches, but they can also induce sweating. Like SSRIs, these medications boost serotonin levels which change the way our bodies maintain temperature, and increase[5] sweating as a result.

 

Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can also heighten perspiration. These medications function by dilating blood vessels to lower fevers, and as blood vessels dilate, they release heat from the skin, and, in turn, raise sweat levels.

 

Opioids like morphine can also cause excessive sweating because they stimulate mast cells which release histamine, the chemical involved in inflammation, leading to sweat.

Diabetes/Hypoglycemia/Blood Glucose Control Agents

Insulin and glipizide are common medications used to alter blood glucose levels, and sweating is a known side effect. Diabetes can go undetected, so if you're experiencing chills, sweating, drowsiness, or dizziness, be sure to check that your blood sugar is within a healthy range, as sweating could be a sign of low blood sugar.

Illustration of A Woman Awoken Suddenly by a Beeping Alarm Attached to Her Hip

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Individuals on hormone replacement therapy medications (HRT) could experience[6] night sweats due to hormone alterations. Estrogen and testosterone can both contribute to changes in our body, and affect the way we perspire. Hormones regulate crucial functions in our bodies, and shifts in hormone levels could be to blame for night sweats.

Hormonal Changes

Menopause

When individuals go through menopause, they typically experience a significant shift in their hormone levels. This can cause various symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, bodily shifts, and excessive sweating. Sweating can occur when hormonal changes happen, which is a central component of menopause.

Low Testosterone

Illustration of an Elderly Man Sleeping in a Nursing Home
Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for sperm production and muscle mass accumulation in males. As testosterone declines with age, the body reacts in various ways[7], including increased sweating.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than necessary, making your body temperature rise[8], which can increase sweating.

Illnesses

Sleep Apnea

Sleep disorders could be the root cause of night sweats. According to a study in the BMJ Open, night sweats are three times[9] more likely to occur in individuals with untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea momentarily halts your breathing as your air passageways become blocked, typically waking you up. These moments could cause panic and raise your heart rate, leading to more sweat.

illustration of sleeper hiding CPAP mask under a pillow

Autoimmune Disorders

Night sweats are symptomatic of a myriad of autoimmune disorders and could even be indicative of infection. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Sjogren's Syndrome all count night sweats as symptoms[10].

 

Unfortunately, diagnosing an autoimmune disorder can be difficult as the signs overlap with various other health problems. Consulting a physician is paramount if you think you could be dealing with an autoimmune disease.

Cancer

In some cases, night sweats can be early precursors to cancers, including lymphoma, bone cancer, liver cancer, mesothelioma, and leukemia. Experts aren't clear on why this is, but some believe it's because the body is busy fighting off the foreign invaders.

 

Cancer is known to cause fever in some instances, which can instigate more sweating[11]. Further, treatments like chemotherapy and hormone-altering drugs are known to cause sweating as well.

Heart Disease

According to research[12] done by the University of Queensland in Australia, heart disease appears to be linked to night sweats. The study found that women are 70% more likely to have heart attacks, angina, or stokes if they experience hot flashes and night sweats after menopause.

 

Experts also noted that the risk of these events was correlated to the severity of the hot flashes and sweating rather than the frequency.

Illustration of Tom and His Heart Having High Blood Pressure

Neurological Disorders

Night sweats could occur as a symptom of particular neurological conditions like stroke, autonomic neuropathy, syringomyelia, or autonomic dysreflexia. Neurological issues are associated with many symptoms, but some early potential precursors include appetite loss, loss of consciousness, urinary symptoms, trembling, dizziness, weakness, numbness, and more. If you're concerned about your health, it's critical to see a professional as soon as possible.

Home Solutions to Night Sweats

Night sweats can keep you up at night, but there are solutions to mitigate discomfort.

Bedding

Linen sheets are well known for their temperature regulating abilities. Linen’s properties are great for keeping warm in winter and cool in summer, and its sweat-wicking capabilities are convenient for those who experience night sweats. Personally, I struggle with night sweats myself, and linen sheets have been a game-changer for sleeping comfortably.

 

For More Info: Best Cooling Sheets

hot sleepers use breathable cotton sheets to keep them cool at night

Cooling Remedies

Locking your doors and shutting your windows at night is a standard safety precaution. However, if you feel comfortable leaving your bedroom window open at night, it could help circulate air and keep you cool. Additionally, installing a bedroom fan could alleviate discomfort as well.

 

Keeping ice water nearby, an ice pack or a cool washcloth handy could help lower your body temperature during uncomfortable nights as well.

View Our Guide: Top Rated Fans for Sleeping

Breathable Clothing

Going to bed in stifling clothing could exacerbate night sweats. Make sure you're wearing lightweight, breathable material to help keep you comfortable. Garments that are 100% cotton, linen, silk, or rayon could be better suited to sweaty nights.

Illustration of a Woman Picking a Pajama to Wear

Adjust Exercise Timing

Late-night exercise could be contributing to your discomfort. Night sweats can happen when your temperature rises above a certain thermo-neutral level, which adjusts with your circadian rhythm. According to the Center for Deployment Psychology, exercise raises your body temperature, which can set off a hypothalamic response, causing sweat.

 

Learn More: Exercise and Sleep – Target Your Workout Time

Avoid Triggering Substances

Spicy Foods

Certain foods are known for causing heartburn and sweating, and there is a scientific reason for this occurrence. Dishes that contain peppers have a chemical called capsaicin, which triggers body-warming nerves, causing you to sweat to cool it down. According to a research study reported by the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Medicine, higher consumption of sugar and spices is associated with night sweats, so cutting back[13] on these two could significantly alleviate the issue.
illustration of a woman refuses chips and alcohol

Cigarettes

Smoking has been famous for being harmful to our health for decades, and it could exacerbate night sweating as well. According to research on cigarette smokers versus “never smokers,” cigarette smoking is connected to hot flashes[14] and night sweating.

 

The reason appears to be related to higher androstenedione and androgen levels, particularly a higher androgen to estrogen ratio, so cutting back on cigarettes or quitting could help alleviate night sweats.

Alcohol

Alcohol can cause excessive sweating even days after consumption. When you ingest alcohol, your heart rate typically heightens, causing blood vessels to expand, triggering the release of sweat[15].

 

Individuals who drink regularly or heavily could experience alcohol withdrawal and night sweats as a result. The withdrawals and sweating may be temporary but could last for several days.

Relaxation & Meditation

According to research done by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness and relaxation[16] techniques may alleviate hot flashes and night sweats. The study showed that regular use of these techniques, including meditative body scans and sitting meditation, can significantly improve night sweats.
Illustration of a Woman Meditating Before Going to Bed

Professional Solutions

Enduring night sweats can affect your quality of sleep, and in turn, your daily life, so professional treatment may be required to treat the issue.

CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common technique in the psychological sphere, and it may help treat physical ailments like hot flashes and night sweats. According to a research study completed over six weeks, CBT could be effective at reducing night sweats. The technique worked primarily by altering the cognitive appraisal of night sweats and hot flashes, showing promise for CBT as a treatment for this issue.

A Doctor Listening to a Patient Illustration

Medications & Hormone Therapies

In some instances, lifestyle changes may not help night sweats, in which case there are alternatives. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is when an individual takes medication to replace the estrogen the body is lacking. HRT can help with numerous issues but could improve the occurrence of night sweating as well. 

 

Additionally, paroxetine, a low-dose SSRI, is used to treat night sweating and hot flashes. If you think you could benefit from medication, we recommend discussing your options with a qualified professional.

When to See a Doctor

Frequency

Those who experience night sweats frequently and persistently should speak to a doctor about their condition. Night sweats are not always indicative of a more significant issue, but they could be symptomatic of an underlying condition that requires medical attention.

Interfering With Sleep and Aspects of Daily Life

Sleep is a critical component in living a healthy life, without which we could suffer just as we would if we were deprived of food or water. Consult a professional to discuss treatment options if you're experiencing inadequate rest or little sleep due to night sweats.

Appears Alongside Other Symptoms

Noticing your night sweats have begun to appear alongside other issues like dizziness, fever, coughing, loss of appetite, or other unusual occurrences, could indicate a more extensive condition. If this is the case, it's essential to keep track of your experiences and seek medical attention.

Unexplained Weight Loss

In some instances, night sweats appear alongside other symptoms like weight loss. Some autoimmune disorders cause night sweating and other issues like unexplained weight loss or dizzy spells. Identifying the problem can be half the battle, so seeing a doctor is critical for help.

[1] Saugato Biswas,et al., “A Curious Case of Sweating Blood”, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Nov. 2013.


[2] James W Mold, Migi K Mathew, Shuaib Belgore, Mark DeHaven, “Prevalence of Night Sweats in Primary Care Patients: an OKPRN and TAFP-Net Collaborative Study”, The Journal of Family Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2002.


[3] “How to Relieve Stress Breakouts – U.S. Dermatology Partners: Blog”, U.S. Dermatology Partners, 1 June 2020.


[4] “Managing the Adverse Effects of Antidepressants”, Psychiatric Times


[5] Sharon Orrange, “10 Medications That Cause Excessive Sweating – GoodRx”, The GoodRx Prescription Savings Blog, 11 Aug. 2020.


[6] William Brim, “Staff Perspective: Night Sweats – About Nocturnal Hyperhidrosis”, Center for Deployment Psychology, Dec. 2014.


[7] “Are Night Sweats a Sign of Low Testosterone?”, Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, Dec. 2018.


[8] “What Is Hyperthyroidism?”, EndocrineWeb


[9] Erna Sif Arnardottir, et al. “Nocturnal Sweating–a Common Symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea: the Icelandic Sleep Apnoea Cohort”, BMJ Open, BMJ Publishing Group, 14 May 2013.


[10] Donna Herrera, Laura Thompson, “Understanding the Complexity of Sjogren's Syndrome”, StackPath, July 2003.


[11] “What's the Connection Between Night Sweats and Cancer?”, Dana, 13 Mar. 2020.


[12] “Hot Flushes and Night Sweats Linked to 70% Increase in Cardiovascular Disease”, ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 2 July 2020.


[13] Meysam Reza Boghrati,et al. “An Analysis of the Efficacy of Reducing Daily Spices and Simple Carbohydrates Intake on Treating Night Sweats in Toddlers”, Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, Elsevier, 12 Feb. 2019.


[14] “Night Sweats and Alcohol: Causes and Treatment”, Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, Jan. 2019. 

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