Waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweats can mean numerous things; but it isn’t usually considered that uncommon or unnatural. Sweating is a usual reaction of the body to, let’s say, high temperatures or fever. Either way, many people don’t really make a big deal out of it.
However, when night sweating becomes a regular occurrence, and you can’t really pinpoint a specific cause, that is when people get concerned.
So, if you’ve clicked on this article, chances are that frequent night sweats started bothering you as well. Luckily, you’re at the right place as, in the following paragraphs, we’re going to take a look at the common and uncommon causes of night sweats, as well as ways you can combat this issue. Let’s get started!
Medical History of Night Sweats
Night sweating as a medical condition has been first recorded in cases of fever, cough, and tuberculosis. Of course, all of these conditions are accompanied by numerous other symptoms, but night sweats seem to be the omnipresent symptom.
Usually, patients suffering these conditions experienced night sweats several nights per week, and usually experience great weight loss and general weakening of the immune system. Moreover, night sweats have also been recorded in AIDS or HIV patients. The night sweats were usually caused by AIDS- or HIV-related infections.
Overall, night sweats over time have been directly associated with infections in the body, numerous diseases, especially respiratory infections and drastic body changes, like pregnancy or menopause.
Nowadays, night sweats can be caused by numerous conditions, diseases, or can represent a symptom of some potential diseases as well.
List of All Medical Conditions That Might Cause Nocturnal Sweating
- Anxiety disorders and panic attacks
- Autoimmune disorders
- Damage to autonomic nerves known as Autonomic neuropathy
- Bacterial infections, usually Brucellosis
- Cancer or tumor
- HIV/AIDS infections
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Lung abscess
- Bone marrow disorder, known as Myelofibrosis
- Bone infection, known as Osteomyelitis
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Ovarian failure
- Thyroid disease
Proven Causes of Nocturnal Sweating
1. Menopause and Hormonal Changes
It is believed that approximately 80% of women in the USA experience night sweats in the perimenopause or menopause stage. Also described as hot flashes, night sweats are just one of the main symptoms of menopause, including other intense body changes. It is important to point out that night sweats caused by menopause are completely normal and natural.
Night sweats are a natural bodily reaction to major hormonal changes. However, even though this occurrence is natural, it cannot be denied that night sweats cause major distress to women.
Night sweats caused by menopause don’t last long (during the night) but surely cause anxiety, stress, wakefulness, an inability to fall asleep and even chills lasting up to 5 minutes.
Night sweats caused by menopause and hormonal changes usually affect women who are in the transitional period towards menopause. It is also believed that women of African descent, or women who lead a sedentary life, smoke, abuse alcohol, are obese and have other health or socioeconomic problems experience worse and more intense cases of menopause-caused night sweats.
There is an estrogen replacement therapy that can help with the night sweats, but more on that later.
2. Various Infections
Studies have shown that people experiencing upper respiratory infection, or have been recently treated against such an infection experience night sweats, even up to 12 days.
A history of recent upper respiratory infections may have been linked to infectious mononucleosis where the so-called Epstein-Barr virus impairs the function of the upper respiratory system, causing infections as well as significant night sweats.
Other infections, like HIV, tuberculosis or bacterial infections can all affect the upper respiratory system and cause its infection, resulting in night-sweats.
In cases of night sweats, it is always important to consider several possible infections. Cases like the inflammation of the heart valves, or the inflammation within the bones (osteomyelitis) are also known to cause excessive sweating at night.
Even though these infections aren’t that common, and wouldn’t be usually suspected as a cause, they can surely have night sweats as their main symptom.
Therefore, it is always important to discuss your issue and state with a medical professional, who will take into consideration your medical history, current issues, lifestyle choices and hopefully discover the underlying problems of the night sweating.
Diabetes is known to be a common cause of excessive sweating during the night. People with diabetes report frequent night sweats, and it is believed they’re caused by the low blood sugar levels.
Also known as nocturnal hypoglycemia, a drop in blood glucose causes numerous issues in the body, from severe headaches, nighttime wakefulness to fever-like symptoms, like night sweating and chills.
Research has also shown that people with diabetes, who consume alcohol, spicy or hot food are more likely to experience excessive nighttime sweating.
Moreover, if a diabetic person regulates their diabetes with insulin, they are also at a higher risk of night sweats. The reason for this lies in the fact that alcohol, food, and insulin all prevent you from measuring your glucose levels.
Furthermore, blood sugar levels get disrupted, even with medication. All of this results in disrupted sleep, issues with acid reflux and of course, excessive sweating and chills throughout the night. If you experience these symptoms frequently, you must consult with a medical professional about further treatment and prevention of night sweats.
In people who have increased total and abdominal fat, there have been records of excessive nighttime sweating.
Women who are obese, especially, have been records of increased nighttime sweating. Usually, obese people experience issues with blood sugar levels and cardiovascular issues, which all contribute to night sweats.
Regardless of whether obesity is a link between blood sugar levels and night sweats, we can still say that obesity can be a direct cause of this uncomfortable occurrence.
In women, menopausal symptoms can also be worse if they’re obese. Moreover, night time sweats in obese, menopausal women can be extremely intense and pose numerous issues for the quality of their sleep, stress and anxiety levels.
A study featuring women between 45 and 60 years has shown that they experienced frequent and excessive nighttime hot flashes because of their body-fat tissue acting as a heat insulator.
Increased IBM in menopausal women has also shown even greater issues with night sweats. One can conclude that hot flashes are more common in obese, (menopausal) women rather than obese men, but even so, night sweats can affect anyone who struggles with their weight. Hence the importance of weight control and weight loss.
5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Records on the direct connection between obstructive sleep apnea and night sweats have been usually scarce. Previous studies may have suggested that sleep apnea may be a cause of excessive nighttime sweating, but recent research has even proved it. Nocturnal sweating has shown to be more common in people suffering from sleep apnea, than in those who have no obstructive respiratory issues.
It is believed that because sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing during the night, the body reacts by increasing adrenaline and stress; both causing excessive sweating in turn.
Here’s how a particular Icelandic study showed the link between sleep apnea and nocturnal sweats. The participants of the study were people between 21 and 83 years old, including an equal number of both male and female participants.
The participants were tested for obesity, diabetes and of course, sleep apnea. Frequent nocturnal sweating was reported in 30% of men and 33% of women who suffer from sleep apnea.
Accompanying issues also include obesity and diabetes, which could be responsible for contributing to excessive sweating as well.
Nevertheless, the study has shown that the prevalence of sleep apnea in patients experiencing nocturnal sweating is high.
Also Read: How Does Sleep Apnea Impact the Brain?
There are numerous types of drugs out there that have night sweats as the labeled side effect. So, medications causing night sweats are a rather common occurrence.
Medications that are antihypertensives and anti-depressants and well as medications used for alcohol-dependency treatment, treatment of anxiety and panic attacks, and anti-fever medications are all known to be the main contributors to nocturnal sweating, among drugs.
7. Alcohol Abuse or Withdrawal
After a night of drinking, you would usually experience sweating during sleep. People consider this to be a good thing; you’re sweating the alcohol away so that in the morning you could be good as new. However, regular alcohol consumption can cause night sweats that are a more serious symptom.
Night sweats after alcohol consumption mean you’re having alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Especially if you’re a heavy drinker, these symptoms and night sweats can last for weeks and can be even more severe than just excessive nocturnal sweating. In such cases, it is important to drink enough water and try to eat food that is high in fiber and fat.
Alcohol intolerance is also accompanied by nausea, vomiting, chills, facial redness, asthma-like symptoms, and runny/stuffy nose. In order to deal with alcohol intolerance, you need to make sure your room temperature is comfortable, even a bit cooler and that you get a shower to cool down before bed.
Also Read: How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?
7 Common Ways of Treating Nocturnal Sweating
Nocturnal sweating is a rather difficult issue to deal with. Even though it may be completely normal in some cases, night sweats usually indicate an underlying issue. So, without knowing what that issue is, it can be hard to stop the night sweats.
However, here are some common ways you can deal with nocturnal sweating at home. If the sweating continues, it is essential you discuss the issue with a medical professional to get more specific and targeted treatment.
- Prescription hormone therapy – prescription hormone therapy with estrogen has proven to be an effective treatment for hot flashes caused by menstrual and hormonal changes in women. Of course, hormone therapy does carry certain side effects (which you should check with your doctor) but it has shown to be the best option for women experiencing excessive nocturnal sweating.
- Contraceptive/birth control pills – some women are usually prescribed with the birth control pill to deal with excessive nocturnal sweating. Contraceptive pills that are a combination of estrogen and progestin have proven most effective. These pills deal with hot flashes, usually provide relief and regulate menstrual periods. Make sure to check their side effects with your doctor, and of course, whether they fit your group of symptoms and possible causes.
- Medication for hot flashes – even though we’ve mentioned that certain medications cause nocturnal sweating, some medications can also help you deal with this uncomfortable issue. For example, certain anti-depression drugs can help deal with nocturnal sweating in people who do not suffer depression. Moreover, certain drugs that treat migraine, nerve pain and epilepsy have shown to reduce night sweats. Also, make sure to check with your doctor about sleeping medications (like Lunesta, Ambien, and Benadryl) and their effects on nocturnal sweating.
- Lifestyle changes – in order to deal and prevent night sweats it is important to introduce certain lifestyle changes; make sure to change your diet (more protein, veggies, and fruits), start exercising and losing weight, and of course, introducing stress-relief and anti-anxiety hobbies. It is also important you take care of your sleeping environment; changing the sheets regularly, cooling down the bedroom before sleep, turning off the lights and doing breathing exercises before bedtime.
- Consult your doctor about medical causes – if you think that you suffer from diabetes or alcohol withdrawal syndrome, make sure to consult your doctor about the conditions and possible treatment. Sometimes nocturnal sweating is a sign of a more serious issue, so the doctor needs to do a check-up. This way you will be prescribed proper medication and treatment, which will, in turn, provide relief and prevent night sweats in the future.
- Nonprescription remedies – one of the most important nonprescription remedy for nocturnal sweating is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is generally considered to be the healthiest in the world. It has proven effective in helping deal with hot flashes, reducing the sweating for about 20%. Herbs, veggies, fruits, olives, proteins from the fish and seafood all help your metabolism and immune system fight off diseases, infections and inflammations, and of course, night sweats.
- Lower alcohol intake – as mentioned before, alcohol intake is directly connected with night sweats in the form of withdrawal symptoms. In order to avoid this scenario, make sure to lower your alcohol intake, especially before bedtime. Alcohol-induced night sweats can cause dehydration, interrupted sleep and intense withdrawal symptoms. It is better to drink less than deal with the sweats throughout the night.
Unfortunately, night sweats aren’t really something people discuss openly. To make matters worse, there aren’t even enough studies and research on this topic, which makes it hard for people to really trust discussing it in the first place.
However, you must know that sweating is completely normal and that it is your body’s reaction to an underlying issue.
Therefore, don’t be shy and discuss your night sweats with a doctor or medical professional. Only then will you know what is going on in your body and what can you do to treat and prevent it from escalating.