Causes Of Night Sweats: Find Out What It Means

Night sweats or excessive sweating during the night can be incredibly uncomfortable and can play havoc with your sleep. If you’ve been struggling with the problem with no respite in sight, it’s time to look for some answers and find the right treatment. The tricky bit is pinning down what’s actually triggering all that excessive sweating. But once you know what you’re up against, you’ll be better prepared to take the problem by its horns and deal with it once and for all! More important, you could uncover a problem that needs urgent medical attention or one that is easily fixed with some simple lifestyle changes.

1. Menopause

The hormonal changes your body goes through at menopause (and even at perimenopause) can bring on a host of symptoms, some more notorious than others. For instance, pop culture references to hot flushes and mood swings are plenty. Night sweats are another related symptom that can make life a bit unpleasant for women at this phase of their life. Try and make yourself more comfortable by sleeping in a cooler room, having a cool shower before you sleep, and dressing in light clothing that allows your skin to breathe.1


2. Acid Reflux

In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux, as it’s often called, stomach acid causes food from your stomach to move back up the food pipe, triggering heartburn or coughing. It tends to be worse during the night since you’re lying down and don’t have gravity on your side to keep the food from reversing up. Studies have now found that gastroesophageal reflux can also cause night sweats. Taking antireflux medication could help you gain control over the problem of excessive sweating at night.2

3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you’ve laughed off snoring as a “bad habit” or quirk, you may want to think again. Along with night sweats, snoring is another common sign of sleep apnea, a potentially problematic condition that deprives your body of the oxygen it needs. The shortage of oxygen causes your body to fight for air, making you sweat, and triggers a fight or flight panic state, causing you to sweat even more. An estimated 12 million Americans have sleep apnea in some form and treatment may involve some simple lifestyle changes like weight loss, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake; special devices to help modify the way your tongue, tissues of the mouth, and jaw line up; pressurized air machines; or, in some cases, surgery.3


4. Hyperthyroidism

An overactive thyroid can also cause those with hyperthyroidism to sweat more. That’s because your metabolism is higher than normal, raising your body temperature and making you sweat.4 Your endocrinologist will recommend suitable medication, but you might also want to stay off cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, turnips, soybean, and millet as they interfere with thyroid function.5

5. Hypoglycemia

If your blood sugar levels drop, you could experience night sweats as well.6 It is fairly common for anyone with hypoglycemia to have night sweats in addition to disturbed sleep, headaches, and even nightmares. This nighttime dip and the consequent symptoms can be avoided by ensuring your sugar levels don’t plummet after hours every day. Your doctor might adjust your insulin regimen to prevent recurrence of these episodes. In general, aiming to get your blood glucose to at least 140 mg/dl just before you turn in for the night is recommended by some experts. A continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) can help alert you if your glucose levels drop too much or go too high.7


6. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s most potentially fatal diseases, affecting over 9.6 million people and taking 1.5 million lives in 2014 alone. A bacterial infection that affects your lungs, it can result in night sweats for months before the disease turns more virulent. Watch for other signs like a fever, a cough, or weight loss that accompany your night sweats. This could be a sign that the tuberculosis bacteria is in your system. Treatment involves taking 4 antimicrobial drugs for about 6 months.8

7. Lymphoma

Night sweats are one of the major symptoms of lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. If you wake up at night to find your bed sheets soaked in sweat or your nightclothes drenched, one of many possible causes is this cancer. According to some theories, this happens because your body is trying to fight the cancer. If you experience these sweats along with weight loss, fatigue, and a loss of appetite, you may want to pay heed.9 Do keep in mind, though, that this is just one of many possible causes for your night sweats. However, just to be safe, get yourself checked by a medical specialist.


8. HIV Progressing To AIDS

The early stages of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are marked by flu-like symptoms (with fever, headaches, or even rashes). As the virus takes hold, if left untreated, it could progress to become full-blown acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). At this point, you may experience fever, general weakness, and weight loss, and your lymph glands may be swollen. Chills and severe recurrent sweats are also common. Some have described it as sweating unlike any they’ve ever experienced before.10

9. Side Effect Of Medication

Certain medication too could bring on night sweating incidents. For instance, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and antipyretics warn of excessive sweating as a side effect.11 In one study where antidepressant paroxetine caused nighttime sweating, researchers suggested the substitution of the antidepressant in question or a reduction of dose. Corrective action is often patient specific. In severe cases, sweating could be treated through the use of cyproheptadine or benztropine, if appropriate.12 Heroin abuse or alcohol abuse may also cause similar sweating episodes at night and will need de-addiction treatment and medical care.13