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If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night so drenched in your own sweat that you’re compelled to change your clothes and sheets, you’ve just experienced a case of the night sweats. Also known as nocturnal hyperhidrosis or nighttime “hot flashes,” night sweats are often disregarded as a minor condition, but can often be a sign of an underlying illness that may need treatment.
Here are the 10 most common reasons why you might be experiencing night sweats, plus some tips to help you get a cooler and more comfortable night’s sleep.
They’re known as “hot flashes” during the day, but night sweats are often an early sign of menopause. In fact, hot flashes and night sweats affect 50 percent or more of women as they transition through menopause and persist for an average of 7.4 years. Avoiding caffeine, spicy foods, stress, and alcohol can help, but if your night sweats become frequent and unbearable, talk to your doctor about treatment options, including exercise, supplements, prescription medications, and hormone replacement therapy.
#2 Sleep Disorders
People of all ages have nightmares from time to time that may cause you to wake up afraid and emotional, but night terrors, a more serious occurrence that affects mostly children, can cause night sweats. An accelerated heart rate, hyperventilation, and dilated pupils are also signs of this rare condition that is experienced by 5 percent of children. Learn more about the condition by reading our article “What Are Night Terrors?”
If you’ve started a new prescription medication at around the same time that your night sweats began, it’s probably not a coincidence. Medications that treat depression, including SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, are known to cause night sweats. In general, any medication that lowers your blood sugar level has the potential to cause night sweats. Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, which are used to treat headaches and migraines, may also be the culprit.
The same way that some medications can lower your blood sugar level and cause night sweats, so can diabetes. People with diabetes can often experience nighttime hypoglycemia, which occurs when glucose levels decrease during the night. This condition can cause nightmares, dizziness, and headaches in addition to night sweats. To avoid nighttime hypoglycemia, try having a small snack before bedtime or checking your glucose levels in the middle of the night. Also, speak with your doctor about adjusting your insulin regimen.
It’s normal to sweat occasionally when you’re in an uncomfortable situation, but frequent and excessive sweating, shaking, and heavy breathing could be signs of an anxiety disorder. Learn more about anxiety by reading our article “What Does Anxiety Feel Like?”
#7 Cancer & Cancer Treatment
Lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the body’s lymphatic system, can cause night sweats, fever, and severe weight loss. In general, cancer patients can also experience night sweats due to treatments they’re receiving. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation, steroids, and other medications can all cause sweating both during the day and at night, according to the National Cancer Institute.
#8 Chronic Sweating
If excessive sweating is plaguing you during both day and night, you might have a medical condition called hyperhidrosis, which is often genetic. Most cases of hyperhidrosis aren’t serious, but sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying condition, so consult your doctor. Prescription-strength antiperspirants, medications, Botox injections, and surgery to remove or destroy sweat glands are common treatments.
#9 Hormone Disorders
Night sweats might be a sign that your body’s endocrine system is producing too much (or too little) of a certain hormone, such as serotonin. Your doctor will most likely check your thyroid gland for underactive or overactive function.
#10 Neurologic Disorders
Night sweats are an uncommon side effect of a neurological condition, but it can be a sign of stroke, autonomic neuropathy and autonomic dysreflexia, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
Tips to Cool Down Those Night Sweats
Once your doctor identifies the cause of your night sweats, he or she will offer suggestions and/or treatment options to help relieve your symptoms. But in the meantime, here a few quick tips you can try at home to help keep your body temperature steady while you sleep:
- The National Sleep Foundation suggests keeping your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for an optimal sleep-inducing environment.
- Try moisture-wicking or quick drying pajamas, sheets, and pillowcases to help you stay cooler and drier at night.
- Let your nighttime cup of tea or hot chocolate cool off a bit before you drink it.
- Try moving your exercise routine to an earlier hour in the day so that you can give your body time to lower its temperature.
- Try taking a lukewarm shower at night instead of a hot one.
This article was originally published in 2017. It is regularly updated.