Random Facts

Today's Medical Fact

About 75 percent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell.

Log in

Subscribe Buttons

Feed Icon
HomeHealth A-Z Night Sweats
Night Sweats
Night Sweats
Many times treatment is centered on how to best cope with night sweats.

Night Sweats

Definition of Night Sweats

Night sweats are episodes of excessive nighttime sweating that can drench your clothes and bedding.

Description of Night Sweats

Night sweats are a fairly common phenomenon that can affect both men and women at one time or another. Night sweats can be thought of as hot flashes you have while sleeping. You wake up feeling either too hot or too cold and covered with a noticeable amount of sweat. Your palms may feel clammy and your clothes and bedding may be drenched. Night sweats can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling tired in the morning.

Night sweats are a medical condition called hyperhidrosis. The causes of night sweats are varied, but they do not usually indicate a serious underlying medical condition. While primarily a nuisance, they can sometimes lead to insomnia-inducing stress. In rare instances night sweats may be a symptom of a serious condition, such as lymphoma (a form of cancer) or infection, but in these instances the night sweats will usually be accompanied by fever and unexplained weight loss.

When an individual starts experiencing night sweats, the first concern is often to find out what is causing them. Are they merely a nuisance or a sign of a more serious medical condition? A visit to the doctor for a physical exam can help you determine the cause and any underlying medical condition. Once the cause is determined, the question then becomes what can be done to treat or cope with night sweats.

Causes and Risk Factors of Night Sweats

Night sweats are more intense than simply getting too hot in a warm room or from sleeping with too many blankets on the bed. There are many causes of night sweats, but two of the most common are menopause and sleep apnea. Of all the varied causes of night sweats, some are a health concern and some are not. Potential causes of night sweats include:

  • Menopause - menopause in women is the most common cause of night sweats; the night sweats are due to the decrease in estrogen and the fluctuating hormone levels
  • Andropause (male menopause)
  • Sleep Apnea - sleep apnea is a common cause of night sweats; night sweats accompanied by excessive snoring and daytime sleepiness may indicate sleep apnea, a serious condition in which you stop breathing during sleep
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Infectious diseases, such as HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis
  • Bacterial infections, such as endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves), osteomyelitis (inflammation withing the bones), and abscesses
  • Cancer - particularly lymphoma, but will usually be accompanied by unexplained weight loss and fever
  • Any illness that causes a fever and chills
  • Hormone disorders
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Diabetes Insipidus (disease of the pituitary gland or kidney)
  • Medications and prescription drugs, including antidepressants, birth control pills, cortisone medications, sildenafil (Viagra), nitroglycerine, high doses of niacin
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Anxiety or anti-anxiety medications
  • Chemotherapy - in women, it reduces estrogen levels and can cause night sweats
  • Neurological conditions

Symptoms of Night Sweats

The symptoms of night sweats include waking up with damp clothes and bedding due to excessive sweating at night, clammy hands, and feeling either too hot or too cold.

Diagnosis of Night Sweats

Night sweats are diagnosed thru personal observation. If you wake up from sleeping and are damp with excessive sweat then you have had a night sweat.

If your night sweats occur on a regular basis and interrupt your sleep, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor. A doctor will review your medical history, perform a health exam, and may also conduct lab tests in order to diagnose the underlying cause of the night sweats.

Treatment of Night Sweats

The first aspect of treatment is to determine the cause of the night sweats and then provide appropriate treatment for the cause. The second aspect of treatment focuses on how to handle and cope with night sweats.

Once the underlying medical cause is treated, the symptom of night sweats is often reduced or eliminated. Treatment may also focus on lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol, drugs, and spicy foods, or medication changes.

Many times treatment is centered on how to best cope with night sweats. Some tips for coping with night sweats as well as ways to reduce the frequency and intensity of night sweats are:

  • take a cold shower just before you go to bed
  • keep your sleeping area at a cool temperature
  • keep the window open or use a fan to help with air circulation
  • avoid alcoholic drinks before bedtime
  • avoid spicy foods near bedtime
  • keep a bottle of cool water next to your bed in case you wake up during the night
  • if you wake up and are wet with sweat, take a cool shower or bath and change your bedding and sleep clothes

Prevention of Night Sweats

The first step in preventing night sweats is treating the underlying medical condition. If the cause is able to be treated, then the night sweats may either stop or lessen.

External Resources

Hardin MD, University of Iowa
HealthJolt © 1998 - 2017 All Rights Reserved
HealthJolt™ does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Disclaimer