What are Night Sweats?
Night sweats refer to excessive sweating during sleep. They involve episodes of extreme perspiration that may soak your sleepwear and bedding. Night sweats are a common symptom of several medical conditions and infections. While not necessarily a cause for concern, frequent or severe night sweats can disrupt your sleep and affect your quality of life.
Some of the common causes of night sweats include:
|Hormonal changes and hot flashes during menopause can trigger night sweats.
|Antidepressants, hormone medications, and several other drugs can cause flushing and sweating at night.
|Infections like tuberculosis, endocarditis, and HIV can induce night sweats.
|Lymphomas and leukemias may cause profuse night sweats.
|Low blood sugar
|Low blood glucose levels at night, common in diabetes, can trigger sweating.
|Low blood sugar conditions like hypoglycemia can cause excess sweating while sleeping.
|Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic syringomyelia, stroke, and autonomic neuropathy can increase night sweats.
|Obstructive sleep apnea
|Sleep apnea may induce episodes of night sweats.
|Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
|Nighttime GERD symptoms can cause sweating while sleeping.
|Hormonal changes and increased metabolism can cause hot flashes and night sweats in pregnancy.
|Anxiety conditions like panic attacks may trigger increased perspiration at night.
|A condition characterized by unexplained excessive sweating.
|The transition period before menopause often involves night sweats.
Night sweats can also occur as adverse reactions to certain medications, such as prednisone. In some cases, no underlying cause may be found. These are known as idiopathic night sweats.
Episodes of night sweats typically involve the following symptoms:
– Drenching sweats at night – You may wake up with your sleepwear and sheets soaked in sweat.
– Perspiration occurs most commonly on the upper body – The sweating is usually the worst on your face, neck, chest, and back.
– Sweating episodes last from minutes to hours – A night sweat episode may last from a few minutes to a couple of hours before subsiding.
– Frequency ranges from occasional to daily – For some people, night sweats occur sporadically. Others may experience them every night.
– Chills often accompany night sweats – Many people alternate between hot flashes and chills.
– Disrupted sleep – Night sweats can wake you up and make it difficult to go back to sleep.
If your night sweats are accompanied by unexplained weight loss, fever, shortness of breath, or other concerning symptoms, it is important to see your doctor. These could be signs of an underlying health condition needing treatment.
What Does it Feel Like to Have Night Sweats?
Experiencing night sweats can be both uncomfortable and disruptive to sleep. Here is what having night sweats commonly feels like:
– Sudden sensation of intense heat – You feel hot all of a sudden, frequently starting around your head and neck areas first.
– Sweating profusely – You perspire so much that your clothes and bedding become soaked within minutes.
– Clammy, wet skin – Your skin feels soaked and clammy from head to toe during an episode.
– Chills – After a hot flash, your skin may cool down dramatically, causing you to feel chilled.
– Damp bedding – Your pajamas and sheets feel wet and damp from your perspiration.
– Difficulty falling back asleep – After waking up drenched in sweat, it can be hard to get comfortable enough to fall back asleep.
– Exhaustion the next day – The disrupted sleep leaves you feeling tired, sluggish, and worn out the next day.
– Emotional reactions – Night sweats can cause anxiety, irritability, and discomfort.
Keeping extra sleepwear and bedding on hand can help manage night sweat episodes. Maintaining a cool, comfortable temperature in your bedroom may also minimize sweating and chills.
When to See a Doctor
Occasional, mild night sweats may not require medical evaluation. However, it is advisable to see your doctor if you experience:
Frequent or severe night sweats
See your doctor if you have drenching night sweats more than a couple of times per week. Routine night sweats can interfere with sleep and daily functioning. Your doctor can help determine if an underlying condition needs treatment.
Seek medical care if your night sweats are accompanied by symptoms like unexplained weight loss, fever, shortness of breath, or chest pain. These could indicate an undiagnosed health problem.
Medication side effects
Report night sweats that begin after starting a new medication to your doctor promptly. Your doctor may adjust the medication dose or prescribe a different drug to relieve side effects.
Frequent night sweats and chills that regularly impair your ability to get quality sleep warrant a doctor’s evaluation. There are treatments available to help restore sound sleep.
How are Night Sweats Diagnosed?
To diagnose the cause of night sweats, doctors typically:
Take a medical history
Your doctor will ask about your night sweat symptoms, including timing, severity, frequency, and any associated symptoms. Your doctor will also ask about your medical history, family history, medications, and lifestyle habits.
Conduct a physical exam
Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs, feel for enlarged lymph nodes, check your skin, and evaluate your vital signs for clues pointing to any underlying illness.
You may need blood tests to check for infections, hormone levels, blood cell counts, blood sugar, and other lab abnormalities that could explain night sweats. Other tests like CT scans, MRIs, biopsies, sleep studies,tilt-table testing, and endoscopies may also be performed.
Consider medications and exposures
Your doctor will review all your prescription and over-the-counter medications to see if any might be causing night sweats as a side effect. They will also ask about potential occupational chemical exposures.
Keeping a night sweat diary with details about each episode can help your doctor determine appropriate testing and treatment.
Treatments for Night Sweats
To treat night sweats, doctors aim to address any underlying condition contributing to excessive sweating. Treatment options may include:
If a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection is causing night sweats, treating the infection should resolve symptoms. Antibiotics, antiviral medications, antifungals, or tuberculosis medications may be prescribed.
Switching to alternative medications without night sweat side effects can eliminate medication-induced sweating. Dose adjustments may also help.
Hormone replacement therapy or other medications can relieve night sweats related to hormonal shifts in perimenopause, menopause, and andropause.
If low blood sugar is causing night sweats, your doctor will address dietary changes, glucose monitoring, and medications to stabilize your blood sugar.
Managing underlying conditions
Treating health conditions like sleep apnea, GERD, anxiety, and autoimmune disorders can reduce associated night sweats.
For stubborn cases, medications like anticholinergics, clonidine, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs may be prescribed to curb night sweats.
Dermatologists may inject Botox into select sweat glands to reduce sweating in some cases of severe idiopathic hyperhidrosis.
Keeping your bedroom cool and layered sleepwear on hand can help manage symptoms. Stress reduction techniques, counseling, and exercise programs may also help.
Finding the source of your night sweats is key. Treating the underlying cause, when possible, can prevent night sweats from recurring.
Coping with Night Sweats
While waiting for night sweats to resolve, the following self-care tips can help you cope with symptoms:
Sleep in layers
Dress in removable layers of lightweight, absorbent, breathable fabrics like cotton to stay comfortable throughout a night sweat episode.
Use moisture-wicking sheets and pillowcases
Bedding designed to draw moisture away from your skin can keep you dry. Protect your mattress with a waterproof cover.
Keep your bedroom cool
Maintain a comfortable, cool sleeping environment between 60-67°F. Use fans, open windows, and lower thermostat settings.
Shower before bed
Bathing before bedtime can minimize sweating episodes compared to showering in the morning.
Limit spicy foods and alcohol before bed
Avoiding triggers like spicy meals and alcohol for 2-3 hours before bedtime may reduce flushing.
Practice relaxation techniques
Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and other stress-reducers can help calm night sweat anxiety.
Daily exercise helps regulate body temperature. However, avoid vigorous workouts within 2 hours of bedtime.
Use topical antiperspirants
Over-the-counter antiperspirants or prescription topicals may temporarily suppress sweating.
Drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration from excessive night sweating. Electrolyte drinks can help replenish losses.
When to Seek Emergency Care
In rare cases, seek prompt medical attention for:
– Confusion, fainting, seizures, chest pain, or difficulty breathing – These may signal a medical emergency like stroke, heart attack, or allergic reaction.
– Suicidal thoughts associated with night sweats – Severe depression or anxiety related to night sweats may require crisis support.
– Extreme dehydration from persistent heavy sweating – Severe fluid losses can lead to electrolyte imbalances needing IV hydration.
– Profuse sweating in a child or infant – Unexplained night sweats in children warrant prompt evaluation to rule out serious illness.
– Head or back injury resulting in new onset night sweats – This may indicate a neurological problem requiring rapid treatment.
If you are ever concerned about the severity of your night sweats, do not hesitate to seek emergency care, even if symptoms eventually resolve on their own.
Night sweats can disrupt sleep routines and cause distress. However, diagnosing the root cause is the critical first step to finding the appropriate treatment. Keeping your doctor informed about the details of your night sweat episodes will assist in determining if testing and medical intervention are warranted.
While coping with symptoms, focus on optimizing your sleep environment, bedding, and lifestyle habits to support quality rest. If night sweats persist despite your best efforts, do not hesitate to seek medical advice to explore safe, effective treatment options for resolving this bothersome condition. With the right diagnosis and customized treatment plan, you can overcome night sweats and enjoy restorative, uninterrupted sleep.