Whether it’s been from a fever, a bad dream or the AC not kicking on, chances are you’ve woken up a bit sweaty at least once. Night sweats, also known as nocturnal hyperhidrosis, are characterized by excessive sweating during sleep. While they are often more of an annoyance than a sign of a serious health problem, there are certain situations where night sweats may warrant medical attention. In this blog post, we will explore the causes of night sweats, discuss when you should be concerned, and what you can do to find some relief.
Common Causes of Night Sweats
Night sweats can be attributed to a wide range of factors, from completely harmless to potentially serious. The most common causes include hormonal imbalances or disorders, medications, infections, and anxiety and stress.
Menopause is one of the most common conditions in which night sweats are associated with.
During menopause, significant changes in hormone production, particularly estrogen and progesterone, can lead to hot flashes and night sweats. This imbalance can trick your hypothalamus, the part of the brain that helps control body temperature, into thinking you’re too hot, causing your body to sweat in order to purge excess heat.
Additionally, hormone disorders, such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can result in night sweats.
Certain medications can also be associated with night sweats. These may include antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), steroids, antihistamines, and fever-reducing medications. Similar to hormone imbalances, this has to do with the drug’s effect on the parts of the brain that control temperature control and sweating.
If you’ve ever been stricken with a bad cold or flu, you know that a fever, and maybe some consequent sweating, can be common symptoms of an infection. However, more serious infections can also commonly cause night sweats, such as tuberculosis, HIV, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, fungal infections, and abscesses. Infections can trigger night sweats as a result of the body's immune response to the infection. The body's natural response to an infection is to raise its temperature to help fight off the infection. This can cause sweating, which can lead to night sweats.
Lastly, some of the most common causes of night sweats can be traced back to unresolved anxiety and stress. Stress, worry, and panic can trigger night sweats. The body's stress response can lead to increased sweating, including during sleep. If you’ve ever woken up suddenly from a bad dream only to find you’ve broken out into brisk sweat, you may know this all too well.
Rare Causes of Night Sweats
There are some very rare instances in which night sweats may be a tell-tale sign of something more significant, such as cancer or neurological disorders.
Some rare conditions in which night sweats are a symptom include:
- Primary hyperparathyroidism: A rare condition in which the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone, leading to high levels of calcium in the blood.
- Carcinoid syndrome: A rare condition in which tumors in the digestive tract produce hormones that can cause a range of symptoms, including night sweats.
- Pheochromocytoma: A rare tumor of the adrenal gland that can cause excessive sweating, including night sweats.
- Medullary thyroid carcinoma: A rare type of thyroid cancer that can cause night sweats.
- Idiopathic hyperhidrosis: A medical condition involving abnormally excessive sweating, usually unrelated to body temperature or exercise.
- Undiagnosed cancer: In rare cases, night sweats may be an early warning sign of some cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
It’s important to remember that these conditions are rare and more common conditions should be explored and ruled out first.
Managing Night Sweats
There’s no denying that consistently waking up feeling hot and clammy, is — at the very least — uncomfortable. Consequently, disrupted sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and decreased productivity, which can make you feel even worse. Finding the root cause of the sweating can help you figure out how to get some relief.
Simple changes in daily routines can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of night sweats. These include maintaining a cool sleeping environment, wearing lightweight and breathable sleepwear, using moisture-wicking bedding, and avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
For individuals experiencing night sweats due to hormonal imbalances, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can provide relief. This approach involves using medications to balance hormone levels, which may alleviate night sweats and associated symptoms. However, the decision to pursue HRT should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider, considering individual risks and benefits.
In certain cases, medications may be prescribed to manage night sweats. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help regulate body temperature and decrease sweating. However, medication should only be considered after a thorough evaluation and discussion with a healthcare professional.
Treating underlying conditions
If night sweats are caused by an underlying medical condition, treating the root cause becomes crucial. This may involve addressing infections, managing diabetes or thyroid disorders, or undergoing appropriate treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses.
Stress reduction techniques
Stress and anxiety can exacerbate night sweats. Employing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in activities that promote emotional well-being can be beneficial in managing stress-related night sweats.
Night sweats can significantly disrupt sleep and affect overall well-being. While they may be caused by benign factors, it is essential to evaluate and address persistent or severe night sweats as they could indicate an underlying medical condition. By understanding the potential causes, recognizing associated symptoms, and working through the treatment method that corresponds with the root cause, you can effectively nip those pesky night sweats in the bud.