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When a person has night sweats, they may wake up with drenched pajamas and sheets, even when the room is cool.

There are various causes of night sweats, which doctors call “sleep hyperhidrosis.” The issue is often not serious, but it sometimes shows that a person needs medical attention.

Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system, a way to prevent overheating. A region in the brain called the hypothalamus regulates body temperature. It works with more than 2 million sweat glands to keep the body at the right temperature.

Sweat glands release water and other substances through the skin. As the water evaporates, it releases heat energy. This is how sweating cools the body.

In this article, we describe common causes of night sweats and how to treat or manage them.

a woman sleeping in bed and experiencing night sweatsShare on Pinterest
Night sweats may be a response to an infection.

Hot days and workouts, for example, heat the body and trigger sweating as a way to cool down.

Perspiration also occurs during sleep and in other situations. It may be a response to:

  • Certain substances: Consuming alcohol or taking some medications or drugs can cause night sweats.
  • Infections: Tuberculosis, influenza, and other illnesses that involve a fever can lead to night sweats.
  • Hypoglycemia: This is another name for low blood sugar.
  • Hormone imbalances: These can occur due to menopause, diabetes, thyroid problems, puberty, and pregnancy.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Though this typically causes heartburn, night sweats are a common feature.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This restricts breathing during sleep, and a person with untreated sleep apnea is three times as likely to have night sweats as someone without the condition.
  • Stress and anxiety: These can cause additional sweating during the day and at night, particularly in people who experience night terrors or panic disorder.
  • Autoimmune disease: Some examples include rheumatoid arthritis and giant cell arteritis.
  • Surgery that affects hormone levels: One that commonly results in night sweats is the removal of female reproductive organs.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Some examples include aortic dissection and nocturnal angina.
  • Neurological disorders: For example, strokes and autonomic neuropathy may cause night sweats.
  • Cancer: Night sweats can also be an early indication of cancer, especially lymphoma or leukemia, though other initial symptoms may be more noticeable.

Transgender people often have difficulty sleeping, according to 2017 research. One reason can be night sweats as a result of hormone treatment.

In a person going through menopause, doctors consider night sweats to be a vasomotor symptom, because the issue affects blood flow. Also, research points to a link between night sweats and the risk of coronary heart disease in midlife.

Obesity may also aggravate night sweats during menopause, according to another study.

Medications

Night sweats can be a side effect of some medications, including:

  • antidepressants
  • medications for other mental health issues
  • hormone therapies
  • diabetes medications
  • some drugs to lower fevers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen
  • steroids

Anyone who wonders whether a medication may be responsible for this issue should check the drug’s packaging or ask a pharmacist or another healthcare provider.

Some people sweat excessively throughout the day and night. This is called hyperhidrosis, and it appears to affect almost 3% of the United States population.

Some research has pointed to a link between excessive sweating and social anxiety disorder, and some experts believe that a problem with the central nervous system may underlie both issues.

Many people with hyperhidrosis avoid bringing it up with doctors out of embarrassment, but treatments and management strategies can help.

The right approach to night sweats depends on the underlying cause. Treating the issue may involve correcting hormone irregularities or adjusting dosages of medications.

In some other situations, a doctor may recommend management strategies, such as:

  • creating a cool sleeping environment
  • using light, breathable, pajamas and sheets made from natural fabrics
  • sleeping with air-conditioning or a fan on
  • drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration
  • practicing relaxation techniques or breathing exercises before bed and after waking up with a night sweat
  • using clinical-strength antiperspirant on areas such as the underarms, hands, feet, hairline, back, chest, or groin before bed
  • limiting the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods
  • not eating 2–3 hours before bed
  • getting regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • having a healthful diet that is low in fat and sugar
  • receiving treatment for any underlying health issues

Cotton sheets are available for purchase onlineso are various antiperspirants.

Also, medications called anticholinergic agents can help reduce sweating, but a person should only take them if a doctor recommends it.

The causes listed in an earlier section can all lead to night sweats in females. The issue usually occurs during times when hormones are changing, such as:

  • menopause, which commonly causes night sweats and hot flashes
  • pregnancy
  • just after giving birth, in which case the doctor may refer to “postpartum night sweats

It is an especially good idea to bring up night sweats with a doctor if the sweating:

  • is severe
  • changes in frequency
  • affects sleep and the quality of life
  • is not sufficiently addressed with management strategies

The causes listed in an earlier section can also affect males.

In addition, older research suggests that males experience a type of menopause, during which testosterone levels fall around midlife.

Excessive sweating is a feature of low testosterone levels, or hypogonadism. Around 39% of males aged 45 and above may experience this drop in testosterone. They may also experience night sweats as a result. However, there appears to be little evidence to support this idea.

A doctor may suggest hormone treatment or perform tests to identify the cause of the sweating.

Night sweats affect many people. They are sometimes no cause for concern, but they can interrupt sleep and so reduce the quality of life. Also, in some cases, night sweats are a sign of a health issue that requires attention.

Sleeping in a cool room with bedding and pajamas made from light natural fabrics may help. If not, a doctor can recommend other approaches, which may include medication.

If sweating is a side effect of a medication, the doctor may change the drug or the dosage.

Seek medical advice if sweating is severe, concerning, or if it accompanies other symptoms.