What do night sweats mean?
Night sweats are a common symptom of hormonal changes, such as in females who are going through menopause and experiencing a drop in sex hormones. Hormonal imbalances can affect males, as well.
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males and is responsible for processes such as sperm production and building muscle mass. The levels of testosterone gradually decline with age. When testosterone levels are low in males, the body may develop many symptoms, including night sweats.
Also, there can sometimes be a link between some medications and low testosterone or other medical conditions.
Anyone experiencing regular or disturbing night sweats may wish to see a doctor.
Causes of night sweats
A study in the journal Drugs — Real World Outcomes estimates that between 34 and 41 percent of adults visiting the doctor and 10 to 14 percent of older adults experience night sweats, although the issue may not be diagnosed.
There is no single cause of night sweats, and various issues can lead to them, including:
Low testosterone levels can cause night sweats.
Low testosterone, which some doctors may refer to as low T, is a common hormonal condition that affects males.
It means that the body is not producing enough testosterone. The condition may be more common as males age and the body's natural processes start to slow down.
Low testosterone levels may cause symptoms that include:
- low energy levels or fatigue
- hot flashes
- mood changes
- low sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- enlarged breast tissue
Importantly, these issues may have other causes, and anyone experiencing them may want to talk to their doctor.
Many situations can prompt low testosterone levels, including injuries or tumors that affect the testicles or glands. Some genetic conditions or chronic diseases may lead to low testosterone, as well.
Sometimes medications can cause night sweats. For instance, night sweats may be a known side effect of specific medicines.
The same study in Drugs – Real World Outcomes notes that antidepressants, for example, may be a cause of night sweats. The research notes the symptom in many people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Many other drugs can cause similar issues, including hypertension drugs and antibiotics.
Medications that block or change hormones, such as hormone therapies, thyroid hormone supplements, or some drugs for certain cancers, may all potentially cause night sweats too.
Some people may experience night sweats after drinking alcohol.
Some medical conditions may lead to night sweats in both males and females. These can include the following:
- anxiety disorders
- panic attacks
- autoimmune disorders
- sensory issues, such as numbness
- substance abuse
- overactive thyroid
- certain cancers, such as leukemia or Hodgkin lymphoma
- some infections
A sleep disorder may also be an underlying cause of night sweats. A study in the journal BMJ Open notes that night sweats were three times more likely in people who had untreated sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea may notice other symptoms, such as feeling tired, no matter how much sleep they get.
Drinking too much alcohol may also cause night sweats in some individuals, especially if they drink before bed.
Sometimes night sweats can be a symptom of normal changes in the body, such as menopause. During this time, females experience a drop in their hormone levels, which may lead to many symptoms and, frequently, night sweats.
Treatment for low testosterone
If low testosterone is the cause, treatment typically involves supplementation of the hormones. This medication is not the same as the steroids athletes or bodybuilders use.
Testosterone hormone treatment usually involves prescription drugs in the form of pills, creams, or patches that release the hormone slowly into the body. Once in the body, the testosterone acts the same as the hormones the body produces.
Treatment for low testosterone is usually effective but come with risks. There are some potential side effects of testosterone replacement therapy in males, including:
- mood swings
- breast enlargement
- breast pain or tenderness
- weight gain
- edema, or swelling in the lower limbs
- prostate enlargement
- worsening of prostate cancer
- higher risk of breast cancer
- higher risk of sleep apnea
Home remedies for night sweats
Regular exercise may help prevent night sweats by boosting testosterone levels.
Sometimes the solution may be changing the bedding or clothes a person wears at night.
Light, breathable materials may help prevent night sweats in some cases, especially in hot weather.
Reducing alcohol intake may also help people who drink and have night sweats.
Some home treatments or lifestyle changes may help support the body and increase testosterone naturally in males.
These are not methods of curing low testosterone but may supplement regular medical therapy.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition notes that physical activity and weight loss are important for naturally increasing testosterone levels in the body.
The study notes that being overweight or obese lowers the amount of testosterone in the blood. Taking steps to avoid this by staying active and reducing caloric intake can help raise testosterone levels again.
It also found that physical activity may have the most impact here. Males who were more physically active had significantly higher testosterone levels than sedentary males, even if the sedentary males consumed fewer calories.
Sleep also plays a role in regulating hormone levels. Getting a full night's rest each day may help keep hormones such as testosterone in balance.
When to see a doctor
Typically, night sweats are temporary and not a cause for concern. On other occasions, night sweats can be persistent and require a visit to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Postmenopausal women who experience night sweats long after stopping menstruation may want to consult a doctor.
People experiencing night sweats that interrupt their sleep or that occur regularly and often may also wish to see their doctor.
Anyone noticing other symptoms, such as weight loss with no clear explanation, fever, or gastrointestinal symptoms may want to consider seeing a doctor, as well.
Night sweats can be disruptive and difficult to deal with. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If this is low testosterone, doctors often recommend testosterone replacement therapy. The therapy is effective but may have some risks and complications.
Anyone who continues to experience symptoms even after following treatment for low testosterone can work with a doctor to investigate possible underlying conditions.