We’ve all woken up sweating at some point, especially on hot summer nights. However, if you try to turn down your air conditioner, remove heavy blankets, or add a fan to your bedroom, you will again If you wake up watery, you may have night sweats and this may indicate a health problem that needs to be addressed early.
Night sweats, sometimes called nocturnal hot flashes, don’t mean that you occasionally get hot during sleep. They’re repetitive, extreme and disrupt sleep, says Amy Zack, M.D., a family physician at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It’s a common name for people waking up drenched in sweat,” he says. “It’s not just feeling hot, maybe if the room is hot or it’s warm outside, but it’s sweating that requires a change of clothes, a change of bedding.”
What causes night sweats?
Night sweats can occur for several reasons. If you have night sweats that are disrupting your sleep, Zack says you should talk to your doctor to rule out something serious. “When we hear about someone having night sweats, there’s definitely a series of questions to try to figure out what might be causing it,” he says. “Sleep disorders have a really big impact on all aspects of life.”
Here are 10 possible causes of night sweats in women:
1. Menopause and perimenopause
Common causes of night sweats for women are menopause and perimenopause, the stage before menopause when ovarian function and menstrual cycles begin to change, Zach says. “It’s caused by hormonal changes in the body,” he explains. “It is believed that it affects the vascular system and causes the skin to become red and hot. When that happens, the body sweats to cool the skin.”
Menopausal night sweats and hot flashes can be treated with prescription medications and herbal supplements such as ginseng or evening primrose oil.
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Night sweats can be a sign of a serious infection, says Peter Beeday, M.D., associate professor of family medicine and assistant professor of family medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Some of the infections known to be associated with night sweats are tuberculosis and HIV,” he says, adding that endocarditis, an infection of the heart tissue, and osteomyelitis, a bone infection, can also cause night sweats.
In these cases, treating the disease or infection can help the night sweats go away.
Some cancers, such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, can cause night sweats, Beeday says. And night sweats can be an early sign of cancer, so see your doctor for some tests.
According to the National Cancer Institute, night sweats can be a side effect of cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and some medications.
4. Anxiety and depression
Anxiety, stress, and depression, while mental health conditions, also affect the body physically, including raising the heart rate. “Any time you get your heart rate up, you can feel anxious, irritable, restless, and it can definitely make you feel sweaty,” says Zach.
However, anxiety doesn’t always cause night sweats that accompany other conditions, she says.
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5. Add medication
Night sweats can be a side effect of some medications, says Bidey. Antidepressants, diabetes medications, and hormone therapy medications are common side effects of night sweats.
For people addicted to drugs, especially opioids, night sweats can also accompany drug withdrawal, Beedey adds.
6. Thyroid condition
Hyperthyroidism or thyroid gland causes excessive sweating, sometimes night sweats.
“It’s usually only at night,” says Zach. “It can change body temperature and cause changes in metabolic rate, which is sweating.”
Treating thyroid conditions usually helps reduce night sweats.
7. Hormonal changes or conditions
Any hormonal change can cause night sweats, especially for women, says Zach. This can include menopause, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome or other hormonal changes.
Low testosterone in men can be another cause of night sweats.
8. Drinking alcohol before going to bed
Drinking alcohol increases the body temperature and causes reddening of the skin. So, if you drink too much before bed, you may end up with night sweats. “It also disrupts sleep,” says Zach. If you suspect that your night sweats are related to alcohol, she recommends a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding alcohol before bed.
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9. Sleep apnea
Night sweats are often a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing during sleep (often several times a night), Beedey says. If you regularly struggle with night sweats, try one of the cooling mattresses we covered in our Helix mattress review. A cooling mattress helps regulate your temperature and keep you cool and comfortable.
Excessive night sweats were three times more common in people with untreated sleep apnea in 2013, according to a 2013 study published in the journal BMJ Open.
Night sweats are common for people with hyperhidrosis: “But it’s not just at night,” Beeday says. “They produce excessive sweat in some parts of their body, sometimes all over their body. Even during the day.”
According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, medications, as well as some antiperspirants, Botox injections, laser treatments and iontophoresis are common treatments for hyperhidrosis.
When to get treatment for night sweats
The occasional night sweat should not be a cause for concern. Wearing loose-fitting clothes, opening windows, sleeping near a fan, and avoiding alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods before bed can help, Beedey says.
However, if night sweats are a regular occurrence and your clothes and sheets are soaked through, she recommends seeing a doctor.
“You don’t want to attribute night sweats to menopause or anything along those lines,” Beedey says. “If necessary, you’ll want to look into it further, and that’s where you want to see your primary care provider. Sometimes you might miss a small sign or something and it could be something more serious or something more general.
Stress can also make you sweat more. Read more about How to stop stress.