Night sweats, or excessive sweating during sleep, are a common occurrence for many people, particularly in warm environments or under thick covers. However, when sweating at night becomes frequent, profuse, or accompanied by other symptoms, it may signal an underlying health issue that needs attention.
According to Aarthi Ram, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at Houston Methodist, there are various factors that can contribute to night sweats, ranging from lifestyle habits to medications to medical conditions.
While some causes may be harmless, others require prompt diagnosis and treatment to avoid complications. "Night sweats are mostly harmless, although understandably unpleasant, and can be caused by variations in body temperature while you sleep.
However, there are some other cases where it can be a sign of certain health conditions," says Dr. Ram.
From Menopause to Cancer: Possible Causes of Night Sweats
Here are some of the potential reasons why night sweats occur:
- Environmental factors: Sleeping in a hot room, using heavy bedding, or wearing too many clothes can make you sweat excessively during the night.
- Alcohol and stress: Consuming alcohol before bedtime or feeling anxious or stressed can trigger night sweats in some people.
- Medications: Certain prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, hormone therapy drugs, blood pressure drugs, and diabetes drugs, can cause night sweats as a side effect.
- Health conditions: Night sweats can be a symptom of various illnesses, including autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (such as leukemia, lymphoma, or prostate cancer), depression, heart disease, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), obesity, serious infections like endocarditis or tuberculosis, and sleep disorders.
- Menopause: In women, night sweats are a common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, affecting up to 75% of women at some point.
Hormonal changes can disrupt the body's thermoregulation, leading to hot flashes, chills, and night sweats.
Depending on the suspected cause, your doctor may order blood tests, imaging scans, or other diagnostic tests to determine the underlying condition. Treatment options can vary widely, from lifestyle modifications and medications to surgery or radiation therapy, depending on the severity and stage of the disease.
Improving sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine or heavy meals before bed, staying cool and comfortable in the bedroom, and practicing relaxation techniques, can help reduce the frequency and intensity of night sweats.
As Dr. Ram notes, "Sleeping and sweating are both very complex processes that respond to many cues, and they can definitely influence one another. If you're regularly waking up soaked in sweat, experiencing sudden night sweats accompanied by weight loss or if your night sweats are keeping you from getting quality sleep, it's time to talk to your doctor."