Top 4 Night Sweats Causes
The use of certain medications can cause you to sweat heavily at night. Antidepressants, thyroid hormone supplements, steroids, and medications that treat diabetic nephropathy, hypertension, and congestive heart failure have all been found to induce night sweats.
2. Alcohol and Opioids
The use of alcohol and illicit drugs like heroin can trigger night sweats. Alcohol increases heart rate and dilates blood vessels to trigger sweating, including at nighttime. Night sweats are also common alcohol and opioid withdrawal symptoms. People who abruptly stop using alcohol and opioids after becoming dependent on one or both of these substances may experience night sweats for the duration of their withdrawal syndrome.
3. Warm Sleeping Environment
Sleeping in a warm or hot environment can lead to night sweats as your body temperature increases. Factors that can lead to a warm sleeping environment include warm or hot outdoor temperatures, using a heater or radiator, and wearing warm pajamas to bed.
4. Bed Sheets
Piling heavy blankets on your bed can lead to night sweats, as can sleeping on bed sheets made from fabrics that induce or worsen perspiration. For instance, cotton bed sheets can absorb and retain moisture to keep you feeling hot throughout the night.
Possible Health Conditions Related to Night Sweats
Night sweats, also known as hot flashes, are the most common symptom of menopause. During menopause, levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone gradually reduce to trigger symptoms including night sweats, insomnia, and mood disorders. Menopause can take place over the course of several years, and usually begins in a woman’s mid-to-late 40s.
Night sweats and hot flashes are common side effects of cancer tumors and some cancer treatments. The use of tamoxifen has been linked to night sweats, which is a medication that treats breast cancer in women and men. Aromatase inhibitors are also linked to night sweats, which are drugs that treat breast cancer in women by preventing the formation of estrogen.
Sweating at night is a common symptom of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that commonly grows in the lungs and that is characterized by chest pain, coughing that lasts at least 3 weeks, and coughing up blood. Anyone can get tuberculosis, but factors that put people at higher risk for this disease include spending time in countries like Asia and Africa where the disease is common, and spending time with someone infected by the disease.
Night sweats are a common symptom of lymphoma, which is a general term for cancers that begin in the lymph system. The exact cause of lymphoma is unknown, but risk factors for this condition include having HIV or the Epstein-Barr virus, being exposed to radiation, and having a family history of lymphoma. In addition to experiencing night sweats, people who have lymphoma may also experience fever, fatigue, and weight loss.
People who suffer from anxiety and certain anxiety disorders can experience excess sweating, including at nighttime. Other physical symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders include weakness, nausea, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath. Anxiety is a normal response to stress, which increases the body’s cortisol production to cause sweating. Major types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and other specific phobias. Anxiety and anxiety disorders are found to be caused by genetics, hormonal changes, and traumatic events.
6. Hormone Disorders
Hyperthyroidism, carcinoid syndrome, and pheochromocytoma are just some hormone disorders that can cause night sweats. All these conditions can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause excessive sweating and hot flashes. Treating the root cause of any hormone disorder can often help relieve and reduce night sweats.
7. Heart Attack
Experiencing cold sweats at any time of day or night could indicate an impending heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include rapid heart rate, shoulder pain, jaw stiffness, pain down the left arm, and cold sweats. A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood is blocked from reaching the heart. Risk factors for heart attack include smoking, being overweight or obese, eating a diet comprised of unhealthy foods, and having high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by excessive sweating that occurs at any time, including while at rest or while sleeping. People who suffer from this condition appear to have overactive sweat glands that cause sweating without triggers. Treatments for hyperhidrosis may include medications that prevent the stimulation of sweat glands, the use of strong antiperspirants, and underarm surgery to remove sweat glands in the armpits.
9. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Night sweats are common among those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea causes breathing problems while you sleep due to narrowed or blocked airways. Airways can become blocked due to factors such as obesity and the use of alcohol or sedatives like benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated by making healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and reducing alcohol intake, or with the use of continuous positive airway pressure devices.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Night Sweats
- What triggers your sweating?
- How long do your night sweats last?
- Which medications are you currently using?
- Do you use painkillers?
- Do you drink alcohol regularly?
- Are you currently in recovery from opioid or alcohol abuse?
- Have you tried using different bed sheets?
- Have you started going through menopause or perimenopause?
- Do you have a family history of excess sweating?
Night Sweats May Also be Known as:
- Hot flashes
- Hot flushes
- Nighttime sweating
- Excessive sweating
- Sleep sweats
- Nocturnal hyperhidrosis
- Nocturnal sweating
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- National Library of Medicine. Diagnosing night sweats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12643362
- National Library of Medicine. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Why do we sweat more in high humidity? https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-do-we-sweat-more-in-high-humidity/
- Office on Women’s Health. Menopause symptoms and relief. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-symptoms-and-relief
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lymphoma. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lymphoma/index.htm
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- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Heart Attack. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-attack
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- Medline Plus. Obstructive sleep apnea - adults. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000811.htm