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Night Sweats

Excessive sweating at night is referred to as night sweats which can drench your clothes and bedsheets too. However, these are not exactly related to an overheated environment. Many people complaining of night sweats usually have different causes for it. Night sweats rarely cause anything serious but if it becomes a regular thing, it may indicate a potential medical ailment. The condition is known to be more common in females during menopause or related hormonal issues.

What are night sweats?

Sweating is a natural way of cooling down the body temperature. Sweat glands release water, which evaporates and releases heat, thus lowering the temperature. This is a regular process that happens at all times of the day if you are in a hot environment. However, sometimes this may even happen in a perfectly cool environment. A doctor may also refer to this as ‘sleep hyperhidrosis’.

Associated symptoms 

Depending on the cause for night sweats, you may also experience various associated symptoms, such as the follows: 

  • Infections
  • Fever and chills
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Menopausal transitions
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia or unpleasant dreams
  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Changes in energy level
  • Menstrual changes
  • Sore throat 
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Numbness and tingling in body parts
  • Forgetfulness

Causes for night sweats

Various reasons that can cause night sweats. Some of them are listed below:

  1. Menopause: Women may experience this during their menopausal phase.
  2. Idiopathic hyperhidrosis: A condition where the body chronically starts sweating without any identifiable medical issue.
  3. Cancer: People battling cancer have night sweats as one of the early symptoms. Most lymphomas cause excessive sweating. Additionally, people undergoing chemotherapy also experience night sweats.
  4. Cardiac issues: People with cardiac complications sometimes tend to sweat more.
  5. Medications: Night sweats or sweating, in general, is associated with medications, such as antidepressants or painkillers. 
  6. Low blood sugar: Also called hypoglycemia, low blood sugar may cause a person to sweat more. 
  7. Hormonal imbalance: People suffering from hormonal imbalance, including that due to hyperthyroidism, are typically seen flushed or sweating excessively.
  8. Neurological disorders: Very rarely, though, night sweats are associated with neurological conditions; for example, autonomic neuropathy can cause night sweats.
  9. Stress and anxiety: People dealing with stress or anxiety show physical symptoms like sweating. 
  10. Sleep apnea: The obstruction of your airway may result in repeated stopping and starting of breathing, which results in disturbed sleeping patterns known as sleep apnea
  11. Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Heartburn and acidity with reflux may sometimes cause night sweats.
  12. Alcohol addiction: People overcoming alcohol dependence may experience night sweat episodes as a withdrawal symptom.

Night sweats are more common in females than in males. The causes behind night sweats in both genders are also different. In females, night sweats are related to hormonal changes like menopause, pregnancy, or postpartum sweats.

When to see a doctor

Night sweats do not always affect the quality of sleep. However, if it is affecting your sleep or you have the aforementioned symptoms, you must consult a doctor. 

Night sweating is usually related to any underlying medical condition that requires treatment. If it is followed by fever, cold and cough, or unexplained weight loss, you should contact your healthcare providerThey will come up with a treatment plan once the cause underlying the night sweats is revealed.

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How can you prevent night sweats?

Night sweats that aren’t related to any medical condition can be prevented by taking certain precautions, such as follows:

  • Avoid consumption of tobacco or any neuro stimulant drugs
  • Keep a check on your alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Open a window at night possibly or try using a fan or air conditioning
  • Use comfortable bedding with breathable fabric
  • Place ice packs under your pillow to keep your pillow cool
  • Take a cold shower before you sleep
  • Drink cold water at bedtime
  • Avoid spicy food, which may cause acid reflux and cause night sweats
  • Practice sleep meditation or breathing exercises until you fall asleep
  • Eat your dinner 2-3 hours before your sleep time
  • Wear comfortable clothes made of cotton
  • Physical activity just before sleeping can cause you to sweat more

Treatment for night sweats

The treatment plan for night sweats primarily varies depending on the cause, for example:

  • If you are experiencing night sweats due to menopause, the doctor may suggest hormone therapy. 
  • For idiopathic night sweats, anticholinergics are prescribed, which reduce sweating. (Note: Don’t take any such drugs unless prescribed by your doctor.)
  • If there is an infection that is causing night sweats, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the infection.
  • If the medication you are on is causing you to sweat excessively, the doctor may adjust the dose or recommend alternative medicines.
  • If alcohol or drug addiction is the cause behind your excessive sweating, then a different therapy might be recommended.
  • Sometimes a family doctor or a counselor can help you to develop good sleeping habits to treat the condition.

Considering the exhaustive and stressful lives we live, night sweats are common. While it may happen without any reason, they still disturb the quality of sleep. If you are experiencing night sweats regularly, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue that requires medical attention.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

Anxiety and stress may cause you to sweat. Recurring bad dreams may affect your sleep cycle, thus increasing stress and leading to more sweating. Take a cool shower before you sleep and try sleep meditation to avoid bad dreams.

Does cancer cause you to sweat more?

Sometimes, cancers may cause you to sweat more. Although generally, chemotherapy and high doses of anticancer drugs can cause you to sweat more. If it is affecting you a lot, talk to a doctor to reduce the dose.

Do people with heart disease sweat more?

People suffering from heart diseases sometimes sweat more. It is because their heart has to make a lot of effort to pump blood throughout the body. If a person with cardiac issues sweats profusely and has pain in their chest, it is wise to seek immediate medical attention as they might be suffering from a heart attack.

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