Updated: Jul 28, 2022
Excessive sweating at night is a common problem that makes nighttime sleep very uncomfortable.
We all sweat. It's good. Our body cools itself down when we are hot through sweat. The problem is that some people sweat excessively at night or even during sleep and it can lead to a disturbed and restless night. For some people, the sweat is so much that they need to change the bed sheets each morning. So, what are the most common causes of excessive sweating at night, and how you can deal with it?
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What are the causes of excessive sweating at night?
1. Anxiety and stress
When you are anxious, the adrenaline in your nervous system activates your sweat glands. So, in times of stress, when you are anxious or nervous, you can notice that you sweat more than normal. For someone that does not suffer constantly from anxiety, this is something temporary. But for people that suffer from anxiety and stress, it literally can go with them to bed.
If you haven’t received treatment yet, go and see your doctor to be evaluated. And if you are receiving treatment, maybe there is something else going on that needs to be addressed. So, visit your healthcare provider and express your concerns about your excessive sweat at night.
During menopause, the changes in the levels of hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone cause the hormones in charge of regulating the body’s temperature to be affected. The drop in estrogen levels causes a woman’s brain “thermostat” to be extra sensitive to external temperature changes. So, as soon as there is a raise in temperature the body sweats to cool itself down.
If you are experiencing excessive sweating, talk to your doctor; treatments are available. Also, you can try dressing in lighter clothes, and avoid triggers that can spike your heating mechanism and make you sweat, like alcohol consumption and caffeine. Maintaining a healthy weight also helps to keep you fresh.
Some medications cause the blood vessels to dilate, when this happens, heat is lost through the skin. The now warm skin needs to be cooled down, so the sweat glands hear the call and start working, causing your body to sweat. This happens with medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, and this is why they are given when you have a fever. Other medications can cause excessive sweating at night, although not through the same mechanism. For example, antidepressants, migraine medications, and medications to treat diabetes and nerve pain.
Consult with your doctor to see if there are other medications that you can use to control or decrease your excessive sweating at night.
4. Sleep apnea
When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing while you are sleeping. The stress caused due to the drop in oxygen in your body when you stop breathing causes a rush of adrenaline, which triggers the sweat glands. Unfortunately, it has been reported that even patients that are receiving treatment for sleep apnea sweat at night.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, because you snore, or suddenly awake gasping for air, etc., get checked to start treatment immediately. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that should not be left untreated. For those that are already treated, maybe changing your sleepwear and bed sheets as well as adjusting the bedroom temperature can help you minimize your night sweats.
5. Thyroid disease
The main function of thyroid hormones is to help regulate the body’s metabolism. When there is an imbalance in the level of the hormones, like in hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), your metabolism increases, and therefore energy is released as heat. Therefore, excessive sweating happens to regulate the body’s temperature. In the case of people with hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone), although they tend to be intolerant to cold temperatures, their excessive night sweats could be explained as a side effect of the medication to treat it (levothyroxine).
Low or high thyroid levels can be treated with medications or changes in the current doses. It can only be checked through blood lab work, so visit your healthcare provider and explain what is happening.
Hormones again handle excessive sweating at night during pregnancy (although it also happens during the daytime too). The estrogen imbalance, as it happens during menopause, makes a pregnant woman super sensitive to a raise in temperature, causing her to sweat to cool down. And that adds up to the fact that having extra blood volume in your body will make you feel warmer.
You can make yourself more comfortable by wearing lighter clothes, avoiding eating trigger foods like spicy food before going to bed, and drinking cold water.
When people have diabetes, sometimes, during the night, the levels of blood sugar can drop (hypoglycemia), most of the time because of the effects of the diabetes medication that causes the blood sugar to decrease too much. And during hypoglycemia, the stress of not having enough sugar, as mentioned previously, provokes a rush of adrenaline that causes the sweat glands to work.
Talk to your doctor to make sure there are no other causes. And if it is your medication, he/she can adjust it or change it to find what best works for you.
During cancer, your body sweat due to multiple causes. One of them is because the body is fighting cancerous cells. Also, there might be hormonal changes that affect how much you sweat. And during cancer the person can have a fever, so your body sweats to cool down. Chemotherapy can also provoke excessive sweating as a side effect. The most common cancers that cause sweat at night are lymphoma and leukemia.
Certain medications can help with the excessive sweating related to cancer therapy. Talk to your doctor to make sure you can have them. Another way is to sleep in a bedroom with a comfortable temperature and breathable clothing and bed sheets. Alternatively, check if implementing relaxation techniques, like meditation, aromatherapy, or relaxation music can help you out.
9. Bacterial and viral infections
The reason here for your night sweats is the fever. When your body’s temperature goes up, the sweat glands get activated to help it cool down. It is a mechanism of auto protection that the body put in place when needed.
The primary way to eliminate excessive sweating, in this case, is by combating the infection. So, don’t stop taking your antibiotics until they are finished, no matter if at some point you start feeling better. Meanwhile, adjust your bedroom temperature and wear comfortable clothes and keep hydrated.
10. Substance abuse
The mechanism that regulates the body’s temperature in people that are addicted to substances, like cocaine and heroin, is altered. When they consume the drugs, it elicits a body response that produces heat. At the same time, sweating start to counteract and protect the body from excessive heat.
If you are addicted to certain substances, there are resources to help you out. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit their website https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. It is free and can help you 24/7, 365 days a year.
11. Sweating disorder (Hyperhydrosis)
Unfortunately, for some people, sweating excessively is caused by a disorder of their sweating mechanism. Here, the nerves that bring the signal to the sweat glands are overactive, even when there is no trigger like high temperatures or the use of alcohol. Therefore, these people sweat even when it is cold, and it can be throughout the entire body or in certain areas only, like the armpits or the back.
A medical provider can tell you if this is what is happening in your case and offer you one or more of the available treatments. At home, you can bathe frequently, use a non-prescription antiperspirant, keep hydrated, wear breathable clothes, stay in comfortable temperatures, and use relaxation techniques to help you deal with the stress it causes. And if you like to travel or stay out of the home frequently, have a portable air conditioner, to make sure you sleep at a comfortable temperature.
12. Other causes
Of course, there are other reasons that are not medical, that can cause you to have excessive sweating at night. It might be related to your sleepwear and bed sheets. The type of fabric that your sleepwear and bed sheets are made of has a lot to do with how comfortable your sleeping time can be in terms of your body’s temperature and sweating. This is an easy fix. To avoid trapping your body’s heat under the sheets, try cotton and linen bed sheets and sleepwear since they are the most breathable fabrics.
In summary, there are many causes of excessive sweating at night, but the good news is there are treatments for them. But the most important thing is to go and get checked to determine the cause of your excessive sweating at night and start acting accordingly. Why keep waiting and suffering? It can be a medical condition or just as simple as changing your bed sheets.
If you liked this post, leave a comment in the section below. And as always, follow a healthy lifestyle and come back for the next topic.
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