Night sweats refer to excessive sweating that occurs at night while a person sleeps in the absence of a high temperature. Usually, it causes all-over body sweating and can cause someone to soak through clothes and bedsheets, depending on the severity of the case. It is a symptom that is typically associated with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis or diaphoresis - unexplained excessive sweating. This is a type of hyperhidrosis that causes excessive sweating due to specific biological factors like illness, drugs or hormonal states. Many times night sweats are a common symptom and pose no reason for concern, but in some cases they may be a signal of a larger problem. If a person believes their night sweating may be caused by a more serious condition then they need to manage their hyperhidrosis with a doctor. Otherwise, there are many effective tools for managing sweat which can alleviate aggravating symptoms and provide comfort.
Causes of Night Sweats
There are many possible diseases and conditions that cause secondary hyperhidrosis, and subsequently night sweating. Often, one of the most common causes of night sweats are side effects of medication or drugs. Below is an in-depth look at the possible causes of night sweats.
Medications and Drugs that Cause Night Sweating
There is a long list of common medicine that cause hyperhidrosis and any of these medications have the potential to also induce night sweats. Of the drugs that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis antidepressants seems to be the most common cause of night sweating. It has been found in a meta analysis that between 10% and 14% of those on SSRIs, a very common type of antidepressant, suffer from night sweating. Here is a brief break-down of the types of medications that can cause night sweating:
- Pain medications: many types of opiates, NSAIDs (which are over the counter anti-inflammatories) and marinol (cannabinoid medication)
- Psychiatric medications: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics and ADHD medications
- Hormonal medications: birth control and other medications containing estrogen or testosterone
- Diabetes medication
There are many other medications that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis, which in turn leads to night sweating. Those listed above are just the most common types. So, if a person believes medication may be the reason they are sweating at night then it would be prudent to look at a comprehensive list and determine if medication may be to blame. Alcohol can aslo cause excessive sweating, so if someone is drinking it before bed it would be beneficial to investigate whether or not that might be the cause.
It should also be known that drug withdrawal has the potential to cause night sweating, especially withdrawal from alcohol. If the onset of night sweats is concurrent with the cessation of drug use this cause should be considered.
Menopause is a notorious cause of night sweats and hot flashes. It usually begins in the 40’s and is a hormonal change that indicates a woman is at the end of her childbearing years. Up to 80% of women going through menopause will suffer from night sweats and hot flashes at some point, so it is extremely common. There are blood tests that can be done to determine whether a woman is going through menopause and it is advisable to have one done to determine whether it is the cause of night sweats. A study of menopausal women from various cultures has shown that this is a shared physiological phenomenon experienced by women all over the world.
Several illnesses are linked to the onset of night sweating. In many cases these are short-term illnesses that produce a fever and will go away without intervention in a short period of time. Other times, night sweating can indicate a more serious condition, especially if night sweats are ongoing. Some cancers, especially lymphoma, can have night sweating as an initial symptom. This is more likely if there has also been unintended weight loss occuring at the same time as the onset of night sweats. Another potentially fatal cause of night sweating is Tuberculosis, a serious lung infection. If night sweats have been occurring for a long period of time and are accompanied by weight loss, long-term fevers, enlarged spleen and lymph nodes then immediate action needs to be taken to ensure that the sweating is not being caused by a serious medical condition. There are several other diseases and conditions that can cause secondary hyperhidrosis, so it is important to explore all of the possible causes and discuss your night sweats with a doctor if they are ongoing and disruptive.
It is also important to point out that in some cases, anxiety can cause night sweats to occur. If this is the case, then addressing the cause of the anxiety or treating the anxiety should help to improve symptoms. Other physiological conditions should be ruled out before anxiety can be deemed as a causative factor. Anxiety which causes night sweats can lead to chronic insomnia so it is important to get address the issues as quickly as possible. Stress sweating, a type of sweating that can occur when a person is under a large amount of psychological stress, can also result in night sweating.
Night Sweats in Children
Night sweating can occur in children. In one study it was found that night sweats were most commonly found in children suffering from eye, respiratory or atopic diseases. It was also found that these children were more likely to suffer from other sleep related disruptions. Boys tended to have a higher occurrence of sweating than girls. If a child is suffering from night sweats there are ways to help kids with hyperhidrosis. It is important to have them checked by a doctor to make sure that there is no serious underlying condition and there are medical treatments available to kids with hyperhidrosis if night sweats are severe.
Treatments for Night Sweats
The most effective treatment for night sweats is to determine their cause and eliminate or treat the underlying cause. This is because night sweats, a part of secondary hyperhidrosis, are most frequently a symptom of a another condition.
If night sweats are something a person will be dealing with for a prolonged time, taking measures to manage hyperhidrosis at home are a good next step. Try some of these natural remedies to reduce night sweats:
- Take a cool shower before bed
- Keep the bedroom temperature low
- Change bedding often
- Use new pajamas every night, and have a clean set by your bed side in case they are needed in the middle of the night. Certain types of clothing are better for people who sweat excessively, it is a good idea to invest in light weight, flowly pajamas. 
Antiperspirants and Other Medical Approaches
If natural treatments are not enough, patients can use antiperspirant and topical creams to reduce sweating. Many people don't understand what antiperspirant does and how it is different from deodorant. Antiperspirants block sweat from forming while deodorants mask the smell of body odor and have mild bacteria killing properties. These typically use a combination of aluminum and other ingredients to prevent excessive sweating at the sweat gland. They are most effective when used on dry skin and applied at night to allow the formulation to sink in. Some people find that antiperspirant rubs off on their pajamas, if this happens then patients should to learn how to get antiperspirant out of clothes or use pajamas they don't care about. Finally, if a patient cannot fix the root cause of their night sweats, there are oral medications that can prevent systemic sweating. The most common class of medications used to do this are called anticholinergics. They are not without side effects but can be of great help to patients who may otherwise be unable to get proper rest. There are other medications available, but anticholinergics are typically the most effective in this case.
If a person is experiencing night sweats due to menopause then there are several things they can try to reduce their symptoms. Eating a proper diet can improve symptoms as well as reducing substances like caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol. Alcohol and caffeine are known to cause excessive sweating due to the way they affect the body. Women can also try hormonal medications to reduce the side effects of menopause and ease the stress of excessive sweating.
Overall, stress reduction, a healthy lifestyle and figuring out the cause of your excessive sweating can greatly improve, and even stop night sweats.
- AntiAging Institute of California; How to Overcome Menopause Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and Other Symptoms. (2014). Pain & Central Nervous System Week. Retrieved August 27, 2018, from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1475211250?accountid=14867
- Freeman, E. W., & K. S. (2007). Prevalence of hot flushes and night sweats around the world: A systematic review. Climacteric, 10(3), 197-214. Retrieved August 27, 2018, from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/198663269?accountid=14867
- Giudice, M. (2006). Tracing night sweats to drug can be challenging. . Canadian Pharmacists Journal, 139(1), 59-60. Retrieved August 27, 2018, from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/221185945?accountid=14867
- Greenham, A. (2011). Night sweats. GP, 34-35. Retrieved August 27, 2018, from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/883399774?accountid=14867
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- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
- So, H. K., Li, A. M., Au, C. T., Zhang, J., & Lau, J. (2012). Night sweats in children: Prevalence and associated factors. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 97(5). doi:10.1136/adc.2010.199638