Night Sweats Keeping You Up?

Waking up dripping with sweat and wrapped up in soaked sheets can be worrisome, but it’s not always serious. Here are 10 night sweats causes, and tips to help you enjoy cooler sleep.

As you drift off to sleep, you look forward to sleeping soundly through the night. But you awaken a few hours later, with your hair soaked, sheets drenched, and sweat pouring off of you. Who turned up the thermostat?

It’s your body’s own thermostat going haywire and causing these night sweats. And though it may be a simple side effect of “the change of life,” sometimes excessive sweating at night can signal a real threat to your health.

Night sweats usually happen “because of hormonal change associated with menopause, but it can be a sign of serious infection,” says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill.

And night sweats can be problematic on a number of levels, according to Dr. Shives.

“For some women, they are highly disruptive of sleep,” she says. “They have to get up in the middle of the night and change their clothes and their bedsheets.” That means missing out on valuable sleep that you need to maintain your energy levels through the day.

10 Night Sweats Causes

There are many possible night sweat causes, from simple anxiety to an emergency medical problem. Here is a list of 10 possible causes of night sweats:

  • Menopause, due to changing hormone levels
  • A bacterial infection, often with an uncommon cause, such as brucellosis or tuberculosis; or a viral infection, such as HIV
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is most likely to happen to patients with diabetes when their medication causes blood sugar to plummet during sleep
  • Cancer, particularly prostate, thyroid, renal solid tumor cancers, or lymphomas — but other cancers may also cause sweats
  • A disorder of the endocrine system, including hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Side effects of medications, including antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs like tamoxifen (Tamoxen, Nolvadex), niacin, omeprazole (Losec, Prilosec), aspirin, or acetaminophen
  • Neurological conditions, like a stroke or an injury to the spinal cord
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • .Hyperhidrosis, or chronic excessive sweating without a specific cause

Some of these causes are serious; others are a simpler fix. The symptoms alone aren’t enough to help you figure out what’s normal and what’s not — even if you’re menopausal.

“It is a concern if there is heavy, sudden sweating in a person who is not near menopause,” says Shives. “Even if the age and gender are right for menopause, if you have sudden and copious night sweats, I would advise bringing it to your doctor’s attention,” she adds.

Keeping Cool at Night

If you experience night sweats that you can’t get rid of (and continue to have them until you’re through menopause), you can add a few extra steps to your bedtime routine to keep you cool while you sleep.

Here are some tips to help prevent night sweats:

  • Sleep in lightweight, loosely-fitting, absorbent cotton pajamas.
  • Sleep on cotton sheets with a lightweight blanket instead of a heavy comforter.
  • Keep a glass of ice water beside your bed, and take a drink if you start to feel yourself sweating at night.
  • Set your thermostat to a cool temperature at night.
  • Avoid anything that triggers your hot flashes before bedtime — no hot cup of tea in bed or spicy curry for dinner.
  • Keep a fan running in your room.

For many women, night sweats may simply be a part of life during menopause. But for night sweats which may be caused by other health conditions, seek medical advice — and use these tips to reduce your sweating at night and get more rest.

By Diana Rodriguez – Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH