Causes of night sweats in women
Have you ever woken up drenched in sweat and didn’t know why? You might be experiencing night sweats. This condition can be uncomfortable and (potentially) a sign of an underlying condition. Learn about the possible causes of night sweats, when to speak with your primary care provider about the issue, how to diagnose the problem, and what you can do to prevent the problem.
What are night sweats?
Night sweats are episodes of extreme perspiration, episodes that may cause you to sweat through your pajamas and onto your bedding, usually due to an underlying condition. Symptoms like diarrhea, fever, cough, weight loss, or localized pain are often associated with night sweats.
What causes night sweats?
Episodes might occur because of the following:
Certain medications, including antidepressants and hormone therapy, may cause night sweats. Aspirin and other medicines for reducing fevers may also cause night sweats.
If you’re experiencing night sweats and you’re around 50 years old, experiencing no other symptoms (or only abnormal menstruation and other symptoms of menopause), menopause is the most likely cause.
Night sweats can be associated with changes to the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates hormone levels, and these changes can lead to conditions like thyroid disorders. Thyroid disorders can affect your ability to temperature regulate.
Drug addiction or withdrawal
Heat regulation can be impacted by drug use; night sweats can result while you’re using or when the drug is out of your system.
Anxiety disorders and panic attacks
Anxiety triggers your body’s stress response, possibly leading to physiological responses to fear. When you’re experiencing night sweats due to anxiety, you might also have trouble sleeping or become irritable.
Night sweats are associated with other sleep problems, though the direct link is unclear. Sweating can be a response to multiple cues.
Infections are associated with night sweats because they can trigger fever and overheating. Night sweats are commonly associated with tuberculosis, endocarditis, and HIV.
Nerve damage (autonomic neuropathy)
Many bodily functions rely on the autonomic nervous system to function. When nerves are damaged, it can impact temperature regulation, leading to night sweats.
Night sweats might be an early sign of certain cancers, including lymphoma. Undiagnosed cancer may have multiple symptoms, including weight loss and fever.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Sweating can result from low blood sugar.
Sometimes excessive sweating isn’t a reason for concern as sweating is a way to regulate body temperature). If you're concerned about night sweats, follow up with your primary care provider for treatment.
How can I prevent night sweats?
How do you know when to go to your primary care provider for diagnosis and treatment? Talk to your doctor about night sweats if your sweats:
- Occur frequently
- Are persistent (more than a night or two)
- Interfere with sleep
- Interfere with other aspects of your lifestyle
- Are accompanied by other health changes
Your primary care provider will need details about your sweating and general health history to diagnose the problem. Knowing how often night sweats occur, how long each episode lasts, any medication, and any other symptoms you are experiencing will be helpful to this process. Creating a running log is one method for keeping track of these details.
How to treat night sweats
The diagnostic process for identifying the cause of your night sweats will start with a physical exam and, depending on the results of this exam, follow-up tests such as blood tests or imaging. Your treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of your night sweats. Possible treatments include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavior therapy combined with other treatment approaches, can effectively reduce the problem. It has the potential to positively impact your life in menopause by improving your mood and quality of life. It can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes or night sweats.
Night sweats might be due to medication. If this is the case, you can change the type of medication, the medication dosage, or your medication schedule. Speak with your primary care provider about your options.
Making healthy choices may reduce many health problems, including night sweats. Your diet (part of maintaining a healthy weight), exercise routine, and stress or anxiety management may be able to reduce your night sweats. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Try to incorporate relaxation methods into your nighttime routine. Wearing breathable clothing may also reduce night sweats. Other ways to reduce night sweats include changing your environment. You can cool your bedroom and change the type of mattress and sheets to maximize breathability and cooling.
Night sweats can be an uncomfortable and annoying experience. Luckily, they are usually highly treatable and not very serious. They can be a sign of an underlying condition, however. If night sweats occur alongside other symptoms, reach out to your primary care provider for a diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.