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Night Sweats

What Are Night Sweats?

Excessive perspiration at night, or night sweats, is an uncomfortable part of life for many people. Night sweats can soak a pillow or require that a sleeper change nightclothes or bedding. 

What Causes Night Sweats?

Many women experience night sweats, also known as hot flashes, during menopause. As a woman's estrogen level decreases, night sweats may increase.

Night sweats are usually attributed to treatable conditions, such as infections, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and hypoglycemia. They can also be a symptom of serious illnesses such as tuberculosis, lymphoma, other cancers, or HIV and AIDS.

Night sweats can be a side effect of certain medications. These include antidepressants, hormone treatments, and hypoglycemic agents (Mayo Clinic, 2013). Abusing substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs can also cause night sweats.  

When to Seek Medical Help

Night sweats are usually not a cause for concern. Seek medical advice if night sweats occur repeatedly and disturb sleep, or if they are accompanied by other symptoms. When night sweats are accompanied by unexplained weight loss and a high fever, that may indicate be a medical emergency.

For people with lymphoma, night sweats can be a sign that the disease is progressing. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Persistent night sweats may be an indicator of the onset of HIV or a signal that HIV has progressed to AIDS.

How Are Night Sweats Treated?

Medical treatments for night sweats will address the underlying condition. Night sweats are sometimes a treatable side effect of an underlying condition, such as menopause or anxiety. In each instance, the treatment varies.

In menopausal women, hormone therapy may reduce the occurrence of hot flashes. Although anti-depressants can actually cause night sweats, in menopausal women they can be used as a treatment for hot flashes. Other medications include gabapentin and clonidine.

Home Care

For people experiencing night sweats, removing blankets (or clothing) or opening a window may help. When there is hot weather, it can help to use air conditioning or find a cooler place to sleep.

How Are Night Sweats Prevented?

Night sweats that are not caused by illness can often be prevented. Caffeine and alcohol can cause night sweats and should be limited if night sweats are an issue. Smoking cigarettes can also trigger night sweats.

Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature.  Avoid crowded rooms or getting too close to a sleeping partner. Don't exercise, eat spicy foods, or consume warm drinks before bedtime.

Relax before going to bed. Relaxing activities, like yoga or some other favorite hobby, can help with night sweats.

Content licensed from:

Written by: David Heitz
Published on: Nov 22, 2013on: Oct 31, 2016

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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