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Common Causes of Night Sweats

Waking up flushed and covered in perspiration can occur after a particularly disturbing nightmare, sure, but several external can also result in excess sweating throughout the night. For instance, your bedroom may simply be too hot or your body may be trying to fight off an infection. However, chronic night sweats often indicate an underlying health condition (i.e., hypoglycemia or peri-menopause). Here are the eight most common causes of night sweating…

1. Overheating

If you like to sleep in sweats (or in fuzzy penguin jam-jams, like me) night sweating can occur during the night if your body overheats. This is typically and innocently due to a combination of too hot temperatures and too thick pajamas.

Sweating due to overheating will usually cause flushing and mild perspiration. Alternately, characteristic night sweating is often far more extreme, according to WebMD, causing numerous hot flashes of temperature during the night that have you waking up wet with perspiration that saturates your bedclothes, and the sheets and mattress as well.

2. Certain Prescription Drugs

There are several prescription drugs that state night sweats among their side effects. For instance, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, in the Department of Psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania, report that prescribed antidepressant medications have been linked to antidepressant-induced excessive sweating (or ADIES), a form of severe night sweats, in roughly 14-percent of prescribed patients.

In addition to prescription drugs, many doctors credit common over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen and aspirin, for causing night sweating. This is most prevalent when these medications are taken for antipyretic effects—or to break a fever.

3. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland that produces increased levels of hormone thyroxin, will understandably result in chronic night sweats. One of the prime symptoms of an over-active thyroid (and other hormonal disorders like carcinoid syndrome) is, after all, heat intolerance and excess perspiration.

A collaborative research study, conducted by doctors at Florida’s Jacksonville Naval Hospital and Maryland’s National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, consider the characteristic increased heart rate, health palpitations, anxiety, restless legs, weight loss, and irregular menstrual cycles associated with hyperthyroidism to understandably result in night sweats while sleeping.

4. Certain Types of Cancer

Nocturnal sweating can also be a secondary symptom that indicates the existence of certain undiagnosed cancers—particularly Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or Hodgkin’s disease, in which cancer develops in the white blood cells (or lymphocytes).

A research study from physicians at the College of Medicine, at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, listed night sweats among the “B symptoms” of lymphoma. Other B symptoms of lymphoma include itchy skin, fever, and unexplained weight loss.

5. Hypoglycemia

The American Diabetes Association considers night sweats a very common symptom of hypoglycemia, or bouts of low blood sugar (dips below 50 mg/dL) before blood glucose levels return to their normal range.

Many patients with type I diabetes that take prescription insulin or oral diabetes medications may also experience nighttime hypoglycemia, or episodes of plummeting blood glucose while sleeping. During sleep blood glucose is difficult to maintain as the pancreas doesn’t secrete insulin, and night sweats can result.

6. Infections and Viruses

Several types of infections—most notably, tuberculosis (TB), HIV infection, endocarditis (bacterial infection of the heart valves), abscesses, and osteomyelitis (bone infection)—will cause fever and nocturnal sweating.

According to a research paper, entitled “Diagnosing Night Sweats” and published by the journal, American Family Physician, liked infections, such as TB and HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus) infection, which present with low-grade fever and chills, weight loss, and cough to also cause a nocturnal fever and night sweats as later complications of the infectious disease.



7. Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease

According to a research study from Harvard Medical School, nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD) is often linked to night sweats, along with symptoms of chronic cough with blood or sputum, wheezing or shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.

Bring chronic night sweats to your doctor’s attention and keep a thorough journal whenever you wake up during the night to record temperature variations, flushing, and perspiration levels. The research suggests that once GERD is diagnosed and treated, complete relief from nocturnal sweating usually occurs quickly.


8. Menopause

Additional research from epidemiologists at Harvard School of Public Health, and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, claims that the hormonal fluctuations that occur with menopause (marking the end of childbearing years) will often trigger vasomotor symptoms—such as hot flashes, chills, flushing, excess perspiration, and nocturnal sweating during sleep.

Harvard statistics indicate that approximately 80-percent of women going through menopause will experience night sweats so severe they will chronically disturb sleep. While estrogen-based hormone therapy is one option for relieving hot flashes and night sweats—hormone therapy has been linked with increased risk for breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke. So be sure to explore all of your options with the help of your doctor.


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