Night Sweats and the Body


This article covers the details and top causes of night sweats and why they happen. Night sweats are not considered a normal part of living and most often signify some internal body chaos or struggle. Not all of the reasons for night sweats are dangerous or life-threatening; some are just an annoyance.

Waking up in a cold, drenching sweat is never the way anyone imagines waking from a restful night’s sleep. In many cases, night sweats are just that- the body’s overheating and cooling process taken to an extreme for the night. In other cases, these types of sweating events can be a sign of something more serious happening within the body. Hot flashes and flushing can mimic a night sweat, but they are indeed different things. If you are experiencing regular night sweats, you should consult with your doctor on the possibilities and causes as to why this is happening.

What is a night sweat?

When you’re extra sweaty and your clothes are soaking wet from sweat, it is a definite sign of night sweat. These events are defined as a sweating event that leaves your linens, clothes, and pillows wet upon waking, or in the middle of the night. They can be triggered by different events within the body or stressors in life, and can resemble very strong hot flashes, strong, tingling warm sensations all over the body that climb from the toes to the temples, and can actually occur anytime day or night. Flushing is another symptom that occurs with night sweats and is the sudden rise in body temperature and reddening of the cheeks with no known trigger.

What are the common causes of night sweats?

There are many factors that are involved with the creation of night sweats in your body. Some conditions are controllable, and others occur whether we want them to, or not. There are two major categories of issues that tend to trigger night sweats. They are environment and underlying medical issues.

Environment. Your bedroom or sleeping room can be the root and cause of some night sweats and restless nights of sleep. For children especially, excessively hot or flannel pajamas have been noted to trigger uneven body temperature regulation and heavy night sweats. Too many blankets or having the room or house being too hot with a temperature too high for comfortable sleeping can trigger them as well. In warmer months of the year when humidity and heat are high, without the use of an air conditioning system can make the body struggle to cool down or warm up when sleeping, which also creates the perfect conditions for night sweating episodes in adults or children.

  • Medical Issues. There are numerous medical issues that can cause a night sweating event to occur. Some of the top medical issues with noted side effects of night sweats are listed below.
  • Medications, drugs or alcohol withdrawal can also cause night sweats. Prescription medications, street drugs, and alcoholic beverages all have the potential to offset your internal temperature control and cause increased bouts of sweating.
  • Pregnancy is not a medical illness, but a condition that results in the birth of a human baby. Because the hormone levels during pregnancy fluctuate and change frequently, this can cause annoying sweating and general discomfort throughout the duration of the incubation period until after the birth and hormones can regulate back to a normal level.
  • Adrenal Gland fatigue, which causes unusual and abnormal autonomic nervous system function, causes sweating, flushing, along with rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
  • HIV/AIDS is a severe immune deficiency that can cause sweating, chills, and fevers at any time through the day or night. These symptoms usually follow alongside viral infections or cancer due to AIDS but can also happen for other reasons related to the body dealing with the HIV/AIDS virus.
  • Cancer and the treatment for it can cause heavy bouts of sweating that can happen anytime throughout the day or night. Lymphoma and Leukemia are the top two sweat causing cancers as they inflame the white blood cells, which automatically throws the body into chaos and turmoil. Please remember that night sweats are not the only symptom of cancer, and there are many other signs to look for before jumping to any conclusions.
  • Autonomic disorders are caused by an impairment of the nervous system, from any number of causes, diseases or illnesses. Spine disease, pituitary disease, and in some cases, head trauma or stroke can cause night sweats.
  • Tuberculosis, or TB, is a parasitic infection that is highly contagious and damaging to the body if left untreated. It is characterized by cyclic fevers and the development of a bloody cough.
  • Anxiety issues can be caused by severe agitation and insomnia issues at night, which offset the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature.
  • Sleep disorders are any condition that is disruptive to the sleep cycle. Restless leg syndrome, night terrors, nightmares and sleep apnea can all cause night sweats from the constant disturbance and inability to peacefully sleep.
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases can cause fevers, inflammation and intermittent discomforts which can cause undue stress on the body, and thusly a night sweat. Many autoimmune conditions including Gastroparesis, Lupus, Scleroderma, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and many others can all causes this to happen. For many of these diseases and illnesses, night sweats and flushing are common listed side effects.
  • Thyroid disorders can trigger all sorts of body issues, including a more significant fluctuation in general body temperature. Hyperthyroidism is usually the underlying cause, and also causes weight issues and agitation.
  • Weight gain or obesity affects our body’s ability to regulate temperature because there is more skin, fat and overall body present. While this is usually more common during bouts of physical activity, night sweats can be triggered at any time during the day from weight issues.
  • Infections can be a trigger for night sweats if there is any sign of fever present. It does not matter if the infection is bacterial, viral or parasitic. If it has caused a fever, they can absolutely cause a night sweat event.
  • Menopause and pre-menopause are one of the biggest triggers for women dealing with night sweats. Changing and fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone during pre-menopause and menopause interfere with the body’s natural ability to regulate its temperature. While menopause usually triggers more hot flashes than night sweats, they are still a regular, unwelcomed occurrence.

On top of these issues, treatment for all listed can also cause sweating episodes and events. Hormone therapy for menopause and other issues like fertility troubles or cancer tend to have more dramatic night sweat symptoms due to the levels of hormones being altered by medications. Other types of medications are also linked to night sweats. Those are antidepressants, chemotherapy medications, thyroid replacement medications and acetaminophen (ACS).

If you are experiencing night sweats or bouts of daytime sweating that are interfering with your daily life, do not hesitate to contact your doctor and discuss possible solutions or treatments for your sweating conditions.

Resources Used:

American Cancer Society

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