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Night Sweats


Night sweats are a common reason for disturbance during sleep. You may wake up from sleep and find yourself drenched in sweat. The medical term for this condition is known as nocturnal hyperhidrosis. Sweating itself is a natural body mechanism by which your body releases excessive heat to cool down when needed. Usually, it occurs in hot weather or after strenuous activity. However, if you are sweating at night without an apparent cause, it may be due to an underlying condition. 


There are multiple causes of night sweats. Normal physiologic causes can be sweating due to high temperature, increased humidity, thick clothes, lack of cooling appliances, or sleeping after an intense workout. Besides these, hormonal imbalance is one of the major causes of night sweats. This is predominant in females who are going through menopause. Changes in hormonal levels during this period result in hot flashes or night sweats. It can also occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menstruation.

Medical conditions that lead to fever can also lead to night sweats. This occurs when your body tries to return to its normal temperature. Alcohol, drugs, and certain medications can be other factors. People with sleep apnea or other forms of sleep disturbance are more likely to experience night sweats. Stress, fear, or anxiety can also make you prone to sweat at night. Other medical conditions that may cause night sweats include hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, gastroesophageal reflux disease, rheumatoid arthritis, giant cell arteritis, nocturnal angina, stroke, and cancer. 

Risk Factors And Epidemiology

Night sweats are not a life-threatening condition. It is normal in some cases, mainly when it occurs due to hormonal fluctuation, but it can be a sign of an underlying disease. Females may begin to experience early symptoms of menopause around their 40s. The age range can vary among different females. Changes in the level of estrogen and other hormones can lead to night sweats.


Certain medications can also increase the probability of this condition. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, diabetic medicines, hormone therapy medicines, antipyretics, and some steroids. Excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse can also cause fluctuations in your body temperature, resulting in night sweats. 

Signs And Symptoms

Night sweats itself is a sign of a medical issue or hormonal changes. It can occur with other symptoms such as sleep disturbance, weakness, dizziness, etc. In some cases, you may be unable to sleep because of this condition, and in other instances, you wake up from a deep sleep while being drenched in sweat. Other signs and symptoms may be present if you have a particular medical condition causing night sweats. 


The diagnosis of this condition begins with a detailed medical history. If you are a female around the age of 40 complaining of night sweats with no other apparent symptoms, the likely diagnosis is that you are going through menopause. Pregnancy is another cause that needs to be considered.


If any other medical condition is suspected, your doctor will request lab tests to diagnose a possible illness. These include complete blood count (CBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), eosinophil count, and urinalysis. If an infection is suspected, a blood culture or PCR test can be done to diagnose the pathogenic cause. Polysomnography can also be done to detect the severity of sweating during sleep. 

Differential Diagnosis

There is no differential diagnosis for night sweats. It occurs as a symptom due to multiple conditions. The underlying cause should be diagnosed based on history, presenting symptoms, and diagnostic tests. 


If night sweats occur due to hormonal fluctuations, no treatment will be necessary. As soon as the phase of hormonal changes is over, this condition will also resolve. Females going through menopause should wear light clothing before sleep and maintain a cooler room temperature. Try relaxation or breathing techniques to calm yourself if you experience night sweats due to stress or anxiety. In case of severe stress, you can consult with a therapist to help you resolve your psychological issues.


If you get diagnosed with a medical condition, your doctor will guide you about the treatment options for that particular condition. Avoid exercise or heavy physical activity right before sleeping to limit the risk of night sweats.

Medications are given if an underlying infection or disease is diagnosed as a cause of night sweats. In case of fever, antipyretics such as acetaminophen are prescribed. If a bacterial infection is present, specific antibiotics are given to treat the condition. 


Females going through menopause stop having night sweats once their hormonal levels have stabilized. Other causes of night sweats respond well to treatment in the majority of the cases. 


It is difficult to prevent this condition because the causes are usually hormonal or metabolic. However, you can reduce discomfort by wearing light clothes before sleep and using thin material to cover yourself. Clothes made out of natural materials such as cotton are more breathable than synthetic materials. Keep an optimum temperature in your room, which makes you comfortable. Avoid cuddling with a partner or pillow because it may raise your core body temperature. Follow the necessary treatment options recommended by your doctor to reduce the episodes of frequent night sweating.

Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 08, 2023.



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