Excessive sweating keeping you up at night? Know when it's time to see your doctor
While night sweats are often due to a sleeping environment that is too warm, they can also be caused by an underlying medical condition.
If you are one of the many people who suffer from night sweats, classified as excessive sweating at night, then you may be wondering about the potential causes and if you should be concerned.
“True night sweats are defined as severe hot flashes occurring at night that can drench sleepwear and sheets,” explains Laura M. Rosch, DO, an osteopathic internal medicine specialist from Wheaton, Illinois.
If your night sweats occur on a regular basis, interrupt your sleep, or are accompanied by a fever or other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, then you should schedule an appointment with your physician.
“Your doctor will take a look at your detailed medical history and may order tests, such as blood counts and virus and thyroid tests, to determine if you have any underlying medical conditions that could be responsible,” says Dr. Rosch.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, focus on prevention by examining how your lifestyle and environment impact your health, rather than just treating your symptoms.
What causes night sweats?
Practical reasons for why someone may experience night sweats include:
- Spicy foods or hot drinks before bedtime
- Hot weather or an over-heated bedroom
- Excessive amounts of blankets or bedclothes
- Exercising before bedtime
According to Dr. Rosch, the following medical conditions are common causes of night sweats.
- Menopause—Known as “hot flashes” during the day, night sweats are very common for women going through menopause and are often the first sign.
- Infections—Bacterial infections like endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves) and osteomyelitis (inflammation within the bones) may result in night sweats, with tuberculosis being the most common infection associated with the condition.
- Chronic sweating—Idiopathic hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which the body chronically produces too much sweat without any identifiable environmental or medical cause.
- Cancers—Night sweats can be early indicators of some cancers. However, a person with an undiagnosed cancer typically experiences additional symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss and fever.
- Hypoglycemia—Since hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can cause sweating, people who are taking medications to lower blood sugar, like insulin and oral anti-diabetics, may experience sweating at night.
- Hormone disorders—Night sweats can be a result of problems in the hormone-producing glands (endocrine system). If a person receives too much or too little of a hormone, such as serotonin, it can result in flushing and sweating. Night sweats may also be a side effect of hormone therapy medications that regulate the amount of hormones in your system.
- Anxiety—Stress and emotional problems that cause sweating during the day can often have the same effect at night.
Before visiting your doctor, try to eliminate the practical causes of night sweats from your daily routine and sleeping environment. “Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature for sleeping, remove extra blankets from your bed, and refrain from exercising or eating spicy foods late in the evening,” advises Dr. Rosch. “If your night sweats persist, then make an appointment with your family physician.”