April 17, 2024/Sleep

9 Reasons Why You’re Sweating in Your Sleep — And How To Get Relief

Getting to the root cause of night sweats — like menopause, medication side effects, stress or anxiety — can help you manage them

Person in bed at night without covers, with fan blowing on them

If you’re prone to night sweats, you know just how much they can disrupt your sleep. When you wake up and need to change your clothes or ... ugh, the sheets ... again ... it can take a toll on your sleep and wreak havoc on your morning.

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It’s a common concern, but a real bother. You’re hot. But also cold. And it’s tough to feel refreshed and ready for your day when you wake up flushed, wet and sweating like you’ve been running a marathon.

But why are you sweating at night? And what can you do to make it stop?

We talked with family medicine physician Donald Ford, MD, about the common causes of night sweats and steps you can take to find some relief.

What causes night sweats?

Night sweats can be more than just a nuisance. Sure, no one wants to have to wash their sheets more than they have to. And waking up soaked in sweat can feel, well ... icky.

But there’s more to it than that. If night sweats are waking you up at night, you’re losing precious sleep. And sleep is important for your physical and mental health.

What’s more, the reasons you’re sweating in your sleep can be a sign that something is off.

There are several reasons why you might be sweating as you sleep. And some are easier to spot than others. Some common reasons for night sweats include things like:

  • Hormonal changes, like menopause and perimenopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
  • Medication side effects, including opioids, steroids, aspirin, pain relievers and medication used to manage conditions like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
  • Chronic conditions like overactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes or chronic acid reflux (GERD).
  • Respiratory infections, like colds, flu and COVID-19.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Stress.
  • Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea.
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol use and use of nonmedical drugs.
  • Some types of cancer, typically leukemia and lymphoma.

Managing night sweats

How you go about stopping the sweating is going to depend a lot on the reason for your night sweats.

“There’s no easy way to distinguish different types of sweating, but getting to the root of the cause can help you take steps to prevent or manage night sweats,” Dr. Ford says.

For example, if the cause is something like an illness that’s causing a fever, it should resolve as you recover. Fever-reducing medication and home remedies can help.

But if your night sweats are more of a long-term trouble, it’s time to get to the root of the problem and take steps to get to sleeping more soundly.

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Most causes of night sweats aren’t serious, Dr. Ford notes, “But there are enough causes that patients should get evaluated if their symptoms last more than a week and they’re not obviously related to a viral illness or responding to changes in your lifestyle.”

He shares advice to best manage night sweats.

Menopause and perimenopause

Night sweats can be common nightly symptoms in during menopause and perimenopause (the transitional period before your periods end).

Here’s why: As your body enters menopause, your body produces less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Those hormonal changes are what causes your periods to become irregular and, eventually, stop altogether. But they also trigger other changes in your body that can include changes in how well your body regulates temperature.

That can lead to hot flashes during the day and, you guessed it, night sweats as you sleep.

Fortunately, several ways can help you manage night sweats associated with menopause and perimenopause. They include things like:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers. That may include things like caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and cigarettes.
  • Managing stress.
  • Eating a balanced diet, with plenty of veggies, calcium, lean protein and soy.
  • Certain supplements, like calcium and vitamin D. Always talk with a healthcare provider before taking supplements.
  • Keeping your bedroom on the cool side (think between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 to 19 degrees Celsius). And sleeping in lightweight PJs.

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Prescription medication and hormone therapy are also options that can help to manage night sweats and other menopause symptoms.

“If night sweats, hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause are affecting your quality of life, a healthcare provider can help you find the right relief,” Dr. Ford says. “Perimenopause can last years, and cause a lot of disruptions for some people. But there are treatments available. And they can drastically improve your well-being.”

Night sweats can linger even after the onset of menopause (defined as 12 months since your last period). So, even if you’re in postmenopause, it’s still possible that hormonal changes can cause you to sweat in your sleep.

What to do when medication causes night sweats

Commonly used medications may also cause night sweats. These include some diabetes medications. That’s because too-low blood sugar levels can trigger extra adrenaline, which can activate your sweat glands.

Hormone therapy and hormone-blocking drugs used to treat certain cancers, as well as some antidepressant medications may also cause night sweating symptoms.

If you’re concerned that your medication is causing you to sweat in your sleep, or causing other unwanted side effects, talk with a healthcare provider about your options. And always consult your healthcare provider before stopping medication.

Stress and anxiety

When your nervous system is on edge, it doesn’t always stop when you close your eyes.

Living in “fight-or-flight” mode can wreak havoc on your sleep. Including increased sweating at night. That’s because one of the ways your body deals with stress is by narrowing your blood vessels. That heats up your body and causes you to sweat.

Managing your stress during the day can help manage night sweats. Try things like:

When to seek help for sweating in your sleep

Treating the underlying cause of your night sweats is the way to relieve the symptoms, Dr. Ford reiterates.

Talk with a healthcare provider, like a primary care physician, if you’re not sure what’s causing your symptoms. Or even if you have an idea of why you’re sweating in your sleep but can’t make it stop.

Medical treatments for night sweats vary depending on the cause. “Almost all causes of night sweats are treatable,” Dr. Ford reassures. “If you have persistent night sweats, a healthcare provider can help you find the cause — and a solution.”

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