Waking up in the middle of the night soaked in your own sweat can be an unnerving experience. Not only are you uncomfortable and have to find different clothes and/or sheets to continue sleeping, but it can raise a lot of questions about your health. Are you sweating because you are sick or have a fever? Or do you have an unknown medical condition? These are just a few examples of the questions that may be tossed around in your head as you search for a dry pillowcase. Being informed can help reduce night sweats anxiety and help you manage this frustrating problem.
What are night sweats?
Hyperhidrosis (or night sweats) is the state of excessive perspiration during sleep. It is surprisingly common for both men and women. People can experience night sweats occasionally, frequently, or even nightly. Night sweats are a form of temperature dysfunction frequently associated with changes in hormones. It is common for women who are in perimenopause and menopause to experience night sweats due to hormone fluctuations. Although we know that night sweats are a sign of hormonal imbalance, we are not sure of the exact cause of the relationship between night sweats and hormones.
What causes night sweats?
Aside from hormonal imbalance, there are a number of different medical conditions and factors that can lead to night sweats. Sometimes, people occasionally experience night sweats due to environmental factors such as bedding that is too warm or a room that is hot. However, if your night sweats are not readily explained by environmental causes, they are likely due to something in your body.
Night sweat causes include:
Infection - Fevers from illness can lead to night sweats. Common sources of infection leading to night sweats include bacterial and viral infections, tuberculosis, and HIV.
Medications - Certain medications can have a side effect of sweating. These medications include certain antidepressants, steroids, and diabetic medications. Ironically, medications that aim to reduce fever can also cause night sweats.
Medical conditions - Night sweats can be associated with thyroid disease, autoimmune disorders, drug addictions, tumors in the adrenal glands, certain cancers, sleep disorders, anxiety, and stroke.
The most common cause of night sweats in women who are in or nearing middle age is menopause. Indeed, night sweats are one of the biggest factors indicating that a woman is in perimenopause.
How to stop night sweats?
If you are suffering from night sweats, one of the first things you should do is figure out what is causing you to wake up drenched during the night. If you are concerned your night sweats are caused by a medical condition or medication, consult your doctor.
If you are in your 40’s and 50’s and are likely entering or in perimenopause, night sweats are likely a result of your hormones behaving erratically as you transition to menopause. While it is normal for you to experience night sweats in perimenopause, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In fact, it’s a downright pain. Not only does it add to your laundry pile, but it further disturbs your already disturbed sleep habits because of...you guessed it, perimenopause.
Here are some tips to help suppress night sweats:
Lower the temperature in your house, or at least bedroom, while sleeping. You can turn down the thermostat, turn up the fan, or open the window.
Lighten up on the bedding layers by using only a light sheet and blanket to sleep.
Sleep in the buff, or even try pajamas that are specifically designed for women who suffer from menopausal night sweats. It is especially important to avoid tight clothing and you may even want to consider sleeping in layers if you start out cold in the night.
Check-in with your diet and try to avoid certain foods before bed including spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke exposure.
Reduce excess stress by decompressing before bed. Start a ritual like journaling, meditation, yoga, or a nice (not-to-hot) bath to relax and let the stress ebb away for the night. This can be a great tool for reducing night sweats anxiety as well.
Exercising during the day and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce night sweats.
If lifestyle and environmental changes are not enough to curb your night sweats, many women find that supplements and hormone replacement therapy improve temperature irregularities caused by menopause. Indeed, hormone replacement therapy is the most effective solution for treating night sweats in menopausal women. If you are not in perimenopause or menopause and you are having night sweats, it is important to check in with your doctor to rule out other causes as night sweats can sometimes be associated with serious medical conditions or illness.
Perimenopause symptoms are rough, and they can make life feel pretty tough. If you are in perimenopause, join our community of incredible women and perimenopause experts for support, advice, and a little bit of humor. See you in the Perry Community!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.
Meet the Author
Perry Babe Julia ( RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations.
Much of her education and clinical experience are related to educating women on women’s health topics ranging from lifestyle improvements, disease management, and general health education.