Sweating at night while sleeping is one of the surest ways to disrupt your sleep cycle and find yourself groggy and tired the next morning. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to minimize the symptoms of sweating at night. If these steps do not improve your sleep quality, talk to a doctor to determine if the sweating is caused by an underlying medical condition.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have been sweating in bed at night, there is a good chance that you wake up with damp skin or bed linens that are damp with perspiration. This is one of these easiest ways to determine if sweating may be disrupting your sleep. You may also experience the feeling of flushing on your face and other parts of your body.
What Does Sweating at Night Mean?
There are many possible causes of sweating at night in bed. The most obvious is that your bedroom is too warm for comfortable sleep. Try turning the thermostat down before bed, or invest in a lighter blanket. If you have been sleeping on flannel or jersey sheets, try something thinner that lets your skin breathe. If your night sweating acts up during the summer, use a portable air conditioner or a large fan in the bedroom. If these changes do not help with the problem, something else may be causing your night sweats.
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and complex network of nerves. When the nervous system functions normally, the nerves communicate with the brain and spinal cord to help people feel pleasure, pain, discomfort, temperature, and other sensations. In people with certain nervous system disorders, nervous system signals get mixed up or the nerves are permanently damaged. This leads to complications like autonomic neuropathy and autonomic dysreflexia. These conditions cause night sweats and other symptoms.
Some medications affect the endocrine system, which helps regulate temperature in the body. Certain medications also increase heart rate, another cause of increased body temperature. Some of the medications associated with head sweating at night, chest sweating at night, and all-over night sweats include antidepressants, aspirin, acetaminophen, and psychiatric drugs. It is important to distinguish night sweats from flushing, which is when the skin becomes hot and red. Some medications cause flushing that may be misinterpreted as night sweating. These medications include niacin, nitroglycerine, prednisone, and sildenafil. If you experience night sweats as a side effect of any medication, seek medical advice. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication with fewer side effects or reduce the dosage of your current medication.
Hormones are chemical messengers that tell the cells in the body what to do. These chemicals affect metabolism, growth, and a variety of other body functions. When someone has a hormonal imbalance, it is possible that the problem will cause night sweats and other symptoms. In women going through menopause, changes in the amount of estrogen in the body cause hot flashes and night sweats. Women experiencing night sweats may experience sweating around the neck at night, or they may experience all-over perspiration, making it difficult to sleep. According to Dr. Frederick R. Jelovsek, men can also experience hot flashes and night sweats, especially if they are undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
Bacterial and viral infections are another possible cause of sweating legs at night, neck sweating at night, and chest sweating at night. Scientists believe the sweating is caused by the immune system working hard to fight the infectious organisms. Some infections that cause night sweats include osteomyelitis, endocarditis, and tuberculosis.
In some people, the glands produce too much sweat. This causes head sweating at night, leg sweating at night, and a sweating chest at night. The medical term for this condition is idiopathic hyperhidrosis. Idiopathic means that there is no identifiable medical cause for the condition. Some doctors recommend special deodorants or other treatment options for people with severe hyperhidrosis.
Low Blood Sugar
The body uses glucose, also known as blood sugar, as a source of energy. After eating, some glucose remains in the blood, but the rest of it enters the cells. The body must maintain a very narrow concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. Too much glucose and too little glucose both cause serious problems. In people with hypoglycemia, more commonly called low blood sugar, blood glucose levels drop below normal. People taking medications for their hypoglycemia are more likely to experience night sweats and other symptoms.
In some cases, you can make changes that have a direct effect on your sleep quality. In addition to buying lighter bedding and using fans or air conditioners in your bedroom, try using blackout curtains to block out the sun during the day. Without the sun to heat up the room, the bedroom stays much cooler so that you can sleep comfortably. If you experience head sweating at night, it may be time to purchase new pillows and pillowcases. Look for pillowcases made from light, breathable fabrics. You should also try changing how you dress for bed. If you typically wear flannel pajamas or other heavy sleepwear, try lighter fabrics to reduce the temperature while you sleep.
The medical treatments for sweating at night based on the underlying cause of the sweating as well as the location of the sweating. If you are experiencing a sweating chest at night, your doctor might recommend a different treatment than he would if you were experiencing a sweating head at night. One of the treatments that helps ease menopause symptoms is estrogen replacement therapy. This is when a woman takes synthetic estrogen to ease the symptoms associated with a decline in estrogen levels. This may prevent the night sweats caused by menopause. The National Institutes of Health says that one of the major benefits of hormone therapy is that it can help relieve night sweats and improve sleep quality. This treatment does increase the risk for blood clots and other complications, however, so discuss the use of hormone therapy with your physician.
Treating bacterial infections with antibiotics can reduce night sweats associated with illness. Many viral infections just need to run their course before you stop experiencing night sweats and other symptoms. In addition to wearing strong antiperspirants, people with hyperhidrosis may choose to have Botox injections administered to their sweat glands. This reduces the amount of sweat the glands produce, reducing or eliminating the night sweats some people with this condition experience. Those who have low blood sugar need to manage their condition with a healthy diet and medication. Regular blood glucose testing is necessary to ensure glucose levels do not drop to dangerous levels.