What Causes Night Sweats & Can They Be Stopped?

5 Min Read | By Anna Ashbarry

Last Modified 15 September 2023   First Added 14 January 2020

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

What does it mean when you wake up sweating? There’s many reasons why you may experience night sweats, from illness and infection to stress and anxiety. In the summer, it could simply be too warm, or in the winter you may have bundled up a little too much. Still, don’t fret – night sweats are unlikely to be a symptom of something serious.

Here, we quiz Caleb Backe, a health expert for Maple Holistics on night sweats and who they affect.

What are night sweats?

Night sweats are when a person excessively sweats at night. Sweating during sleep is normal and can be happening for many reasons such as having a bad dream or getting too hot from leaving your heating on. However, if you are waking up regularly dripping with sweat, there may be a bigger and more serious underlying issue.

What are the causes of night sweats?

If you haven’t experienced night sweats before, you probably can’t imagine the feeling of waking up from a deep sleep feeling like you’ve just stepped out of a swimming pool. Backe says “if you slept with a few extra blankets, or your room thermostat was raised a bit too high, it may lead to you waking up drenched in sweat, but this is usually not a sign of concern.”

However, if you are waking up with night sweats on a regular basis, there could be more of a medical reason behind it. Caleb says:

“it’s likely that these night sweats are associated with an underlying medical condition or illness. The most common reason for experiencing night sweats comes from certain medications, including antidepressants, diabetes medications, and hormone-blocking drugs. In addition, certain diseases and conditions can lead to night sweats, such as anxiety disorders, drug addictions, and thyroid disease. Usually, night sweats come together with fever, weight loss, pain, cough, diarrhoea, or other symptoms.”

Aside from medical conditions and getting too hot, there are other causes that have been associated with night sweats such as anxiety and stress. Anxiety can commonly cause night sweats.

A man sleeping on a wooden bed, hugging the striped duvet.

Who gets night sweats?

Both adults and children can experience night sweats. However, the reasons for experiencing sweats during the night may differ with age as well as gender.

Night sweats in children

Children may be sweating due to a night terror. Night terrors are sleep disturbances that are more intense than a nightmare and can cause sweating, rapid breathing, screaming, and sitting upright suddenly.

Children who are stressed, overtired, on a new medication, or have had too much caffeine are likely to get night terrors. Although there is no cure for night terrors, you can try preventing them, by lowering your child’s stress levels, ensuring they have enough sleep, and implementing a steady bedtime routine.

Caleb Backe – Health Expert from Maple Holistics

Night sweats in women

Night sweats are normal for women who are experiencing menopause. The hot flushes that are a symptom of menopause can sometimes occur at night resulting in excessive sweating. If you’re not going through menopause, night sweats are most likely simply overheating but could be a sign of illness or fever.

Night sweats in men

What causes night sweats in men? It is thought that men with low testosterone are more likely to experience night sweats. Naturally, as men get older, their bodies produce less testosterone and so profusely sweating in sleep is more likely to happen to males who are of an older age.

What could night sweats be a sign of?

Aside from general warm weather, the following could also be causes of night sweats:

  • A fever or heavy cold
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Hormone disorders such as pheochromocytoma, carcinoid syndrome, and hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Neurologic conditions such as strokes and autonomic neuropathy
  • Infections
  • Idiopathic hyperhidrosis
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Brucellosis
  • Medications
  • Anxiety
  • SAD

Sweating heavily can also be one of many anxiety symptoms at night, which is something to watch out for. If you only experience this on a seasonal basis, for example only in the winter, it could also be linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Many studies have shown that SAD and medical disorders appear to be linked, which can lead to people experiencing night sweats in colder weather.

SAD is something that is difficult to live with, but it can be managed with the right tips and know-how. Those with an underlying anxiety disorder can be more heavily impacted by this, and in turn experience heavier night sweats and other problems getting to sleep at night.

How to stop sweating in bed

If you are looking to stop sweating in bed and hot flushes, here are 10 self-help remedies we recommend for men, women, and children to help prevent night sweats:

  1. Wear loose and light clothing to sleep in
  2. Dress in layers so you can remove them easily if you get too hot during the night
  3. Don’t sleep with your heating on
  4. Try opening a window at night
  5. Use a fan in your bedroom
  6. Sleep under a lighter duvet
  7. Turn your pillow often
  8. Establish a calming night-time routine to reduce stress and anxiety
  9. If you sleep with a partner, try sleeping in a separate bed to see if it makes a difference
  10. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise often

Sweating in sleep is normal for most people. However, if you have reoccurring experiences of night sweats, it is best to seek medical advice from your local GP to determine the cause.

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