Ever woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and no idea why? Most of the time, this happens when you get too hot during the night. However, night sweats can also be related to illness or some underlying medical conditions. Caleb Backe, a Health Expert for Maple Holistics, joins us in investigating why we get night sweats and who they affect.

What are night sweats?

Night sweats are when a person excessively sweats during the 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.

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

Caleb told us that “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”.

Night sweats in females

Night sweats are normal for women who are experiencing menopause. The hot flashes that are a symptom of menopause can sometimes occur at night resulting in excessive sweating.

Night sweats in males

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?

Other causes of night sweats could be as follows:

  • 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

Sick girl with a cold in bed

How to combat night sweats

If you are looking to prevent night sweats and hot flushes, here are 10 self-help remedies we recommend:

1. Wear loose and light clothing to sleep in

2. Dress in layers so you can remove them easily if you get too hot in 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

If you have reoccurring experiences of night sweats, it is best to seek medical advice from your local GP to determine the cause.

Do you have any top tips you want to share for overcoming night sweats? We would love to see them in the comments below.