Night sweats, or nocturnal hyperhidrosis, can be super inconvenient to say the least—and even more so if you share a bed with someone. Sometimes the easiest solution to stop the excess sweat is to ditch that extra blanket or crank up the A/C, but other times, the sweating has less to do with your external environment and everything to do with what’s going on inside your body.
The definition of night sweats is pretty self-explanatory: Excess sweat that your body secretes while you’re sleeping. In other words, it’s when your body produces more sweat than what’s necessary to cool down and control your internal temperature. We had Mehmet Oz, MD, physician and cardiac surgeon at Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, weigh in with what might be causing your night sweats and what can be done to combat them.
Ah, menopause: The bittersweet part of a woman’s life, usually in her early 50s, when her period stops coming every month. Eighty percent of menopausal women experience vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes and—you guessed it—night sweats, says Dr. Oz. The downside to this naturally occurring phenomenon is it’s pretty much bound to happen and it can last up to seven years or more. The upside, though, is there are ways to reduce the symptoms that accompany it. First, cut down on alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These night-sweat-inducing triggers are especially important to avoid right before heading to bed. Then, opt for moisture-wicking sleepwear, cooling bedsheets, or a frozen cold pack under your pillow (periodically flip over the pillow so you get the most out of the refreshing coolness it provides). If symptoms persist, Dr. Oz suggests talking to your doctor to see if certain medications or hormone therapy to replace lost estrogen are good options for you.
Taking antidepressants, hypertension drugs, or other types of medications can sometimes result in waking up in uncomfortable puddles of sweat. This happens as a result of the medications affecting the part of your brain that regulates your sweat glands and internal body temperature. The most obvious way to combat medication-related night sweats is to talk to your doctor about switching to a different medicine. But if you don't want to do that, there are a few things you can try. In addition to a more breathable nighttime wardrobe, mattresses are often overlooked as something that can contribute to the severity of night sweats. “Many memory foam mattress users report that [it] holds and retains heat,” says Dr. Oz. “Simply adding a fitted sheet or topper made of natural, breathable material on top of your mattress can lower a memory foam’s temperature. You might even want to try a mattress cooling pad!”
Anxiety can cause excess sweating when awake, so it makes total sense that it's another trigger of night sweats (thanks, stress hormones). If you have an anxiety or panic disorder, you might be even more likely to experience them, alongside other symptoms like shallow breathing and a rapid heart rate. To effectively combat anxiety-induced night sweats, the first thing you should do is pinpoint your triggers. If it’s something you can avoid, do that. But since pinpointing the exact cause of anxiety isn’t that easy, especially if you have an anxiety or panic disorder. Dr. Oz suggests exercising, practicing yoga, meditating, listening to music, and learning different relaxation techniques. “Cognitive behavioral therapy can [also] help balance the effect of anxiety,” he adds. “If you feel overwhelmed, you should reach out to your doctor or a professional therapist to see if your anxiety can be managed another way.”
Hyperhidrosis is a fancy term that means your body naturally sweats more than it needs to on its own. The excess sweating usually occurs in one or two areas of the body, typically your palms, feet, underarms, or head, says Dr. Oz. One of the primary indications that your night sweats might be caused by hyperhidrosis is if you are often visibility sweating without exerting yourself while you’re awake. When it comes to hyperhidrosis-induced night sweats, your doctor might refer you to a dermatologist, who will most likely work with you to find an antiperspirant that works for your skin type. “If that doesn’t help they might try Iontophoresis, which is a device that sends low voltage current through water when your hands or feet are dipped inside,” says Dr. Oz. “Other tactics include prescription medication, Botox injection, or surgery if all else fails.”
Your thyroid gland is super important. It’s responsible for producing hormones that affect nearly every organ in your body and it helps keep your metabolism in check. With that in mind, when something goes awry with your thyroid gland, it’s not unlikely that a few other things could go out of whack too. A sped-up metabolism might initially sound ideal, but too many thyroid hormones can result in overheating (among other things). If you think you might be experiencing hyperthyroidism, your healthcare provider can run a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels. If they’re too high, they might prescribe you medication to lower the number of hormones being produced. Your doctor might also suggest radioiodine therapy, which destroys the cells in the thyroid gland that produce hormones. If necessary, surgery to remove part of or the entire thyroid gland is another option, says Dr. Oz.
The fever is your body’s natural way of fighting off infections, like the common cold, flu, or mono. The list of infections that could be causing you to overheat at night is extensive. When your body heats up, it’s normal for night sweats to occur alongside other symptoms, like fatigue and aching muscles. “There are other causes and many of the symptoms often overlap so it might be difficult to tell them apart,” Dr. Oz adds. There’s really no one-size-fits-all way to combat every type of infection, which is why it’s super important to reach out to your doctor as soon as you suspect you might have one. That way, they can run diagnostic tests to determine what the cause of the sweating is.