When should I be worried about night sweats?

We all know how annoying it can be to have sweats when the temperature is hot in the daytime or after doing some exercises. Sweating is part of the body system to regulate the body temperature. Generally, it is normal to sweat although some sweats can indeed be smelly but that is not the focus here. While usually sweating is associated more in daytime or warm temperature, some people do sweat at night time although the room is cool.  Thus, is it actually normal to sweat at night?

Night sweats can happen to anyone either adults or children. It is generally considered normal to sweat during the night especially if the room or the bedding causes the body to feel hot. For example, it is logical to get night sweats if you did not turn on the air conditioner or fan and use a heavy blanket. Night sweats may cause the clothes you are wearing to sleep become soaking wet. Although typically a night sweat does not raise concern, you should be worried if you:

  • Get regular night sweats causing you to become wide awake middle of the night or if it worries you
  • Feeling the body become too warm or hot and shivering
  • Experience cough or diarrhoea
  • Unintentional weight loss

If you found yourself having night sweats along with any of the above conditions, you should seek medical advice as these may be signs or symptoms of other medical conditions. We all know how good sleep is essential for humans because sleep itself helps the body to rest and heal so that the body can function well. Even though there are numerous causes of night sweats, sometimes the causes are unknown. Among causes of night sweats that might lead to night sweats are:

  • Woman with menopause, pregnancy or after giving birth (postpartum period), also known as hot flashes
  • Medicines such as antidepressant specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), steroid and painkillers like aspirin or acetaminophen
  • Side effect of cancer treatment
  • Usage of alcohol or drug
  • Hyperhidrosis, a harmless condition causing excess sweating
  • People with high level of thyroid blood level (hyperthyroidism)
  • Diabetes
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
  • Caffeine intake
  • Anxiety

Most cases of night sweats need no specific treatment. Healthcare professionals can help identify the causes of the night sweats and make adjustments based on that information. If a known medicine causes this night sweats, the doctor may prescribe different medicine. You may be offered for therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help reduce the episode of sweating at night. Before deciding to get help from a healthcare professional, you may want to take your own steps or measures to help cope with this situation. This includes:

1-     Sleep in a cool bedroom

2-     Use a cooling mattress pad or topper if your mattress might retain heat

3-     Use lightweight and breathable bed sheets

4-     Use lighter quilt instead of heavy comforter

5-     Wear loose-fitting clothes made with breathable and lightweight material

6-     Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy food in the evening as these can cause the body temperature to rise and triggers night sweats

7-     Have a small amount of cool water before hitting the sack to help with body temperature

8-     Learn relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing to help you fall asleep easily

In conclusion, night sweats do not necessarily mean a person is having a harmful medical condition. Practising good sleep habits can greatly cut down on the night sweats episodes. Getting medical advice is advisable if you are worried or show any other symptoms that might be related to other diseases.