Extreme nighttime sweating, NOT due to an overheated room, too many blankets or hyper-insulating pajamas, is fairly common. In one study of 2,267 people visiting primary care physicians, 41% said they experience night sweats.
Sometimes doctors call excess nighttime sweating “night sweats” or severe nighttime “hot flashes.” These episodes are described as drenching sleepwear and sheets and disrupting sleep.
While not a type of primary focal hyperhidrosis, night sweats are something the experts at the International Hyperhidrosis Society often receive questions about.
Medical conditions that may cause night sweats include:
- Menopause and perimenopause. Symptoms of menopause may begin years before the actual cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Other hormonal changes in women (such as those that occur in adolescence and pregnancy) can also cause night sweats.
- Infections. Such as tuberculosis; endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves); osteomyelitis (infection within the bones); abscesses (such as in boils, the appendix, tonsils, and diverticulitis); and HIV infection.
- Cancer. Night sweats can be an early symptom of some cancers especially lymphoma. With cancer, however, night sweats are not usually the only symptom. Other associated symptoms frequently include fever and unexplained weight loss.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Hormone disorders including pheochromocytoma, carcinoid syndrome, and hyperthyroidism.
- Neurologic conditions. Although neurologic causes of night sweats are not common, they may include stroke, autonomic dysreflexia, and autonomic neuropathy.
People who generally sweat excessively, day and night, may have a condition called hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis doesn’t usually pose a serious threat to a person’s health, but it can be embarrassing and distressing.
Many people with the condition are too embarrassed to seek medical help or believe that nothing can be done to improve their symptoms.
However, help is available – for example, lifestyle changes and a prescription antiperspirant may improve your sweating.
Before visiting your doctor, try to eliminate the practical causes of night sweats from your daily routine and sleeping environment.
“Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature for sleeping, remove extra blankets from your bed, and refrain from exercising or eating spicy foods late in the evening,” advises Dr. Rosch. “If your night sweats persist, then make an appointment with your family physician.”