Night Sweats 101: What Causes Them? How to Get Rid of Them?

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Do you ever wake during the night covered in sweat? If so, you are not alone. One study found that 41 percent of primary care patients reported night sweats within the previous month.

So what exactly are night sweats? What causes them, and how can you get rid of them?

What are night sweats?

Night sweats (otherwise known as sleep hyperhidrosis) is the phrase used to describe excessive nighttime sweating. You can experience night sweats even if you don't perspire excessively during the day.

Night sweats can be defined as:

  • Uncomfortable sweating at night

  • Heavy nighttime sweating that makes you want to get up to wash your face or body

  • A drenching sweat that wakes you up and requires a change of clothes or bedsheets

What causes night sweats?

One of the main causes of night sweats is menopause. Yet, night sweats can affect men and women at any age.

Common causes of night sweats include:

  • Alcohol consumption

  • An excessively warm bedroom

  • Exercising too close to bedtime

  • Inappropriate clothing or bedding

  • Consuming spicy food or hot drinks before bed

Some medications such as acetaminophen and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may also cause night sweats.

How to stop night sweat. Make sure your bedroom isn't too warm. I recommend a temperature of around 60°F to 65°F.

2. Consider sleeping naked. Studies have shown that cooler skin leads to better sleep. Furthermore, if you sleep with a partner, skin-to-skin contact can boost oxytocin, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress.

3. Cut down on the blankets and sheets. Consider sleeping under nothing more than a duvet. You can always add extra layers during the night if you feel you need them.

4. Change your mattress. Memory foam and latex can trap body heat. If you have one of these mattresses, consider switching to a hybrid mattress that combines traditional springs with memory foam/latex.

5. Think firm! If you're mattress shopping, look for a firm mattress rather than a soft one. The deeper you sink into your bed, the more air you trap — and trapped air can retain the heat your body generates, creating a warmer environment.

6. Cut out the booze. Consider reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption to see if that has an effect.

7. Don't eat or exercise too close to bedtime.** What can I take to stop night sweats?**

A review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found a lack of research when it came to evaluating the effectiveness of drugs for night sweats.

The review found that although anticholinergics (agents that block the transmission of nerve impulses within the nervous system) reduce sweating in general, no studies have yet measured their effect on night sweats.

The review did state that those taking SSRIs may benefit from alpha blockers and those with cancer may find alidomide and thioridazine helpful.

Are night sweats ‘normal’?

Night sweats are usually harmless. However, severe hot flashes may be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as:

In some cases, night sweats may be a symptom of cancer, tuberculosis or HIV infection.

Although most cases of night sweats can be dealt with by following the lifestyle tips mentioned above, if the condition affects you on a regular basis or if your night sweats are accompanied by any other symptoms (such as fever or weight loss), you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training for adults. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to fall asleep without relying on sleeping pills. More than 4,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.