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When To Be Concerned About Night Sweats

You should speak to a doctor about night sweats if you have symptoms like a fever, cough, or unexplained weight loss, or if you get night sweats regularly.
Published
2022-07-25
Updated
7 MINS
Woman having night sweats sitting in bed fanning herself with hand fan

Everyone gets sweaty in a warm bedroom, but night sweats can hit you even when it’s cool. You may wake up in the middle of the night to find yourself drenched in sweat or you might not even notice excessive sweating until the morning. 

Either way, night sweats aren’t just uncomfortable, they can be a sign of something more serious. But when should you worry about them? 

Below, we dive into the common causes of night sweats and when exactly you should speak to a doctor about them. Plus, we explain why even when there’s nothing serious causing night sweats, it’s still important to get to the root cause to stop them impacting your sleep, which impacts everything else important in life from productivity to mood to the energy levels needed to enjoy each day.

What Are Night Sweats?

Night sweats are exactly what they sound like: sweating at night. But while it’s completely normal, and expected, for you to sweat if it’s hot outside or you’re under thick blankets, night sweats often have no obvious trigger. 

Although true night sweats have been described as sweating so much you need to change bedclothes, most people don’t actually experience them to this level. The condition has also been described as simply sweating at night when it’s not warm in your bedroom. It’s not uncommon either. One study found 41% of participants reported night sweats in the past month. 

When Should You Be Concerned About Night Sweats?

If you only experience night sweats occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about. 

However, you should speak to a doctor if you have nights sweats and:

  • A fever
  • Chills
  • A Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • You’re experiencing night sweats regularly 

A healthcare professional will be able to test for medical causes of night sweats to rule out anything serious. They’ll ask about your medical history, symptoms, and may order blood tests to find out the root cause. However, rest assured, night sweats aren’t always a sign of a disease. 

A paper from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine states: “Most patients who report night sweats to their primary care clinicians probably do not have a serious disease causing the symptom.” And two different studies found non-severe night sweats don’t have an impact on life expectancy. 

However, even if it’s not a sign of something serious, persistent night sweats are still something you should try to resolve. They can disrupt your sleep, either by waking you up in the night or by causing anxiety before bed as you anticipate that sweaty feeling.

This can make meeting your sleep need difficult. Your sleep need is the amount of sleep you need each night. It’s determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, and it’s not eight hours for everyone.

And if you’re not meeting your sleep need, you’ll be building up sleep debt, which is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body over the last 14 nights. High sleep debt doesn’t just impact your health, though. Your focus, mood, and energy levels all take a hit.

You can use the RISE app to find out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying. In a perfect world, we'd all get the right amount of sleep for us each night. But we know that’s always possible. So, we recommend aiming to keep your sleep debt below five hours. This will help you feel and perform your best each day, while giving you some wiggle room for the occasional late bedtime.

If you have no additional symptoms, you can first try to reduce night sweats with a few lifestyle tweaks (more on those soon). If they don’t help, then it may be time to speak to a doctor for additional treatment options to stop them impacting your sleep — and everything else poor sleep leads to.

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have.

What Causes Night Sweats?

The causes of night sweats include:

  • A warm sleep environment: Caused by the weather, thick blankets, or thick pajamas. 
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Alcohol 
  • Menopause, perimenopause, or pregnancy: Hot flushes, also called hot flashes, can happen during the day or night, leaving you sweaty.
  • Medications: Night sweats can be a side effect from antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), painkillers like aspirin or acetaminophen, diabetes medications, cancer treatments, and dietary supplements like calcium and niacin. 
  • Medical conditions: Including sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperhidrosis, hormone disorders like hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), bacterial infections like endocarditis or osteomyelitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, neurological conditions like stroke, and cancers like leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma. 

You can learn more about the reasons you sweat in your sleep here.

How Do You Stop Night Sweats?

RISE app screenshot showing you when to have your last large meal of the day
The RISE app can tell you when to stop sleep-disturbing behaviors.

If you keep waking up covered in sweat, it’s time to do something about it. Here’s what to do:

  • Keep your bedroom cool: 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for sleeping. Set the thermostat if you can, use a fan, or open the window if it’s quiet enough at night. 
  • Use lightweight bedding and pajamas: Invest in natural, breathable fabrics for your sleepwear and bedding. 
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, exercise, and large meals too close to bedtime: All four increase your body temperature and can disrupt sleep even if they don’t cause night sweats. The RISE app can tell you the best time to avoid these things according to your individual circadian rhythm, or body clock, along with other sleep hygiene habits to help you fall asleep easier each night.
  • Avoid spicy foods: These too can raise your body temperature, so opt for something bland for your final meal of the day to see if it helps.
  • Wind down before bed: Reduce stress and give your body time to unwind before bed by doing calming activities like reading, listening to music, or doing yoga. You can learn more about the value of a bedtime routine and how to create one here.
  • Speak to a doctor: They can check for underlying conditions or switch your medication to see if that’s causing your night sweats. They may also recommend treatment options like medication, hormone therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy

You can also learn about why temperature affects sleep so much here. 

Cool Off from Night Sweats 

Whether you’re waking up during the night covered in sweat or simply notice it come morning, night sweats are not a pleasant experience. Plus, they’re probably impacting your sleep, meaning your overall wellness, mental performance, and energy levels are all impacted, too. 

If you’re experiencing other symptoms — like a cough, fever, or unexplained weight loss — you should speak to a doctor to rule out underlying conditions. And even if it’s just night sweats, you should try to get to the root cause to stop them disrupting your night’s sleep, and therefore your days. 

You can use the RISE app to keep your sleep debt low, so you can feel your best each day, even if you’re sweating at night. Plus, once you’ve gotten to the bottom of your night sweats, the app can help you get more energy to enjoy each day to the fullest. 

Get more of your sleep questions answered:

Summary FAQs

How do I know if my night sweats are serious?

While night sweats may be a sign of something less serious, you won’t know until you speak to a doctor. If you have a cough, fever, chills, diarrhea, or unexplained weight loss, get yourself checked for underlying medical conditions that could be causing night sweats.

When should you go to the doctor for night sweats?

You should go to the doctor for night sweats if you also have a cough, fever, chills, diarrhea, or unexplained weight loss, or if you regularly have night sweats.

What diseases are associated with night sweats?

Night sweats can be a sign of medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperhidrosis, hormone disorders like hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), bacterial infections like endocarditis or osteomyelitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, neurological conditions like stroke, and cancers like leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma.

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