Top 10 Causes of Night Sweats in Men & Women

Understand your night sweats symptoms, including 10 causes & treatment options for your night sweats.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 10 Possible Night Sweats Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Night Sweats Symptoms

Night sweats refers to excessive perspiration at night. People with night sweats often wake up with their clothes and bedding soaked with sweat. It is important to be able to differentiate night sweats related to underlying medical conditions versus night sweats related to the environment.

True nights sweats occur despite removing heavy bedding or blankets, or sleeping with a fan or air conditioning.

Common accompanying symptoms of night sweats

Night sweats can be associated with other symptoms such as [1-4]:

Because night sweats often signal underlying medical conditions, it is important to follow up with your physician promptly in order to receive appropriate care and treatment. Seek medical attention especially if your night sweats occur frequently, disturb your sleep, or are associated with other symptoms such as weight loss or fever [4].

Night Sweats Causes

Systemic causes

Systemic causes of night sweats include the following.

  • Infectious: Various infectious diseases can cause night sweats. Bacterial infections that result in night sweats include tuberculosis (a contagious disease that affects the lungs), endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart), and brucellosis (an infection that spreads from animals to people via foods and/or through the air) [2]. HIV, and the resultant AIDS, is a viral infection that can cause night sweats [5].
  • Cancerous: Cancer is always of concern if you are experiencing night sweats. In addition to night sweats, you may also experience symptoms of weight loss and fever [6]. Cancers that involve the lymph nodes and lymphatic system (lymphoma) and cancers that affect the blood and marrow (leukemia) are often principal causes of night sweats [3].

Aging-related causes

Night sweats are often related to menopause. Menopause refers to the natural cessation of a woman's menstrual cycle for at least 12 consecutive months. Night sweats are a common symptom of menopause, which can also include symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular periods, thinning hair, dry skin, weight gain, and mood changes [5,7].

Medications that cause night sweats

Medications for depression, drugs for treating diabetes, and hormone therapy for conditions such as cancer are known to cause night sweats [8,9].

Environmental causes

Environmental causes of night sweats may include the following.

  • Overconsumption of caffeine [7]
  • Alcohol intake: Alcohol consumption is an especially potent contributor to night sweats. Because alcohol affects the nervous and circulatory system, drinking can increase your heart rate and dilate the blood vessels. These phenomena trigger perspiration. However, if you are a regular drinker and have not consumed alcohol recently, you may experience night sweats as a sign of withdrawal [5,10].
  • Use of tobacco or illegal drugs [5,7]

10 Possible Night Sweats Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced night sweats. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Overactive thyroid

The thyroid is a small, bow-tie shaped gland in your neck. Its main job is to produce thyroid hormone (known as T3 or T4), which serves a wide array of functions throughout the body.

When too much thyroid hormone is released, the body’s metabolism gets ramped up, causing symptoms ...

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Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a relatively common condition, especially in obese adults. It refers to obstruction (blockage) of the airway during sleep. This obstruction is usually caused by the back of the tongue and the muscles of the palate relaxing and falling ...

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Symptoms of menopause

Menopause is the name for the natural process by which the menstrual cycle (period) stops happening in a woman. Usually, the process is gradual (takes months or years) and occurs from the age of 45 to 55 years. Menopause is officially diagnosed once a woman stops having a period for 12 months continuously. A woman with menopause will notice a decrease in the number and regularity of her periods until they completely stop. In addition, she may notice a number of symptoms that occur as a result of decreased estrogen levels, such as hot flashes, changes in mood, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, and changes in sexual function. Certain medications exist that can decrease these symptoms.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping

Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause: delay in or irregular periods

Urgency: Self-treatment

Premature ovarian failure

"Premature ovarian failure" (POF), also called "primary ovarian insufficiency" and "early menopause" happens when the ovaries stop working well too early in life. Naturally menopause occurs between the ages 45 and 55. Symptoms of menopause are changes in menstrual period, missing periods, hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, vaginal itch or burning, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic myeloid leukemia (cml)

Chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML, is a rare cancer of the blood. It is also called chronic myelogenous leukemia or chronic granulocytic leukemia.

"Chronic" means the condition appears gradually, over months or years. "Myeloid" cells normally give rise to red, white, and other blood cells but cannot function due to the cancer.

CML is believed to have a genetic cause, though it is not hereditary.

CML is most often seen in older male adults and rarely in children, though anyone can be affected.

Symptoms include bleeding that is slow to clot; pain on the left side of the mid abdomen; fatigue; fever; loss of appetite; unexplained weight loss; pale skin; and night sweats.

It is important to see a medical provider with these symptoms, for the disease responds best when treated early.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, blood tests, and bone marrow tests.

Treatment most often involves therapy with specialized, "targeted" drugs. Other treatments are chemotherapy; therapy to strengthen the immune system; and sometimes a blood stem cell transplant.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, stomach bloating, shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss, feeling of fullness early in a meal

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Night Sweats Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your night sweats

Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis means the growth of tiny granulomas, which are collections of inflammatory cells. They are most common in the lungs, skin, and eyes.

The condition is thought to be an autoimmune response, meaning that the body turns against itself for unknown reasons.

Sarcoidosis can affect anyone. It is most common in women of African descent from age 20 to 40.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and unexplained weight loss. There is often dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pain. The skin may show unusual sores or bumps. Eyes may be reddened and painful, with blurred vision.

These symptoms should be seen by a medical provider, since sarcoidosis can cause organ damage if left untreated.

Diagnosis is made through careful physical examination, blood tests, lung function tests, eye examination, and sometimes biopsy and chest x-ray.

Treatment involves corticosteroid medication; drugs to suppress the immune system; and sometimes surgery. There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but it can be managed. Some cases will clear up on their own.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, joint pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis. "Arthritis" simply means inflammation of a joint. In septic arthritis, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. The most common is Staphylococcus aureus or staph. These agents reach the joints either from ...

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Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by one of several different bacteria, often Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumonia is often contracted in hospitals or nursing homes.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, chills, painful and difficult breathing, and cough that brings up mucus. Elderly patients may have low body temperature and confusion.

Pneumonia can be a medical emergency for very young children or those over age 65, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system or a chronic heart or lung condition. Emergency room is only needed for severe cases or for those with immune deficiency.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and chest x-ray.

With bacterial pneumonia, the treatment is antibiotics. Be sure to finish all the medication, even if you start to feel better. Hospitalization may be necessary for higher-risk cases.

Some types of bacterial pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination. Flu shots help, too, by preventing another illness from taking hold. Keep the immune system healthy through good diet and sleep habits, not smoking, and frequent handwashing.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath

Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia: cough

Urgency: In-person visit

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a lung infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In some cases, it can affect other organs such as the brain or kidneys.

The disease spreads when an infected person exhales, speaks, or coughs and someone else inhales the bacteria. Tuberculosis is not transmitted any other way. Some patients carry TB without ever showing symptoms, though the disease may become active if something happens to weaken the immune system.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems; infected with HIV; living or working in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, or nursing homes; and children under age 5.

Symptoms include severe cough that may bring up sputum and/or blood; chest pain; weakness; weight loss; fever; chills, and night sweats.

Diagnosis is made through skin tests, blood tests, sputum tests, and chest x-ray.

Treatment involves a course of specialized antibiotics under close medical supervision, along with rest and supportive care.

There is a vaccine for tuberculosis, but it is not entirely effective and not routinely given in the United States.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, rib pain, dry cough

Urgency: In-person visit

Acute thyroiditis

Acute thyroiditis is a rare inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by an infection, radiation, medication, or trauma.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: sore throat, fever, being severely ill, hoarse voice, pain in the front of the neck

Symptoms that always occur with acute thyroiditis: pain in the front of the neck

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Night Sweats Treatments and Relief

When to see a doctor for night sweats

Treating night sweats is about treating and addressing the underlying cause. Your physician will treat you depending on your specific diagnosis and may suggest the following:

  • Age-related: If your night sweats are caused by menopause, your doctor may suggest hormone therapy to reduce your night sweats and related symptoms such as hot flashes.
  • Antibiotics/antivirals: Depending on the type of infection that is contributing to your night sweats, your physician will prescribe the proper antibiotics or antiviral medications in order to relieve your symptoms and treat the disease [11].
  • Cancer treatment: Your doctor will discuss treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
  • Medication changes: If your night sweat symptoms are related to your current medication regimen, your physician may make changes to your regimen or provide alternatives.

At-home treatments for night sweats

Sometimes night sweats can be prevented before they get worse. You may be able to reduce or relieve night sweats by identifying any triggers in your life that may be the cause and avoiding them. See the list below for simple home remedies and lifestyle changes that may help relieve your symptoms [7].

  • Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid the use of tobacco and illegal drugs
  • Keep your bedroom cool at all times
  • Avoid eating spicy foods before bedtime

FAQs About Night Sweats

Here are some frequently asked questions about night sweats.

Why do I have night sweats after drinking alcohol?

When you drink large amounts of alcohol, it may cause your blood vessels — especially the blood vessels near your skin — to dilate. This causes the reddening or flushing effect that we see when individuals either drink large amounts of alcohol or they are intolerant of alcohol. The dilation of blood vessels near the skin can cause profuse sweating [10].

Can stress and anxiety cause night sweats?

Yes, stress and anxiety can cause sweating at any time if it is severe enough. It usually does not cause sweating, however, while an individual is sleeping. A night terror or nightmare can cause increased stress hormones and sweating, [12] but the most common cause of night sweats is a warm sleep environment, menopause, infection, or blood disorder illness.

How long do menopause-related night sweats last?

Menopause-related night sweats may last for years, though they may decrease in frequency over that time. There is significant research on the presence of hot flashes, which persist up to four years after menopause [13].

Why do I suddenly have night sweats?

Sudden night sweats are most often a sign of a change in bedding or atmosphere at night. It can be unsettling to wake up with night sweats. One should check if a bed partner is experiencing the same symptoms. If so, it is likely due to some element of the local environment. It may still be due to the local environment even if a bed partner is not experiencing the same symptoms if you sleep in a hotter environment (e.g. no fan, heavier bed clothes/blanket). However, persistent night sweats with no explanation can be a sign of serious physical disease and should be evaluated if accompanied by back pain, change in vision or mental status, or weight loss [14,15].

Why do my night sweats come and go?

Night sweats most often come and go with bed habits. For example, the heat of the room or the amount of bedding used may influence night sweats. Latent, low-grade infections may also cause night sweats. Night sweats may not signify anything serious, and most often are due to environmental changes and not bodily changes. They are usually only worrisome if they persist for a prolonged period of time or accompanied by other new symptoms.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Night Sweats

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Do you have a cough?
  • Have you had any changes in your weight?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your night sweats. These questions are also covered.

Night Sweats Quiz

Night Sweats Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced night sweats have also experienced:

  • 8% Fatigue
  • 4% Muscle Aches
  • 4% Cough

People who have experienced night sweats were most often matched with:

  • 42% Overactive Thyroid
  • 42% Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • 14% Symptoms Of Menopause

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Night Sweats Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your night sweats

References

  1. Bishop S. For Vast Majority, Night Sweats Don't Represent Medical Concern. Mayo Clinic. Published September 24, 2010. Mayo Clinic Link
  2. Night Sweats and Women's Health: Possible Causes. Cleveland Clinic. Updated June 29, 2017. Cleveland Clinic Link
  3. Roushan MRH, Ebrahimpour S, Moulana Z. Different Clinical Presentations of Brucellosis. Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology. 2016;9(4):e33765. NCBI Link
  4. Bishop S. For Vast Majority, Night Sweats Don't Represent Medical Concern. Mayo Clinic. Published September 24, 2010. Mayo Clinic Link
  5. Viera AJ, Bond MM, Yates SW. Diagnosing Night Sweats. American Family Physician. 2003;67(5):1019-1024. AAFP Link
  6. Kolli V, Ramaswamy S. Improvement of Antidepressant-Induced Sweating with As-Required Benztropine. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 2013;10(11-12):10-11. NCBI Link
  7. Cancer Treatment: Dealing with Hot Flashes and Night Sweats. Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai Link
  8. Night Sweats. NHS. Updated December 12, 2017. NHS Link
  9. Kaysin AK, Viera AJ. Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Adults: Diagnosis and Management. American Family Physician. 2016;94(9):698-706. AAFP Link
  10. Feeling Warm & Flushed Skin from Drinking Alcohol. Alcohol.org. Alcohol.org Link
  11. Rietsema WJ. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Cause of Night Sweats. American Family Physician. 2003;68(5):806. AAFP Link
  12. Night Sweats and Women's Health: Care and Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Updated June 29, 2017. Cleveland Clinic Link
  13. Informed Health Online. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006. NCBI Link
  14. Schizophrenia. Mental Health America. Mental Health Link