When you should be concerned about night sweats

Should you be concerned about your night sweats? If you find that your pillow and sheets are very damp each morning—or if you find yourself waking up because you’re sweating so much—then you might be starting to worry.

But are night sweats a problem? And how can you deal with them so you can get a more comfortable night’s sleep?

What Exactly Are Night Sweats?

Night sweats are repeated episodes of being very sweaty at night. Of course, most of us have had occasional nights of waking up to find that we’ve been sweating—perhaps due to an overly warm bedroom or too many blankets. But night sweats happen on a regular basis: think every night, or most nights. 

Night sweats can be annoying, uncomfortable, or even embarrassing. They may disrupt your sleep—and result in you doing a lot more laundry. You might also be worried that your night sweats are a symptom of a serious illness.

If you suffer from night sweats, keep in mind that they’re quite common, with around 10% of older patients suffering from them. 1

Woman sleeping in bed

Image courtsey of Pixabay

What are Night Sweats a Symptom Of?

The good news is that persistent night sweats aren’t (generally) associated with a serious underlying disorder. Night sweats can be a symptom of a number of conditions, including menopause, mood disorders, obesity, hyperthyrodism and gastroesophageal reflux disease. 2

In some rare cases, night sweats could signal a more dangerous condition, such as HIV or tuberculosis. 3

When Should You Be Concerned About Night Sweats?

Usually, night sweats aren’t a cause for concern. But in some situations, they could be. You should definitely see your doctor as a matter of urgency if it’s also the case that:

  • You feel generally unwell, have a fever that isn’t going away, and/or have lost weight (without trying). These can all potentially be symptoms of cancer.4
  • You feel tired during the day, wake a lot in the night, or wake up struggling to breathe. These can be symptoms of sleep apnea. Other symptoms include snoring, headaches, depression, and decreased libido and fatigue. 5
  • You have aching muscles or joints, general body pain, feelings of sickness or weakness, or fever. This could indicate that the night sweats are caused by serious infections such as tuberculosis (a highly contagious infection that affects the lungs). 6

How Can You Improve Night Sweats?

Firstly, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your night sweats, especially if you feel worried or have any of the above symptoms that could be associated with serious illness.

You can improve night sweats by:

1. Taking HRT Medication (Prescribed By Your Doctor)

Menopause is a very common cause of night sweats, as well as hot flushes (which affect up to 79% of women during menopause).7 If this is the cause of your night sweats, then HRT may help reduce your menopause symptoms.

In other situations, doctors won’t generally prescribe medication to help with night sweats. Instead, you may find that the below lifestyle and environment changes help you.

2. Keeping Your Bedroom Cool

While it might seem obvious, simply keeping your bedroom cooler can make a big difference. 

If you find that you’re sweating at night because your partner prefers the bedroom warmer, then it might be a good idea to lower the temperature on the thermostat and encourage your partner to wrap up in warmer PJs or thicker blankets.

3. Wearing Breathable, Airy Clothing

If your PJs are tight or restricting, then that may be causing you to sweat. Switch to breathable clothing at night that’s thin and airy, to keep you cool beneath the covers.

Ideally, you’ll want to opt for clothing that’s made from natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo. These wick moisture away from your body—plus they’re quick-drying if you do get a bit sweaty. 

4. Avoiding Spicy Foods, Caffeine, and Alcohol

Eating spicy food, or drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, can cause you to be more sweaty. It’s worth avoiding these at least during the evenings—and you may want to cut them out earlier in the day, too.

Caffeine can also keep you awake and has been associated with insomnia8, which is another good reason to avoid it in the evenings.

5. Losing Weight

If you’re overweight or obese, then losing weight may help reduce the amount you sweat at night. Losing weight will have a number of other benefits too, including helping you get a good night’s sleep: obesity is strongly associated with sleep apnoea.9

To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. For most people, that means eating a bit less and doing more exercise too. An elliptical workout has many different health benefits, as well as being a great way to burn calories. 

Overweight woman jogging outside

Image courtesy of Pexels

6. Using a Mattress Topper

Is your mattress keeping you too warm at night? Try getting a good-quality mattress topper, made from naturally cooling materials. 

Alternatively, perhaps you’re getting sweaty because you’re tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable? In that case, a mattress topper for side-sleepers might help you stay in your favorite sleeping position.

Night sweats can be a worrying condition. The good news is that, in most cases, the cause is nothing to worry about. You can treat night sweats using the tips above.

But if you have any symptoms beyond night sweats, you should always talk to your doctor. Your night sweats could be the first sign of a serious illness. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the better the outcome will be.

Article Sources

Healing Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Bryce C. Persistent Night Sweats: Diagnostic Evaluation. Am Fam Physician. 2020;102(7):427-433.
  2. Mold JW, Holtzclaw BJ, McCarthy L. Night sweats: a systematic review of the literature. J Am Board Fam Med. 2012;25(6):878-893. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2012.06.120033
  3. Viera AJ, Bond MM, Yates SW. Diagnosing night sweats. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(5):1019-1024.
  4. Koo MM, Swann R, McPhail S, et al. Presenting symptoms of cancer and stage at diagnosis: evidence from a cross-sectional, population-based studyLancet Oncol. 2020;21(1):73-79. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(19)30595-9
  5. Odens ML, Fox CH. Adult sleep apnea syndromesAm Fam Physician. 1995;52(3):859-872.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tuberculosis: General Information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Accessed September 30 2021.
  7. Ohayon MM. Severe hot flashes are associated with chronic insomnia. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(12):1262-1268. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.12.1262
  8. Chaudhary NS, Grandner MA, Jackson NJ, Chakravorty S. Caffeine consumption, insomnia, and sleep duration: Results from a nationally representative sample. Nutrition. 2016;32(11-12):1193-1199. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2016.04.005
  9. Meurling IJ, Shea DO, Garvey JF. Obesity and sleep: a growing concern. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2019;25(6):602-608. doi:10.1097/MCP.0000000000000627