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What Do Night Sweats Indicate?

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Night sweats are typically considered the symptom of a condition or bodily process rather than a disorder on their own. They can indicate a wide variety of things, though in most cases, the cause is benign. Keep reading to find out more about this symptom.

What Are Night Sweats?

Night sweats refer to a problem known clinically as sleep hyperhidrosis. They describe episodes of excessive sweating during the night. While sweating is a perfectly healthy bodily function needed to regulate body temperature, night sweats are uncomfortable because they disturb sleep patterns and leave a person shivering due to wet sleepwear and bed linens. In my cases, the sweating is unnecessary because the body was not truly overheating.

What Causes Night Sweats?

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During menopause, night sweats typically indicate hormonal imbalance. As a woman transitions through menopause, the body's endocrine system goes through dramatic shifts. Menopausal night sweats indicate a fluctuation in estrogen levels, causing the brain to "become confused" and incorrectly sense the body is overheating. As a response, it tries to "cool down" through sweating. For some women, night sweats are the first indication that they are going through the menopause transition.

Night sweats may also indicate other underlying conditions; it depends on what other symptoms are experienced alongside night sweats. In the case of menopause, women may also have hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and insomnia, for example. Less common conditions that night sweats could indicate include:

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). As with menopause, night sweats can indicate a dip in hormone levels that occurs in the days before menstruation. During PMS, night sweats may be accompanied by cramps, irritability, and headaches.

  • Sleep apnea. Other symptoms include waking up suddenly throughout the night and tiredness during the day.

  • Tuberculosis. Sufferers of this infection typically experience a deep cough and phlegm along with night sweats. Likewise, other serious infections, like bone infections and HIV, may have night sweats as a symptom.

  • Low blood sugar. Other symptoms include trembling and confusion upon waking.

  • Hyperthyroidism. Rapid weight loss, nervousness, and muscle weakness are other symptoms of this condition.

Night sweats can also be the side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants and aspirin. If you think your medication may be causing night sweats, check with your physician before stopping the medication or changing the dose. If your night sweats could be indicating any of the above conditions, make an appointment with your doctor.

Treatments for Night Sweats

Menopausal night sweats do not require treatment, but if they greatly disrupt a woman's sleep and daily routine, steps can be taken to manage them. Adjustments in habit and sleeping environment can reduce the intensity of night sweats, while herbal supplements and medications can treat the underlying cause - hormonal imbalance. Click on the following link to read more about the different treatments for menopausal night sweats.

Unexpected Causes of Night Sweats

Night sweating is unpleasant, disruptive to sleeping patterns, and can result in fatigue. Read on to find out the less obvious causes.

Night Sweats and Dry Mouth

Many women will suffer from night sweats and a dry mouth during menopause, they do not necessarily indicate any serious medical condition. Learn more.

Night Sweats in Elderly Women

Night sweats are one symptom that can last into post menopause. Click here to learn more.

Sources:
  • National Health Service UK. (2014). Night sweats. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/night-sweats/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  • Von Muhlen, DG, et al. (1995). A community-based study of menopause symptoms and estrogen replacement in older women. Maturitas, 22(2), 71-78.