A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Night sweats: When to be concerned

night sweats

You should keep track of when night sweats occur and what changes in your life may coincide with the episodes.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post listed Acetaminophen as a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). This is incorrect – Acetaminophen is NOT a NSAID. This error has been corrected.

When you go to bed and your house is too warm, you can wake up sweating in the morning or throughout the night. But what if the temperature in your house is not the cause?

Night sweats are episodes of sweating that cause your nightclothes and sheets to be soaked. Underlying causes of night sweats are important to know to determine when you should be concerned.

What causes night sweats?

Jaren Thomas, M.D., a Marshfield Clinic internal medicine provider, says there are a number of reasons why night sweats occur.

“People often think of menopause in women, which is very common,” Dr. Thomas said. “But there is a list of over 20 causes or reasons for night sweats.”

Although too many blankets and high room temperatures can trigger night sweats, medical reasons may be the culprits. Several medications can cause night sweats including those taken for depression, diabetes and blood pressure. Additionally, drugs known as NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are common medications that can cause night sweats.

Substances such as alcohol and withdrawals from opioids and alcohol also can lead to night sweats.

“Night sweats are not only caused by medication,” Dr. Thomas said. “Other factors include low blood sugar, thyroid issues, sleep apnea, acid reflux, certain foods, infection, and unfortunately, some forms of cancer.”

When should you be concerned?

Often, there is no serious underlying health condition when night sweats occur. However, you should keep track of when night sweats occur and what changes in your life may coincide with the episodes.

“I think one important thing to note is if the night sweats are happening every night or once in a while,” Dr. Thomas said. “Also, ask yourself if they are happening during the day, too.”

Late night eating could be a factor

Consider what you had to eat or drink before bed and if you have started a new medication recently. Dr. Thomas said no set period of time or certain frequency makes night sweats more concerning.

“However, if they have been consistent for weeks, talk to your doctor,” he said.

Are other symptoms occurring with the night sweats?

“Some things to look out for are new headaches, flushing or GI symptoms,” Dr. Thomas said. “Also determine if you are more tired, if you’ve had weight loss and if the sweats are affecting your daily life.”

Dr. Thomas said unintentional weight loss and fevers are concerning.

If the night sweats persist for a few weeks, are severe or come with other symptoms, talk to your doctor.

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