What Causes Night Sweats?

Night sweats are hot flashes that come on in the middle of the night and can be caused by hormone fluctuations due to menopause, thyroid issues, low blood sugar, anxiety disorders, or other health issues. These nighttime interruptions can be more than just inconvenient - they can be embarrassing, stressful, and downright uncomfortable to deal with. 

Here’s why night sweats happen, and how you can cope with them so that they don’t ruin your good night’s sleep.  

Common Causes of Night Sweats 

Night sweats are hot flashes that occur while you’re in bed. People who get night sweats report waking up in pools of sweat, often to the point of having to change bedsheets and clothes. 

These irregularities in body temperature are usually due to hormonal imbalances, which are associated with a variety of conditions and diseases. Some of the most common causes of night sweats according to MayoClinic include: 

  • Thyroid issues 
  • Medication 
  • Infections 
  • Low blood sugar 
  • Anxiety disorders 

However, the most common and well-known reason for night sweats is menopause. The changes in your body as you approach menopause are rooted in natural hormone changes, but they can come with a variety of inconvenient and uncomfortable symptoms and side effects including hot flashes and night sweats that interrupt your sleep.  

How Hormones Can Cause Night Sweats 

One of the important roles that hormones can play in your body is regulating your internal temperature. Your body ideally wants to stay between 97-99 degrees. When your internal “thermometer” reads higher or lower than this healthy range, your body responds with a series of hormone-controlled actions to correct it and bring your temperature back to equilibrium. 

Your internal temperature is controlled by your hypothalamus, a part of your brain that plays an important role in releasing hormones and keeping everything in your body operating smoothly. Under normal circumstances, your hypothalamus is able to accurately detect your body’s temperature and make adjustments to cool it down or heat it up as needed. 

But this can change under circumstances of hormone imbalance. In the case of menopause, for example, the levels of your reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone start to decrease. Along with affecting your menstrual cycle, this decrease in estrogen also affects your hypothalamus. 

Your body then becomes ultra-sensitive to any temperature changes, and when your hypothalamus detects that it’s too hot, it starts releasing hormones and causing a series of events to bring the temperature down. This “hot flash” can include flushing, an increased heart rate, and excessive sweating. When it happens as you sleep, it’s known as a night sweat. 

How To Know If Your Night Sweats Are From Menopause 

Menopause is definitely one of the most commonly known reasons that you might be sweating in the middle of the night. But hot flashes and night sweats could also be indicative of other potentially dangerous health conditions. Knowing the underlying cause of your own night sweats is key for helping you find answers to relieve the symptoms and improving your health.  

So here’s a quick symptom checker to determine  Are you experiencing any: 

  • Fever, 
  • Pain, 
  • Cough,  
  • Diarrhea,
  • Or unexplained weight loss? 

These other symptoms could indicate another serious issue, like thyroid disorders, cancer, or acute illnesses. 

But if there’s no fever accompanying your night sweats or other symptoms indicating an illness, your night sweats could very well be from the hormonal imbalances caused by menopause. 

Menopause can also come with a whole host of other symptoms, and if you also experience any of them it can help you narrow down the cause of your night sweats. Other symptoms associated with menopause include: 

  • Mood swings 
  • Weight gain 
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Vaginal dryness 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Dry, thinning hair 

If your night sweats are accompanied by any of these symptoms, you may be perimenopausal, or approaching menopause. 

The bottom line is this: if you are concerned about your night sweats, consult with your doctor. They can determine whether your night sweats are an indication of a more serious condition. 

Alternative Treatments For Menopause-Related Night Sweats 

When your night sweats stem from the changes that happen in your body during perimenopause, it can be very frustrating. Your body is going through a natural cycle as your sex hormones decrease, but the resulting hot flashes can affect your sleep quality and lead to long, sleepless nights. 

The best way to minimize your menopausal symptoms is to address the hormone imbalances at their root. Luckily, there are alternative treatments that can help with the hormone imbalance to minimize the severity and/or frequency of your night sweats. 

For example, many women turn to natural herbs to relieve and minimize heat flashes. Some natural ingredients to look out for when looking for a supplement for reducing night sweats include: 

  1. Black cohosh 
  2. Red clover
  3. Dong Quai 
  4. Ginseng 

Other things you can do to minimize the frequency or severity of your night sweats include: 

  • Avoiding your triggers: Many women find that hot flashes come predictably from certain triggers like spicy food, caffeine, or stress. Observe if there are any common themes surrounding your hot flashes and minimize your exposure to them, especially at night. 
  • Eating a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet, especially one that happens plenty of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and soy, is associated with lowering the frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flashes. 
  • Keeping your room at a cool temperature: This first step is key for ensuring that your body doesn’t feel too overheated at night to begin with. Use fans, air conditioning, and/or light, breathable bed sheets and sleeping clothes to minimize your risk. 
  • Having a spare set of clothes near your bed: When a night sweat does happen, keeping replacements within reaching distance can make changing and getting back to bed a more seamless transition. 

Conclusion 

Night sweats are frustrating, but they don’t have to set the tone for your entire night. Understanding how your hormones are causing night sweats and figuring out what’s causing yours can help you find solutions so you can finally get a good night’s sleep.