If you wake up every morning drenched in sweat, even if it’s not hot in your room and you don’t have blankets, you’ve probably frantically Googled “what causes night sweats” at one point or another. The uncomfortable truth is that there is no single cause. You’ll probably have to do some digging to find out what’s causing your perspiration.
Night sweats are quite common: in a to study published in annals of family medicine, about a third of primary care patients reported night sweats during the last month. But most people who experience night sweats never report the symptom to their doctor, says study author James Mold, MD, a professor of family medicine at the University of Oklahoma.
So what are the most common causes? We have collected only a few of them.
More on Men’s Health
What makes some men prone to night sweats?
Your body uses sweat to lower your core temperature when you cross a threshold called the thermoneutral zone, research suggests. Many things can push your body temperature into this zone, from wearing heavy blankets to inflammatory processes within your body when you have an infection or illness.
Various conditions can affect your sympathetic nervous system, your sweat glands, or other factors that influence your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. It’s also possible that people who exercise are conditioned to sweat in cooler temperatures than expected, according to a review of the study by Mold and his colleagues.
What causes night sweats?
In a review of the literature published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicinedr Mold and colleagues found that several factors increase the likelihood of night sweats, including panic attacks, trouble sleeping, fever, numbness in the hands and feet, anxiety and stress, and shortness of breath from the night.
Night sweats can also be a side effect of medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly prescribed for depression. “Although causation has not been proven or disproved with certainty, it seems likely that SSRIs are a cause,” says Mold.
Hormones can also play a role in why someone experiences night sweats. While men don’t experience night sweats as often as women, they can sometimes be caused by low testosterone levels (also known as male hypogonadism).
Also, according to the Mayo ClinicOther possible causes include excessive use of alcohol and substances, as well as anxiety. Night sweats can also be a sign of a more serious condition, such as certain types of cancer, so definitely talk to your doctor if you’ve started experiencing regular night sweats out of the blue. Finally, some people have started to report night sweats as a symptom of Covid-19 as new variants have appeared.
How to reduce night sweats
In some cases, night sweats could indicate a serious problem. Moho’s study review suggests they may be a symptom of autoimmune diseases, heart problems, or sleep apnea, which can cause you to momentarily stop breathing while you sleep.
While these cases are fairly rare, if you wake up in a puddle of sweat almost every night, or if your alarm goes off and you’re soaking through your pajamas, you should see your doctor, Mold says. He also suggests checking your body temperature twice a day for a week for a fever and keeping a record of other symptoms to take to your doctor.
Ultimately, the best strategy for reducing night sweats is to treat whatever underlying condition is causing them. For SSRI-induced night sweats, some people have seen improvements by adding drugs called alpha-adrenergic blockers, research shows.
You should also sleep in breathable clothing, avoid heavy blankets or bedding, and avoid eat spicy food Before going to bed.
You may be able to identify the cause and find a solution to remedy your night sweats on your own. But if you try to relieve them and nothing happens, talk to your doctor to rule out a more serious medical problem.
Julie Stewart is a writer and content strategist whose work has also appeared on Health other Women’s Health, Daily Health, Vice, other Form.
Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor based in Houston. In addition to Women’s Health, she has contributed health, fitness, and wellness content to Runner’s World, SELF, Prevention, Healthline, and POPSUGAR, among other publications. She is also a 10-time marathon runner, frequent traveler, and avid hobby baker.