If you’ve ever woken up drenched in sweat, you might have chalked it up to hitting happy hour too hard or your partner’s insistence on keeping your bedroom the same temperature as the sauna at your gym.
Those are legit explanations for occasionally waking up sweaty. But if you start the day soggy more often than not, you’re experiencing night sweats, a type of nocturnal perspiration that can’t be cured by cutting back on booze or winning the thermostat war.
What Are Night Sweats?
According to the Mayo Clinic, night sweats are repeated episodes of heavy sweating during sleep. We’re talking severe enough to soak your bedding and pajamas.
The negative effects amount to more than just extra laundry. Night sweats can significantly disrupt your sleep and reduce sleep quality, which can affect your productivity, concentration, energy levels, mood, and more.
What Causes Night Sweats in Men?
Night sweats aren’t a condition in themselves; they’re a symptom of something else going on in the body. Here are the biggest culprits in men.
Testosterone can influence the regulation of your core body temperature by sending signals to your hypothalamus — the body’s natural thermostat — which may then crank up body heat or turn it down. If your T levels dip, your body may have a hard time regulating its temperature. When the body senses it’s too hot, it triggers a hot flash or a night sweat to cool itself down.
If low T is the cause of your night sweats you may notice other symptoms like low libido, weight gain, and irritability. Arguably the best way to know if your testosterone levels are below what they should be for your age is to get a blood test to assess your hormones. (Hone has one that you can do in the privacy and comfort of your own home.)
Lifestyle changes (getting enough sleep, exercising, controlling stress) can help increase testosterone levels but testosterone replacement therapy may be needed if they’re too low.
Stress & Anxiety
Your sweat glands can get triggered when your body senses a threat or stressor, be it a grizzly bear or a job interview. The same can happen with chronic stress, and you may bear the brunt of it in your sleep.
Men with chronic stress or high anxiety levels are more likely to experience night sweats, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The result of high stress and anxiety can include restlessness, trouble falling back asleep, frequent wake-ups, or all-out insomnia.
Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. Exercise is also good for relieving stress—just not right before bed, as exertion raises body temperature.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition resulting in chronic heartburn from acid reflux. And GERD may bring on night sweats. One theory how: nighttime gut pain can cause the body to sweat because it feels it’s under stress (1).
Mild cases of GERD may respond to changes to diet, weight loss, OTC antacids, or prescription meds but more severe cases may require surgery.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—a condition where you repeatedly stop and start breathing while asleep—has also been linked to night sweats. In one study, nearly 31% of men with OSA experienced night sweats at least three times a week (2).
Researchers think the night sweats could be brought on by decreased levels of oxygen (3).
According the Sleep Foundation, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is considered the gold standard for treating OSA. If you suspect OSA (you may have it if you never feel rested when you wake up or your partner complains about your snoring), ask your doctor about getting a sleep study.
Night sweating is on the laundry list of side effects associated with several drugs including some antidepressants, nitroglycerin, hormone treatment medications, and cholinergic drugs used to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s (4).
Even everyday fever reducers like acetaminophen and NSAIDs can also trigger night sweats.
Talk to your doc before making any changes to your medication regimen. A change in dosage or medication type may be able to help get the sweating under control.
Infection & Illness
When you’re knocked on your ass by a virus or bacterial infection, your immune system dials up its internal thermostat to produce a fever that battles invading germs.
Alternating between sweating and shivering—especially when your fever breaks and your body releases all of that extra heat—is one typical ick when you’re sick. Night sweats are common symptoms of many chronic illnesses, including tuberculosis, HIV, COVID-19, flu, and some cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma.
Your doctor may prescribe a medication or hormone replacement that can alleviate night sweats. He may also suggest drug-free fixes like acupuncture, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.
If you’re often sweat-soaked even during low-heat, low-exertion, low-stress activities, you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis is caused by faulty communication between the nervous system and the sweat glands, resulting in chronic excessive sweating.
The root cause is usually remains unknown (although it can run in families).
You can also have secondary hyperhidrosis—excessive sweating caused by an underlying medical condition, like thyroid issues, or from taking certain medications.
Prescription antiperspirants and body creams, some antidepressants, nerve-blocking drugs, or even Botox injections may do the trick to help stop excessive sweating.
How to Treat Night Sweats
No matter the reason for your night sweats, talk to a physician if they start happening on a regular basis, interrupt your sleep, or are accompanied by other symptoms, like weight loss or pain. Figuring out what’s triggering them can help your doctor pinpoint the best treatment.
In the meantime, here are some steps you can take on your own to sweat less:
- Avoid consuming known sweat triggers at night, including spicy foods, alcohol, and nicotine.
- Keep your bedroom cool. The optimal room temperature for sleeping is 65 degrees F (give or take a couple of degrees), according to the Sleep Foundation.
- Choose cooling, moisture-wicking bedding and pajamas to stay comfy and dry.