The most common causes of night sweats

Among the tasks carried out by our body, the regulation of its temperature is one of the key pieces for the metabolism to function properly, especially all its enzyme systems.

Body temperature is governed autonomously by the nervous system, and in turn modulated by the endocrine system. When we go to sleep, the body goes from a state of alert-action to a state of rest-recovery, so that, when entering the latter at the beginning of sleep and motor activity is drastically reduced, the excess energy that was being generated to develop waking activity begins to dissipate as heat, so the temperature of our body temporarily increases, and night sweats appear.


Sweating is the body’s response to a need to adjust to optimal physiological temperature conditions. Night sweats appear in response to an alteration of said normal condition, and may be related to physical causes in the environment, or of medicinal or medical origin.

If the sweating event is transitory, it stops shortly after falling asleep, and does not repeat itself successively during the night; but, if the perspiration episodes are repeated and with profuse sweating during night rest, then we talk about what are generally called night sweats. This condition occurs in 34% of adults, and when they reach the point where it forces us to change clothes and sheets during the night, it is time to go to the doctor to evaluate and correct its causes. So let’s review the most common causes of night sweats.

What they owe?

There are three possible sources of night sweats. Due to physical-environmental conditions, due to the effect of certain medications or for medical reasons.

Physicals conditions

In general, the consumption of a copious dinner, or with the presence of thermogenic ingredients (some spices, spicy, coffee, tea, alcohol, sugars and saturated fats), intense physical activity shortly before falling asleep, increased temperature Overly warm or synthetic bed and nightwear, or a mattress with a heated cover, can be the cause of an excessive sweating event. These cases they do not have to be recurring and can be easily corrected.

Drug causes

The intake of certain drugs may be related to the appearance of night sweats. The medical literature refers that some of the following medications can cause them, such as secondary effect of its therapeutic action:

  • Antipyretics.
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihypertensive.
  • Hypoglycemic agents.
  • Hormonal therapies.
  • Drug addiction and withdrawal syndrome.

Medical causes

Most of the most notorious episodes of night sweats are derived from some medical condition, be it benign or malignant, among which are:

  • Post menopausal syndrome.
  • Testosterone-lowering treatment for hormonal prostate tumor.
  • Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism.
  • Bacterial or viral infections, localized or systemic, such as influenza, tuberculosis, endocarditis, HIV, histoplasmosis, paracoccidioidomycosis, brucellosis, osteomyelitis, lung and pleural abscesses, as well as localized infections with purulent abscesses.
  • Disorders of the autonomic nervous system, derived from diseases of endocrine, cardiovascular or neurological origin, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, autonomic neuropathy, or originated as a consequence of brain trauma, tumor developments or genetic disease.
  • Certain types of cancer, such as lymphomas, leukemia, and tumors of neuroendocrine origin.
  • Transient personality disorders, such as anxiety.
  • Heart valve malfunction injuries.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Disorders such as gastritis and gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Some autoimmune diseases.

Night sweats in infants

If the presence of night sweats in adults causes discomfort, their appearance in children generates anguish and concern in their parents.

As in adults, temperature variation in infants follows a circadian rhythm manifested by a peak in body temperature in the late afternoon, near dusk, and a minimum that is reached coinciding with the drop in ambient temperature before dawn.

But, unlike adults, children usually develop intense activity right up to the time of going to bed and falling asleep, so that transition, between the production of energy for action and rest and replacement, generates the emission of that excess energy in the form of heat, the child can spend up to an hour sweating after falling asleep.

This transient sweating is normal, and can also be increased if the infant was asleep in the arms, had a period of high activity and was very tired before falling asleep, if he fought not to fall asleep, had a fever in the process of remission, ate a dinner copious amounts and shortly before going to bed, or if you had sugary drinks or desserts, or were excessively warm.

The above situations are normal, however, there may be some others that must necessarily be treated by a doctor, since there are certain types of cancer -common in infants- that develop as part of their symptoms the presence of night sweats, especially the non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

When is it important to see a doctor about it?

Because there is a wide variety of situations that give rise to the appearance of night sweats, when this condition becomes recurrent and persists over time -altering the quality of sleep- it is important to attend the consultation of a doctor who evaluates the comprehensive picture of the patient to interpret the possible origin of these events that disrupt our rest.

Recurring night sweats, usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever, focused pain, diarrhea or cough, may be indicating the development of an acute or chronic illness that requires attention and treatment.

Excess weight also significantly favors the appearance of night sweats caused by any of the above causes. A body mass index greater than 30 makes a person more vulnerable to the development of night sweats than one who maintains that value at 24, or even lower.

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