Sweating in your sleep can have different causes. Some causes of night sweats, like going through menopause, are common. Other causes of sweating in your sleep like infections and cancer are less common but still important to be aware of.
This article will go over some of the possible reasons why you're sweating in your sleep. You'll also learn when to see a provider about night sweats and how to cope with them.
Less Serious Causes of Sweating While Sleeping
If you're sweating in your sleep, it's not necessarily a reason to worry. Some of the most common reasons you sweat in your sleep include:
- Sleep environment
- Anxiety and nightmares
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Alcohol consumption
One of the most common causes of night sweats is sleeping in a warm or hot environment. It's normal to sweat in your sleep if your bedroom is warm, you wear heavy pajamas, or you sleep under lots of blankets.
Your body goes through normal temperature changes while you sleep. Most people have a dip in their core body temperature around 4 a.m. During certain phases of sleep, your body temperature may go up, which can lead to sweating.
Anxiety and Nightmares
If you have nightmares or general anxiety, you may have panic attacks while you're sleeping. This can also cause sweating.
If you have bad dreams often, especially if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), talk to your provider. Treatment may help stop your night sweats and any other symptoms you have.
Can Bad Dreams Make Kids Sweat at Night?
Like adults, night terrors can also make kids sweat in their sleep. Children who have night terrors may also:
- Thrashi around
- Have fast breathing and heartbeat
- Act upset or be hard to comfort
If children, especially toddlers, have breathing problems while they're sleeping, it can also make them sweaty and restless. They may even wake up red-faced and drenched in sweat.
People going through menopause may have poor quality sleep. They may have insomnia that's caused by night sweats and hot flashes while they are trying to sleep.
Night sweats in older people can also be related to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing multiple times while you're sleeping. The risk of getting sleep apnea increases during menopause because of the loss of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Sweating in your sleep could be related to GERD if you also have other symptoms of the condition such as:
If your night sweats are caused by GERD, treating the condition may help relieve them.
Alcohol, marijuana, and illicit substances can cause sweating, which may happen at night.
For example, some people notice that they sweat in their sleep after they drink alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the muscles. If the muscles in the upper airway are affected by it, people can have sleep-disordered breathing problems like apnea or snoring, which can also be linked to night sweats.
People who have alcohol or other substance use disorders often experience night sweats, especially if they are in withdrawal.
More Serious Causes of Sweating While Sleeping
Sometimes, sweating in your sleep is a sign of a more serious condition that needs to be treated, such as:
- Sleep apnea
- Autoimmune disorders
- Some cancers
Having sleep apnea means that your breathing pauses during sleep. These pauses can wake you up or bring you into a lighter stage of sleep. Sleep apnea makes you struggle to breathe, which causes your body to exert itself and may even make you sweat.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Feeling very sleepy during the day
- Trouble concentrating
- Waking with a dry mouth, sore throat, or headache
- Loud snoring
- Awakening with a gasp
- Bed partner reporting that you stop breathing periodically, then snort and gasp
Night sweats in older people can also be related to obstructive sleep apnea. The risk of developing sleep apnea increases during menopause because of the loss of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Sleep apnea can also increase the odds that you'll fall asleep or be inattentive while driving or working. It also increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The treatment for sleep apnea is usually a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which can help control your symptoms—including night sweats.
Some serious infections can cause night sweats, including:
See your provider if you are sweating in your sleep and have other symptoms of an infection, such as:
If you're having night sweats as a symptom of an infection, treating it should clear up your night sweats.
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakes a normal part of your body for a dangerous pathogen.
Some autoimmune conditions can cause excessive sweating, including night sweats. You might sweat in your sleep if you have:
Fevers are another common symptom of autoimmune disease that can make you sweaty.
Autoimmune diseases have their own sets of symptoms, but there are some that are common in many people who have them, such as:
- Inflammation with redness and heat
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Periods of heightened symptoms and periods of lighter or even no symptoms (flares and remission)
Some types of cancer, especially Hodgkin's lymphoma, can cause drenching night sweats. That said, sweating in your sleep isn't the only sign of cancer. People also usually have other symptoms, including:
- Persistent, painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin
- Unexplained fever that does not go away
- Unintended weight loss
- Itching all over that may be severe
- Shortness of breath, cough, or discomfort in the chest
- Pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
If you've been having night sweats and these other symptoms, make an appointment with your provider.
Other Causes of Sweating While Sleeping
If the common and more serious causes of night sweats are ruled out, there are still a few other possible reasons that you're sweating in your sleep.
Night sweats are sometimes associated with:
- Medications: Some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can have night sweats as a side effect, including antidepressants, OTC painkillers, beta-blockers, cholinergic drugs, insulin, hormone replacement therapy, triptans, and Viagra (sildenafil).
- Dietary supplements: Taking some nutritional supplements like calcium and niacin can cause sweating, which might happen at night while you're asleep.
- Diabetes: If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels can make you sweat more or less than normal. Some people sweat more (and even in their sleep) when their blood sugar levels are too low (hypoglycemia).
- Hyperthyroidism: If you have this condition, your body makes too much thyroid hormone. Night sweats can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism and it can also cause increased appetite, tremors, restlessness, a visibly enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), anxiety, and frequent bowel movements
- Neurologic disorders: Some diseases that affect your nervous system can cause night sweats, like autonomic dysreflexia or syringomyelia.
How to Cope With Sweating While Sleeping
If you're sweating in your sleep, you have to find out why. Once you know what the problem is, you can work on getting it treated.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to cope with sweating at night, such as:
- Keeping your bedroom cooler
- Using moisture-wicking sleepwear and bedding
- Wearing lighter or no pajamas
- Avoiding alcohol or hot beverages before bed
- Drinking cold water
- Not exercising right before bed
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Sweating in your sleep once in a while is probably nothing to worry about. However, there are some situations when night sweats warrant a call to your provider, including when the night sweats are:
- Not explained by a previous diagnosis
- Not a medication side effect
- Frequent and persistent
- Interfering with sleep
- Affecting your daily life
- Accompanied by other symptoms
Your provider can talk to you about your symptoms and recommend the next steps. For example, they might want you to have certain tests that look at what's happening in your brain and body while you're asleep, or they may do blood tests to check for infections or markers of diseases.
Sweating in your sleep is not always a reason to worry. Sometimes, it's as simple as sleeping in a room that's too hot or in pajamas that are too cozy. That said, night sweats can also be caused by medical conditions that need treatment.
If you're sweating in your sleep often or if it's making your sleep poor, talk to your provider. They can figure out what's causing your night sweats and make sure the problem is addressed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I sweat at night when my room is cold?
Your body temperature changes a bit while you're sleeping. At some points in your sleep, it goes down a little, and at other times it goes up.
There are also causes of night sweats, like hormonal shifts, an infection, or a medication side effect, that can make you sweat in your sleep no matter what temperature the room is.
Can dehydration cause night sweats?
Night sweats can actually contribute to dehydration if you're not replacing the fluids you lose by sweating. Make sure that you try to stay hydrated during the day to help prevent yourself from getting stuck in a dehydration cycle.