Sleep Problems

Night Sweat

NIGHT SWEAT: WAKING UP TO A DRENCHED BED

OVERVIEW: Night sweat is a common occurrence, affecting as many as 41 percent of all people, men as well as women. Probably the most notable time it happens is when women are going through the menopausal years. In many cases, the sweating is so profuse that the sleeper has to get up, change pajamas, and even put dry sheets on the bed. All this activity wakes the person completely so that they have a hard time getting back to sleep. In this way, night sweats can be a reason for sleep deprivation, especially if it happens every night several times.

CAUSES: Menopause is the most common cause of night sweating, being the result of a severe hot flash during sleep. There are other causes, too. A serious infection in the body can cause night sweat. Some examples are AIDS, tuberculosis, and endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves). Night sweat can be an early sign of some forms of cancer, particularly lymphoma. Certain medications, particularly those for psychiatric needs, can have night sweat as a side effect. Low blood sugar can cause you to sweat at night. Disorders of the hormones, such as hyperthyroidism, can also cause night sweat. Stress can cause night sweats in men, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another possible cause.

SYMPTOMS: Night sweat does not refer to just being somewhat overheated while sleeping. It refers to those profuse episodes of sweating that drench the bed. Since night sweats can be caused by so many different medical conditions, other symptoms will vary depending on the condition responsible. For instance, if it is caused by cancer, it will usually be accompanied by a low grade fever. If it is caused by menopause, there will probably be other menopause symptoms, such as daytime hot flashes, irritability, and headaches.

DIAGNOSIS: Night sweat is a fairly common reason that people go to the doctor. The diagnosis will involve blood tests to determine what underlying condition could be causing it. If diabetes is suspected, for instance, and the night sweat possibly caused by low blood sugar, a glucose tolerance test will probably be ordered. If it is associated with fever and unexplained weight loss, further investigation will be done to check for the possibility of a cancer, like lymphoma. If the patient is nervous and has heart palpitations, the doctor will check for hyperthyroidism.

TREATMENT OPTIONS: Treatment will depend upon the condition. One thing to know about, regardless of the diagnosis, is that there are moisture wicking pajamas you can wear that will help you stay more comfortable so you can rest better at night. Low blood sugar will entail adjusting a diabetic patient's nighttime insulin dose or having a hypoglycemic patient be sure to have a bedtime snack. Serious diseases like cancer and AIDS will need treatment, of course, which can lead to a reduction in night sweats. If the night sweat is determined to be caused by menopause, it can help to get the estrogen balance reestablished in the patient through the use of hormone replacement therapy or herbal remedies.

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considered as the delivery of medical care. You should contact your physician
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