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What Causes Night Sweats: Different Than Regular Sweat?

man suffering from night sweats

By Charles Poladian

Night sweats are completely different from simply being buried under blankets or sleeping in a hot room and sweating a bit. Nocturnal hyperhidrosis, if you want to get medical, will take place even if you're sleeping in an igloo. People with night sweats wake up in the middle of the night with their clothes soaked.

It's unpleasant, a bit uncomfortable and it's probably something most people think they have to just live with. Luckily, you're not alone and there are some possible reasons for what causes night sweats.

It's More Than Just Being a Little Toasty

Sweat is your body's way of cooling down. A hot day, a blanket that restricts air flow or exercise can increase your core temperature, which leads to sweat. An antiperspirant may be all you need to control daily sweating. Sometimes a cold or an infection can lead to an inflammatory response, like shivering, that can raise your core body temperature leading to sweat. That's completely normal, but what makes night sweats different is the absence of those factors.

The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine identifies a few factors that could be behind that nocturnal nuisance. For athletes or people who like to hit the gym, their sweat threshold is lowered. That means your body is conditioned to sweat at a lower temperature than normal, which can explain why you might sweat at a cooler temperature. If you believe that's what causes night sweats for you, try sleeping with a fan or get breathable sheets to help regulate airflow.

Potential Causes of Night Sweats

Night sweats are also associated with obstructive sleep apnea, defined by the National Institutes of Health as a common sleep disorder where the airway is blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or a slight pause while you sleep. A study published in the journal BMJ Open concluded night sweats are more prevalent in people with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.

You may not know you have obstructive sleep apnea unless someone tells you he or she noticed a change in your breathing while you sleep. Talk to a doctor for a potential treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, which can be as simple as a few lifestyle changes or a mouthpiece.

Night sweats are also associated with different types of medicine, such as antidepressants, says the International Hyperhidrosis Society. Psychological factors may also be a reason why you're perspiring at night. Stress makes you sweat, whether it's during the day or at night. Acute or chronic anxiety and depression could also be at the root of your night sweats.

Where You're Most Likely to Sweat at Night

If your night sweats are odorless and originate in your hands, feet or throughout your body, you can thank eccrine glands. The eccrine glands are active when you need to sweat to cool down. The second type of sweat gland, apocrine, is associated with body odor and mostly found in the armpits. Stress often triggers the apocrine glands, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, if you find that you're damp under the arms and you're not smelling great, your night sweats may be tied to an elevated stress level.

While it's fine to be worried about how much you sweat at night, you should know that there is likely something triggering the increased perspiration. Be confident, take action and you'll be having a dry night's sleep in no time.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Speed Stick products. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.