Sweating or perspiring is a biological phenomenon that is common to all human beings. All of us tend to sweat, and sometimes quite excessively during the summer season when temperatures are very high and the weather conditions are sultry. We also perspire quite heavily after a strenuous workout or when we are running a temperature. Sweating is our body’s natural response mechanism to cool down itself and restore the normal body temperature.
Some people have a tendency to sweat profusely during the day without any manifest cause and the sweating is often confined to the underarms, palms of the hands or soles of the feet. The medical term for perspiring excessively during the daytime is called ‘focal hyperhidrosis’. However, the acute sweating stops when you’re asleep, and there’s no need to be unduly alarmed as such a trait is generally not indicative of any underlying medical condition.
Sleep Hyperhidrosis Or Night Sweats
But if you often break into a sweat in the middle of the night that nearly drenches you even when it is not abnormally hot then it could be a sign of some ailment or disease. Night sweats can also be caused by the side effects of medications or drugs. The condition of sweating uncontrollably during sleeping is medically known as sleep hyperhidrosis. You can suffer from such a condition even when you’re awake.
Heavy perspiration when linked to a medical condition could be indicative of leukaemia, lymphoma, tuberculosis, AIDS, fungal infections, endocarditis, lung abscess, menopause, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, GERD, sleep apnoea, and so on. If you frequently find yourself sweating unduly in your sleep, you should seek medical intervention as early as possible. We release sweat via two kinds of sweat glands in our bodies. These are the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands.
Night perspiration is more associated with eccrine glands though apocrine glands have a role to play as well. The hypothalamus which acts as the body’s natural thermostat regulates the functioning of these sweat glands. The sweat glands get the stimulus to perspire (to maintain the normal body temperature) not only when it’s too hot.
They can also get activated when you suffer from an infection, viral or bacterial. Life threatening or contagious diseases, certain medications or drugs can also set off the trigger mechanism for sweating. So, there could be many causes of sweating while sleeping. Nonetheless, if you have frequent spells of night sweating, it is imperative for you to identify the causes and symptoms in order to diagnose the original problem.
Menopause seems to be the chief and most extensive cause for women who suffer night sweats. Women in their forties usually experience mild to extreme hot flashes generally at night because of the changes in hormonal secretions during perimenopause or menopause. Menopausal induced sweating can lead to soaking of sheets and drenching of nightwear. However, perspiration resulting from menopause and hot flashes is not symptomatic of any disease condition or ailment but can be quite irritating.
As women reach their forties, their menstrual cycles start becoming infrequent as oestrogen secretion levels falls and after some years, the periods stop altogether. So, if you sweat intensely at night, it could be a sign that you’re going to reach menarche (the age at which menopause is attained) sooner or later. Try to stay away from coffee and caffeinated drinks, oily and spicy foods, hot and carbonated beverages, and alcohol if you want to keep night sweats or hot flashes at bay. Also avoid unnecessary stress or strain, and abstain from smoking.
2. Nocturnal Hypoglycaemia
Sweating excessively while sleeping can also be suggestive of nocturnal hypoglycaemia or abnormal drop in blood sugar levels at night. If you suffer from hypoglycaemia, you’re likely to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night and find your sleepwear drenched in sweat. You might also experience nightmares and nagging headaches, and feel tired when you wake up along with sweating.
3. Medications And Drugs
There are certain class of medicines and drugs that can induce night sweats. More often, your perspiring heavily at night can be due to the side effect of a drug that you’re in the habit of taking because of an ailment or disorder. Nocturnal sweating can be caused by paracetamols, antidepressants, antihypertensives, niacin, banned drugs (like heroin, LSD, marijuana and cocaine), alcohol, tamoxifen, antipyretics, phenothiazines, beta blockers, and the like. There are some specific medications that are exclusively associated with night sweats. These are cyclosporine, saquinavir, donepezil, indinavir, zalcitabine, interferon, daclizumab and pegaspargase.
4. Hormonal Disorders And Imbalances
Many hormonal disorders are responsible as well for causing one to sweat unduly at night. An atypical adrenal gland lump or tumour called pheochromocytoma that is responsible for the secretions of two hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine usually sends signals for increased production and secretion during diseased conditions. These hormones are responsible for reining in arrhythmia, tachycardia, bradycardia, and hypertension.
Heightened secretion of these hormones can lead to an unusual increase in blood pressure, augmented heart rate, and heavy night sweating. Hyperthyroidism, another hormonal disorder that causes excessive discharge of thyroxin, can also make you break into a sweat in the middle of the night. Premature ovarian failure, carcinoid tumour, and orchiectomy can cause hormonal imbalances as well and nocturnal perspiration is one of the symptoms of these anomalous conditions.
5. Neurological Abnormalities or Conditions
Sweats or perspirations are essentially regulated by the central nervous system (CNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Therefore any abnormality in sweating (either excessive or too little sweating) could be indicative of a neurological disorder. Autonomic neuropathy, aneurysms, and brain strokes can cause someone to perspire severely.
When somebody suffers nerve injury or damage owing to high blood sugar levels, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, HIV, alcohol abuse, and Guillan Barre Syndrome, the symptoms of autonomic neuropathy predominate. Autonomic neuropathy can also result from traumas or surgeries. Blood clots and blood vessel ruptures can prevent blood from flowing to the brain that can lead to cardiac arrests, and brain strokes.
6. Infectious Diseases
When you’re afflicted with a contagious or infectious disease, your immune system becomes almost hyperactive so as to protect your body from the bacterial or viral microorganisms. When the immune system of your body is busy fighting the bacteria or the viruses, you might sweat and maybe quite heavily. Infectious disease conditions that may cause you to perspire include (but not limited to) tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, infectious mononucleosis, coccidioidmycosis, histoplasmosis, and endocarditis.
7. Other Causes
Besides the above causes, sleep hyperhidrosis could be symptomatic of several other diseases and ailments. Sweating abnormally could mean that you’re pregnant or suffering from anxiety. It could also be suggestive of obstructive sleep apnoea, chronic fatigue syndrome, granulomatous disease, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), lymphoid hyperplasia, chronic eosinophilic pneumonia, and diabetes insipidus. Rheumatic disorders could also cause you to experience profuse sweating.
Anyway, if you have chronic night sweats, it could be an alarming sign of some underlying malaise or deep seated infection. Therefore, you should not delay in seeking medical advice from a registered medical practitioner.