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Causes of cold sweats at night

Updated on October 5, 2011
Cold sweating at night may be the result of conditions, hyperhidrosis or more serious causes.
Cold sweating at night may be the result of conditions, hyperhidrosis or more serious causes.

At one point in time or another, a majority of persons has woken up with damp sheets or pillows as a result of perspiration.

In some cases, this is normal and typically infrequent. Sometimes, the causes of cold sweats at night are far more serious – the result of conditions, infections or disorders.

Before taking overactive sweat glands at night seriously, you should rule out obvious causes. High temperature at night is an obvious cause of cold sweats. If not temperature, excessive insulation (clothes, blankets) might be another reason.

Another obvious cause of cold sweats at night is stress and anxiety, which can produce hormones that increase perspiration. Migraines and spicy foods before bedtime are also causes of cold sweats at night that should not cause undue concern.

Night sweating is a common side effect of medications like fever drugs, antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs. Fever drugs such as aspirin and acetaminophen are typically responsible. Other drugs with cold sweats as common side effects are sildenafil (Viagra), niacin, nitroglycerin, cortisone, hydralazine and tamoxifen.

Once the causes of night perspiration are not minor factors like temperature, excessive insulation, diet, medications, or stress/anxiety, other culprits are involved. In rare cases, cold sweats at night are a symptom of idiopathic hyperhidrosis – a condition where the body perspires excessively without any identifiable medical cause.

For women, the onset of menopause usually precipitates hot flashes, accompanied by cold sweats. This is normal, since the cause is the reduction in estrogen. It commonly affects women in the perimenopausal stage as well as during the actual menopause.

Psychological disorders that affect hormonal balance can precipitate cold sweats at nights. One example of a psychological disorder that causes night sweating is “nightmare disorder.” This disorder increases adrenaline in the body, which opens up the sweat glands.

Medical disorders or conditions can also cause night perspiration. Hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma and carcinoid syndrome are hormone disorders with cold this as one of their symptoms. Diabetic persons can also suffer from cold sweats because taking insulin and other medications might lead to low blood pressure. Neurologic conditions that affect blood circulation (stroke and autonomic dysreflexia, for example) can also be responsible for sweating.

Cold sweats at night can also be symptoms of viruses and infections. Influenza and tubercolosis are usual suspects. In addition, bacterial infections are likely reasons. These include endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves); osteomyelitis (inflammation within the bones); and abscesses. Even more seriously, cold night sweats may be an early symptom of HIV infections, cancer (especially lymphoma) and ruptured blood vessels.

While cold sweats at night can result from normal hormone-affecting circumstances, sometimes they are symptomatic of serious conditions like diabetes; infections like HIV; or disorders like carcinoid syndrome. If night perspiration is frequent, especially when obvious causes are eliminated, you should seek medical advice.


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  • Sinea Pies profile image

    Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

    OMG...I thought it was menopause but now that I read this I believe it may be that I need to cut back on acetominophen! Thanks! Voted up and useful.

  • Credence2 profile image

    Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

    Your information and the education it provides is most appreciated, Cred2

  • lyns profile image

    lyns 6 years ago from USA

    Very interesting article, I graded it up and interesting

  • 2besure profile image

    Pamela Lipscomb 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    The two time I experienced cold sweats were after having a child and when in menopause, which was hormonal. Great information! Voted up,