Waking up drenched in sweat or swimming in damp sheets is an unpleasant sensation that you may experience from time to time. Although frequently associated with menopause, night sweats can affect people of all genders for a variety of reasons.
Everyone’s body temperature changes during sleep, typically dropping right before we fall asleep, so it’s natural to try to warm up. In some cases, attempting to regulate your temperature can lead to an overheated room, overly warm clothing, or too many blankets, which may cause you to wake up uncomfortably hot or sweaty.
However, some people have health conditions that cause night sweats and disrupt sleep. Some of these conditions are more likely to affect men and may require working with a health care professional to find relief.
We explore some common and not-so-common reasons why men experience night sweats, along with ways to stay cool and comfortable during sleep.
Common Causes of Night Sweats in Men
Night sweats are uncomfortable, especially when profuse sweating drenches sheets or keeps you from sleeping soundly. Night sweats can occur for a wide variety of reasons. If night sweating occurs frequently or affects your quality of life, it may be time to talk to a doctor about it.
Sweating and hot flashes are often associated with abnormal hormone levels, including low testosterone. In males, testosterone levels begin to decrease around the age of 35 and continue to fall slightly every year thereafter. Low testosterone can also occur due to health problems, genetic conditions, or weight gain.
Hot flashes and night sweats in men are typically a sign of very low testosterone, especially when hormone levels fall rapidly. Men may begin noticing symptoms within a few weeks of developing testosterone deficiency, while others appear slowly, over time. Common symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Low sex drive
- Loss of muscle mass
- Sleep issues
Treatment for low testosterone levels depends on the reason for the deficiency but often involves hormone replacement therapy.
Night sweats are a common side effect of some medications, especially antidepressants. Up to 15% of people who use antidepressants experience increased sweating, usually when they first begin taking the medication.
Certain treatments for diabetes can cause sweating at night. While the condition can affect anyone, men are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Those who are using hypoglycemic drugs to lower their blood sugar may experience night sweats.
The use of opioids, especially methadone, can lead to excessive sweating both day and night. Sweating is also a common symptom of opioid withdrawal and may be accompanied by goose bumps, pupil dilation, and runny eyes and nose.
Less frequently, excessive sweating may be a rare but serious side effect of certain medications. For example, people using beta blockers or calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure or other heart conditions should be aware that excessive sweating may be a sign of an overdose of the medication.
If you are concerned that night sweats are a side effect of your medication, talk with a doctor who can assess your situation and address whether any changes can be made to your treatment plan.
Night sweats are a common symptom of sleep apnea, frequently occurring alongside snoring and daytime fatigue.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that affects up to 30% of males. Males are two to three times more likely to have OSA, and the condition affects more than half of men who are obese.
Around a third of people with OSA experience nighttime sweating three or more times a week. However, treatments like CPAP therapy can significantly reduce night sweats in men with OSA.
Less Common Causes of Night Sweats in Men
Occasionally, night sweats may be a symptom of rare or more serious health problems. Contact a doctor if you think you may be at risk for a serious condition or if you are concerned about sweating at night.
Cancer and Cancer Treatments
Night sweats, especially heavy, drenching sweats can be an early symptom of some cancers. While they are most often associated with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, night sweats may also occur with leukemia and prostate, thyroid, and kidney cancers.
Men who are undergoing hormone-based treatment for prostate cancer often experience hot flashes during the day and sweating at night. Management of night sweats in men with cancer may involve treatment with other drugs as well as non-drug approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques.
Many viral and bacterial infections can cause night sweats in men. Sometimes, night sweats may be the only obvious sign that a person has contracted an infection.
Gay and bisexual men are one of the populations at greatest risk for HIV, which may cause nighttime sweating. Individuals may experience night sweats during early-stage and advanced HIV infection. People with HIV are at a higher risk of opportunistic infections and certain types of cancer, which may also lead to night sweats.
Around 60% of tuberculosis cases in the U.S. are in men, and about half of those who contract tuberculosis experience night sweats. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that is spread when an infected person transmits airborne particles through actions like coughing or shouting.
While men may be more likely to contract HIV and tuberculosis, both men and women are about equally at risk of other viral or bacterial conditions that cause night sweats, including:
- Tick-borne illnesses
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones, causing nervousness, fatigue, sweating, tremors, and difficulty sleeping.
People with hyperthyroidism are especially sensitive to heat. Studies suggest that up to 91% of individuals with hyperthyroidism experience night sweats. Although women are at higher risk for developing hyperthyroidism, the condition can affect anyone.
Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed through blood tests that measure a person’s thyroid hormone levels. It is treated with medication that prevents the thyroid from producing too much hormone, radioactive iodine, or occasionally, with surgery to remove the thyroid gland itself.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Night Sweats
It is important to contact your doctor when a symptom or health concern arises. Although night sweats are common and usually not a serious problem, they may also be a sign of a range of health conditions.
Let your doctor know if you are having night sweats on a regular basis, if you are immunocompromised, or if you are experiencing other symptoms along with night sweats, such as:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Muscle weakness
- Frequent itchiness
If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing night sweats, talk to your health care provider about your symptoms. They may be able to adjust your dosage, offer an alternative medication, or provide tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
How to Reduce Night Sweats
There are a few ways men may be able to help themselves get a better sleep and stay drier at night.
- Keep the room cool: Experts suggest that the ideal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent sweating at night, men may want to turn the thermostat down even lower. Open windows, or use box or window fans to promote air circulation.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Men who are obese are more likely to have low testosterone levels, which can trigger night sweats. Excess weight may also increase the risk of conditions that are associated with night sweats, like sleep apnea.
- Wear the right clothing: Look for cooling sleepwear made from breathable fabrics like bamboo and linen. Avoid pajamas made from flannel, cotton, and fleece, which trap moisture and heat.
Treatment for night sweats often depends on what is causing them, which is why it is important to consult with a doctor if you have not found relief on your own.
- Accessed on June 8, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-the-patient-with-night-sweats-or-generalized-hyperhidrosis
- Accessed on June 10, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-men.html
- Accessed on June 10, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/side-effects-of-androgen-deprivation-therapy
- Accessed on June 10, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-presentation-and-diagnosis-of-obstructive-sleep-apnea-in-adults
- Accessed on June 11, 2022. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/sweating-disorders/hyperhidrosis#v963302
- Accessed on June 12, 2022. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/mycobacteria/tuberculosis-tb
- Accessed on June 12, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/hyperthyroidism.html
- Accessed on June 12, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/approach-to-older-men-with-low-testosterone
- Accessed on June 12, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-and-diagnosis-of-male-hypogonadism
- Accessed on June 17, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31105512/
- Accessed on June 17, 2022. https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/staying-in-hiv-care/other-related-health-issues/opportunistic-infections
- Accessed on June 17, 2022. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hiv-fact-sheet
- Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/reports/2020/demographics.htm