Hot flashes and night sweats are often attributed to hormonal imbalances in women — especially during menopause. This sole classification is a misconception. Menopause isn’t the only cause of night sweats, and night sweats can occur in men, too. Night sweats in men can be related to hormone levels, and they may be linked to low testosterone (low T). However, night sweats can be caused by many conditions, some of which may be serious. Before you assume your night sweats are being caused by low T, it’s important to discuss symptoms with a doctor first.
Low T is a common hormonal condition in men. Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It’s responsible for the development of male body characteristics, as well as the ability to have children. The hormone also helps maintain healthy bones.
As you age, it’s normal to slowly lose testosterone. In fact, Harvard Health estimates that men lose 1 percent of testosterone per year after 40 years of age. This natural phenomenon isn’t necessarily “low T.” If you lose testosterone at a faster rate, you may have low T. The Hormone Health Network defines a normal testosterone range as being between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). A morning blood test is needed to accurately measure testosterone levels.
Symptoms of low T can vary, but may include:
- energy loss
- enlarged breasts
- erectile dysfunction
- hot flashes
- increase in body fat
- low libido
Night sweats are also among the possible symptoms caused by low T. While the exact link is not entirely understood, the hypothalamus gland is suspected to play a role. Located in the brain, the hypothalamus is responsible for producing hormones like testosterone. The gland plays a role in keeping the body’s systems balanced, which includes regulating body temperature. It also links up with the nervous system. In low T, the brain may send a signal to increase the width of blood vessels, which causes your body temperature to rise. Your body then responds with sweat.
In men, low T is a common cause of night sweats. You may even have hot flashes during the day. For some men, these symptoms can be among the first signs of low T. But not all cases of night sweats in men are attributed to problems with testosterone. In fact, night sweats can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. You need to see a physician to rule out the following possibilities:
- adrenal fatigue
- hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- infections (including HIV)
- prostate cancer
- sleep apnea
Night sweats are often accompanied by other symptoms of low T, all of which are treated with testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone can be added to your body with:
- tablets for the gums
- topical gel
While low T treatments can help alleviate bothersome symptoms like night sweats, testosterone therapy isn’t entirely without risk. Acne and fat buildup are some minor side effects. More serious side effects can include:
- breast enlargement
- edema (fat buildup in lower limbs)
- increase in red blood cells
- prostate enlargement and/or cancer
- sleep apnea
According to the Hormone Health Network, the risk of prostate cancer is highest in men over 50. You may also be at risk if you’re over 40 and have a family history of the cancer. Testosterone therapy is not safe for men who have, or are suspected to have, cancer of the breasts or prostate.
Some men have better luck with other treatment options, especially if they can’t take testosterone. Female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, may help reduce hot flashes. By decreasing hot flashes at night, you will likely experience fewer episodes of significant sweating.
Only your doctor can properly diagnose and treat the underlying causes of night sweats. You should not rely on supplements. Not only are these not proven to work, they aren't regulated for safety by the Food and Drug Administration.
Low T-related night sweats may ease up once you’re treated for testosterone problems. At the same time, you’ll also notice other symptoms dissipate, too. If you continue to experience night sweats on a regular basis despite hormone therapy, it’s time to see your doctor again. You might receive other forms of treatment or be evaluated for other underlying medical conditions.
Discuss the long-term risks of testosterone therapy with your doctor. They can help to determine if this is the best option for you. Regular exercise may also reduce the number of night sweats you experience.