You probably don’t think of being sweaty as a good thing, but it serves an important function. Sweat is a vital part of our body’s cooling system. Our sweat glands work hard, even when we’re sleeping. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat? If so, you’ve experienced night sweats.
Menopause, low blood sugar, and fever can cause night sweats. So can certain medications, including antidepressants and steroids. If your clothing or your bedroom temperature causes you to sweat, it’s not considered night sweats.
Night sweats are unpleasant, but most of the time they’re harmless. However, a more serious cause of night sweats is alcohol consumption. It can happen if you’re an alcoholic, a binge drinker, or even if you’ve only had one drink. If you’re physically dependent on alcohol, sudden withdrawal can result in night sweats. If you experience frequent night sweats due to drinking, you may have a drinking problem.
Alcohol and night sweats
Alcohol affects the central nervous system, the circulatory system, and virtually every part of your body. Drinking can increase your heart rate and widen blood vessels in your skin. This can trigger perspiration.
Can you sweat alcohol out of your system? Yes and no. A small amount of alcohol is broken down in your stomach lining, but your liver metabolizes most of it. According to George Washington University, only about 10 percent of the alcohol you drink leaves your body in urine, breath, and perspiration. The rest of the alcohol you consume is broken down into byproducts through metabolism within your body. Having night sweats or making yourself perspire won’t expel alcohol from your system any faster.
Night sweats can also be caused by alcohol withdrawal. This symptom of withdrawal, along with most others, is temporary.
If you have night sweats but you haven’t consumed alcohol recently, and you’re a regular drinker, it may be a sign of alcohol withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after your last drink or within several days. Some symptoms may take several weeks to completely disappear. If you have night sweats along with some of the following symptoms, it could be a sign that you’re going through alcohol withdrawal.
Sweating, clammy skin, and night sweats are common symptoms of withdrawal. You may also feel anxious, depressed, or moody. Other symptoms include:
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- body aches
- muscle pains
- rapid heartbeat
- heart palpitations
- high blood pressure
- changes to respiratory rate
Symptoms of delirium tremens
Delirium tremens, or DTs, is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It can cause severe sweating, fever, hallucinations, and seizures. This is a life-threatening event requiring immediate medical care.
Symptoms of DTs typically occur within 48 to 96 hours after your last drink. In some cases, symptoms can occur up to 10 days after your last drink. Symptoms of DTs can quickly worsen, and may include the following:
- body tremors
- changes in mental function
- confusion, disorientation
- decreased attention span
- deep sleep lasting for a day or longer
- increased activity
- quick mood changes
- sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
If you experience these symptoms along with regular night sweats, you may be going through alcohol withdrawal.
Occasionally, alcohol-induced night sweats can be due to alcohol intolerance. Alcohol intolerance is caused by a genetic mutation. When your body has this mutation, it can’t produce the enzymes that break down the toxins in alcohol. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition is most commonly seen in people of Asian descent.
Additional symptoms of alcohol intolerance include:
- facial redness
- worsening of preexisting asthma
- runny or stuffy nose
- low blood pressure
Because alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition, there is currently no cure for it. The best way to relieve the symptoms of alcohol intolerance is to limit or eliminate alcohol consumption.
Your body loses a lot of moisture when you sweat profusely. It’s important to replenish fluids by drinking plenty of water. You should also:
- Rinse your skin to remove excess salt from dried sweat.
- Change your sheets before you get back into bed.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
- Avoid using too many heavy blankets.
See your doctor if you’re not sure what’s causing your night sweats and if you have accompanying symptoms. Getting night sweats from alcohol consumption may indicate that you’re developing a drinking problem.
Your doctor can diagnose you with alcohol dependence by using specific criteria. You may be dependent on alcohol if at least three of these symptoms apply to you:
- continuing alcohol use despite knowing its harmful effects
- drinking more alcohol than you first did
- giving extra effort and time to drinking alcohol
- having a tolerance for alcohol
- having withdrawal (physical or mental) symptoms after not drinking for a short period
- problems with decreasing or controlling your alcohol use
- spending less time doing more important things
These symptoms must greatly affect and cause you not to do well in school, work, or relationships.
If you believe that you are alcohol dependent, it’s important to know that there are sources for help. For more information on alcohol dependence and where to find help, visit the following websites: