Night sweats are a common problem that aren’t usually a sign of anything serious. In fact, they’re often not a sign of anything more than a heavy blanket or a warm summer night.
However, they can be a sign of some serious medical conditions, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
When night sweats are a sign of CLL, they’re usually a lot more severe than standard night sweats, and it’s likely you’ll have a couple of other symptoms along with them.
Read on to learn how CLL night sweats are different from other night sweats, and how to manage and prevent them.
CLL is a slow-growing type of leukemia that impacts your immune system. CLL develops so slowly that many people have no symptoms at all when they’re first diagnosed. Instead, CLL is discovered during routine blood work.
Some people develop early symptoms of CLL as part of their body’s immune response to the cancer. Just like your body temperature rises when you have an infection, your body temperature will sometimes rise as it attempts to fight off the cancer cells (or as a result of chemicals they produce). This can lead to night sweats.
Nights sweats can also be a symptom later on when the CLL has advanced. They can be a sign that it’s time to begin treatment or even a reaction to the treatment itself. For example, chemotherapy is a very common treatment for CLL, and it’s known to cause night sweats in some people.
Additionally, some medications to help manage pain in CLL, such as opioids, steroids, and antidepressants, can also lead to night sweats.
Occasional night sweats are common and happen to everyone. The arrival of warmer weather, sleeping under heavy blankets, a hormonal shift, or a mild fever can all lead to a night sweat. So if you wake up with your shirt or sheets slightly damp once in a while, it’s probably not anything to worry about.
However, if your sheets or nightclothes are drenched in sweat, or if your night sweat is so severe it wakes you up, it might be cause for concern.
Other signs your night sweats might be CLL include:
- they occur even though you’re sleeping in a cool environment
- they occur multiple days in a row
- they cause your sheets or pajamas to become so wet that you need to change them before going back to sleep
- you’re unable to cool down even though you’re soaking wet
- you’ve never had night sweats in the past (regular or severe)
- there’s nothing about your surroundings that could be causing night sweats
- you’re also losing weight
- you’re in pain or exhausted all the time
Sometimes, one of the best ways to manage the night sweats caused by CLL is to begin treatment. Treatment will help your body fight cancer and can lessen or even eliminate your night sweats. Often, night sweats can be a signal that you’re ready to begin treatment.
If chemotherapy and other CLL treatments aren’t helping your night sweats, or are increasing your night sweats, talk with a doctor. They can help you with other treatment options. They might be able to adjust the dosage of your chemotherapy or prescribe additional medications to help manage your night sweats These might include:
- certain antidepressant medications
- hormone medications
- blood pressure regulating medications
- antibiotics to fight any infections you might have
Lifestyle changes may also help
In addition to medications, your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes. For instance:
- switching out your bedding for natural fibers or sweat-wicking material
- sleeping in loose and light clothes
- having cool packs with you in bed
- exercising in the morning and not at night
- keeping your room between 60 and 67 degrees
- consider a ceiling or box fan for better air circulation in your bedroom
- adjusting your diet to be gentle on your system, and reduce acid by avoiding spicy foods and alcohol
- quitting smoking
- treating conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety that can worsen night sweats
- adding mindfulness activities to your day, such as deep breathing
- taking a nightly cold shower
- keeping ice water next to your bed
In addition to night sweats, other signs of CLL include:
- unintentional weight loss
- feeling full quickly or having no appetite
- swollen lymph nodes in your neck or under your arms
- an enlarged spleen
- frequent infections that don’t go away
- loss of energy
- shortness of breath
- bleeding easily and having trouble stopping your blood
- frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or unusually heavy menstrual period
- frequent bruising
CLL is a slow-developing cancer that’s often diagnosed before it causes any symptoms. When there are early symptoms, night sweats are one of the most common.
Night sweats are generally caused by your body attempting to fight CLL. Later on, night sweats can be caused by the CLL, chemotherapy, or by medications taken to manage the pain of CLL.
Talk with your oncology team about night sweats. Your doctor might be able to prescribe medication that can help you have fewer night sweats, or might be able to recommend home care strategies to lessen this symptom.