Night sweats might happen because of nonmedical causes, such as working out, taking a hot shower, or having a hot drink shortly before going to bed. But some medical conditions can also cause them in men.
Read on to learn more about common and less common causes of night sweats, along with potentially serious symptoms to look out for.
Night sweats can often be linked to one of these common causes.
1. Anxiety or stress
Increased sweating often happens if you’re dealing with anxiety or stress. You might notice you’re sweating more during the day when you’re worried about something. But this sweating can also occur during the night.
People experience stress and anxiety in very different ways. You may have more emotional symptoms than physical symptoms or vice versa.
Other signs that you might be experiencing anxiety or are under a lot of stress include:
- persistent worry, fear, and tension
- trouble focusing on things other than the source of your stress or worry
- efforts to avoid the source of worry or stress
- a feeling of dread you can’t explain
- difficulty sleeping
- weakened immune system
- troubled dreams
- aches or pains
- stomach issues
- rapid breathing and heart rate
- increased irritability
- weakness or fatigue
- dizziness and trembling
Without treatment, stress and anxiety can have a big impact on daily life. Talking to a therapist can often help you deal with the source of anxiety and improve symptoms.
2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
If this happens more than once a week, you may have GERD.
GERD can happen during the day or at night.
- pain in your chest
- trouble swallowing
- food or liquid that rises back into your throat (regurgitation)
- cough, asthma symptoms, or other respiratory issues (generally with nighttime reflux)
- trouble sleeping
If your night sweats frequently interrupt your sleep and you need heartburn-relieving medication at least once or twice weekly, you may want to see your doctor.
Sweating occurs as a normal response to warm temperatures, activity, and nervousness or fear. But sometimes, the nerves that activate your sweat glands send signals to these glands even when you don’t need to sweat.
Experts aren’t always sure why this happens, but it can cause extreme sweating across your body or in just one or two specific areas. This is called hyperhdrosis disorder.
Idiopathic hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that happens for no clear medical reason. Secondary hyperhydrosis has an underlying cause, such as a medical condition, or it may be induced by medication.
With hyperhidrosis, you may:
- sweat through your clothes
- sweat during the day, though you could also sweat at night
- notice sweat on your feet, palms, face, or underarms
- sweat in one area or multiple areas
- sweat on both sides of your body
If hyperhidrosis affects your sleep or day-to-day life, your healthcare provider can recommend treatment, including prescription medications.
Certain medications could make it more likely you’ll experience night sweats.
Many different drugs can cause night sweats as a side effect. Some types linked to excessive sweating include:
- SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants
- steroids, such as cortisone and prednisone
- acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, and other pain relievers
- diabetes medications
- hormone therapy drugs
If you believe night sweating relates to a medication you’ve recently started taking, let your prescribing provider know. They might recommend an alternative medication or methods of coping with night sweats, if sweating continues to disturb your sleep or have other negative effects.
If your night sweats don’t result from one of the above issues, your healthcare provider may want to rule out these less common causes.
5. Low testosterone
If your testosterone levels are low, you might experience night sweats. Your body naturally produces less testosterone as you get older. But other factors, including injury, medications, health conditions, and substance misuse, can also decrease the amount of testosterone produced.
Other symptoms of low testosterone can include:
- muscle weakness
- less interest in sex
- erectile dysfunction
- decreased bone mass
- trouble focusing and remembering things
- mood changes, including depressed or low mood and irritability
If you experience bothersome or unpleasant symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend testosterone replacement therapy to help raise your testosterone levels.
6. Other hormone issues
Hormone disorders that can cause night sweats include:
- carcinoid syndrome
Along with night sweats, some common symptoms among these conditions include:
- increased heart rate
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- tremors or shakiness
- head or abdominal pain
- sleep issues
- anxiousness, nervousness, or other mood changes
If you experience increased sweating and have any of these other symptoms, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider to rule out hormonal issues.
7. Sleep apnea
Night sweats in men can sometimes indicate sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, you stop breathing while sleeping. This can happen many times in a night, but if you sleep alone or if your partner is a sound sleeper, you may not be aware anything has happened.
Sleep apnea is more common in men, and approximately 25 percent of men have this condition.
It can develop when tissue in your throat blocks your airway (obstructive sleep apnea) or when a stroke or other medical issue affects your central nervous system’s ability to function properly (central sleep apnea).
In addition to night sweats, you might also:
- feel very tired during the day
- wake up often in the night
- wake up choking or gasping for breath
- have a sore throat when you wake up
- have trouble focusing
- have mood symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability
Since sleep apnea may increase your risk for other health issues, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider or a sleep specialist to rule it out.
It’s also possible for infections to cause night sweats. These can range from mild viral infections that come with a low fever to serious infections that can be life-threatening.
Some of the more serious infections can include:
- tuberculosis, a bacterial infection
- endocarditis, commonly bacterial and involving the heart
- osteomyelitis, commonly bacterial and involving bone
- brucellosis a bacterial infection
Some general signs of infection to look out for include:
- fever and chills
- aches and pains in your muscles and joints
- fatigue and weakness
- decreased appetite and weight loss
- redness, swelling, and pain at a specific site
It’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible if these symptoms get worse or don’t improve after a few days, or if your fever suddenly spikes.
In some rare cases, night sweats can occur as a symptom of cancer or certain neurological conditions, including stroke.
9. Neurologic conditions
A neurological condition is any issue that involves your nervous system —your brain, your spinal cord, and the nerves in the rest of your body. There are hundreds of neurological disorders, though some are more common than others.
Some neurological issues may, in rare cases, have night sweats as a symptom. These include:
- autonomic dysreflexia
- autonomic neuropathy
Symptoms of neurological issues can vary widely. Along with night sweats, you might also experience:
- numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hands, feet, and limbs
- decreased appetite
- pain and stiffness throughout your body
- dizziness or fainting
Seek emergency medical care if you suddenly:
- can’t speak or can’t speak without slurring
- have one-sided blurred vision or vision loss
- have paralysis in an extremity
- have droopiness in the lower part of one side of your face
- have severe head pain
These are signs of stroke, which can be life-threatening. Your chances for recovery increase with immediate medical attention.
Night sweating can be a sign of cancer, but this is very uncommon. Keep in mind that cancer typically involves other symptoms, such as persistent fever and weight loss. These symptoms may vary and can occur early or later, depending on the type and severity of cancer present.
Leukemia and lymphoma (either Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s) are two main types of cancer that could have night sweats as a symptom.
Again, you’ll likely notice other symptoms, too, including:
- extreme tiredness or weakness
- weight loss you can’t explain
- chills and fever
- lymph node enlargement
- pain in your bones
- pain in your chest or abdomen
Sometimes, early signs of cancer can be missed because they seem to relate to other issues. If you have frequent night sweats, feel very tired and run-down, or have flu-like symptoms that don’t seem to improve, it may be best to see your healthcare provider just to be safe.
If you have night sweats, you aren’t alone. Excessive sweating at night is fairly common, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.
You can try to address sweating by lowering the temperature in your bedroom, sleeping with fewer blankets, and avoiding hot drinks and very spicy foods just before bed.
If these changes don’t help and you keep having night sweats, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider, especially if you:
- have episodes of night sweating more than once in a while
- have a fever that won’t go away
- have recently lost weight without trying
- feel generally tired or unwell
- aren’t getting enough sleep due to night sweats