Why do I sweat a lot in my sleep? This often occurs as a result of irregular breathing.

“Night sweats are a strange thing. Most of the time they are completely harmless, but there can be more,” said Dr. Kate Rowland, assistant professor of family medicine in Chicago.

“Sweating while you sleep is definitely not a rare phenomenon and it occurs at all ages,” Roland says. Ten to forty percent of people would have had it at some point.

There are many possible causes of night sweats. “The most obvious is this: a very warm bedroom,” Roland says. “A temperature between about 15 and 19 degrees is an ideal temperature. If you can’t keep your room at that temperature, try a fan, or use fewer blankets or thinner pajamas.”

The latter is not very obvious, because we like to be warm so we can sleep well. But once we’re in dreamland, it quickly gets too hot, with this duvet or those flannel pajamas. Then your body begins to regulate its temperature – by sweating.

If you sweat excessively at night despite the cold weather, it is advisable to see a doctor. He will likely ask you if you have a cold or shortness of breath, if you have a fever or if you are in pain, tired, or losing weight.

An infection that causes a fever can always lead to night sweats, but in some cases a serious condition such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, or mononucleosis can be the cause. Dr. Rowland says night sweats can be a symptom of lymphoma.


“A few pointed questions and a test or two of lab tests usually make you wiser,” says Andrea Matsamura, MD, a sleep physician from Portland, Oregon. You often see postmenopausal patients with night sweats, often accompanied by hot flashes.

“Profuse night sweats are often the result of irregular breathing, which may indicate sleep apnea,” she says. Other research has found that night sweats can also be linked to insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS) or narcolepsy (you often fall asleep suddenly during the day). Finally, antidepressants, diabetes medications, and some hormonal treatments can also lead to night sweats.

Oftentimes, however, the cause remains unclear, says Dr. Rowland. “This is frustrating sometimes.”

Sometimes there isn’t anything serious going on. The body simply tries to adjust its temperature by sweating. Some people sweat more than others.

Andrea Matsamura does not recommend exercising or jogging right before bed, avoiding alcohol and hot drinks. “Late heavy meals can also lead to excessive sweating in bed,” she says.

“And try to sleep alone for a few nights, if you usually have a partner next to you,” she recommends. “An object like that next to you is kind of a furnace, emitting a great deal of heat.”

© New York Times

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