DRHOOK- Sweaters: Find out why you're soaking the sheets

the handsome doctor John Hong

I think I have a PhD in sweating. When I was in a show choir in high school, I used to sweat more than Tina Turner + Bruce Springsteen on stage. When I'd play golf (the most evil sport in the entire world), my head looked like Niagara Falls. To this day, I cannot go for a run before work because I continue to perspire for at least an hour after taking a cold shower.


What happens if you sweat in bed?

Night sweats mean a person soaks his/her sheets and/or clothes while asleep, and it requires changing everything to dry sheets/clothes. Most obviously, night sweats can be simply from too many blankets or being bundled up too much. Maybe the room is just too hot! (Remember when Elaine stayed at Jerry Seinfeld's parents' house in Florida, and it was like 100 degrees inside? Yes, senior citizens tend to like it warmer, and so their younger guests suffer in miserable heat at night.)

For menopausal women, hot flashes are not true night sweats because they occur in the daytime as well: the sensation starts with a feeling in the chest, breasts, or abdomen that then leads to red skin. The heat and sweating usually last three to four minutes.

One concern of night sweats is– well, cancer. Lymphoma is the cancer most commonly associated with night sweats. Certain chemicals released from cancer cells can cause sweating. 

Most people who have an infection will find their fevers are worse at night– a cruel reality. Who wants to be most ill when everyone else is asleep (and you want to sleep too!)? 

Tuberculosis, HIV, and abscesses (pockets of pus from bacterial infection) are all known to cause night sweats. Brucellosis from unpasteurized milk/cheese is also associated with the problem. "Say Cheese!" 

How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A...

Then there's gerd (aka acid reflux) which is associated with night sweats, because lying down allows the stomach contents to creep up the esophagus. And with most Americans' bellies getting plumper, all that abdominal pressure pumps the stomach like a Scottish bagpipe.

Diabetics who take medicines are at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and that can make them feel like they're running in the Sahara. This is good, though, because they need to wake up to get some sugar in their system.

Antidepressants can cause some people to sweat, though usually all day, not just at night. I've also noticed those who sweat while taking certain antidepressants have an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. That stinks, because while you might feel less anxious on the medicine, physically you're more anxious.

Fever? Most people take acetaminophen (like Tylenol), aspirin, or NSAID (ibuprofen). However, some folks who take these daily or more frequently can develop night sweats. 

Niacin is pretty good at raising good cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, and lowering bad cholesterol. But in the middle of the night, it also can make a person turn red and wet as a lobster in a boiling pot.

Speaking of the middle of night, making whoopee with the use of Viagra can cause some flushing. Viva Las Night Sweats!

Endocrine problems like pheochromocytoma (too much epinephrine!), hyperthyroidism, and carcinoid syndrome (too much serotonin!) can cause sweating, among other symptoms. 

Withdrawal from narcotics, cocaine, and alcohol can cause bad night sweats. 

Now it's obvious that night sweats can have many causes, so it's a good idea to see a doctor if you have them. Don't let the expression "Never let them see you sweat" keep you from discovering the cause.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.