Are COVID-19 Night Sweats Common?


A woman sitting up in bed, drenched in sweat. One hand is on her head, and her eyes are closed.
Summary
  • Night sweats are uncomfortable episodes of excessive sweating that occur while we sleep.
  • They are one of the common symptoms of coronavirus disease variants Omicron and Delta, but may also indicate another underlying condition like menopause, mental illness, infection, or cancer.
  • Treatment options include anti-anxiety drugs, steroids, and lifestyle changes to help control these episodes.
  • More severe causes of night sweats may include underlying conditions that requie targeted treatment, such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Night sweats are uncomfortable episodes of excessive sweating that may disrupt sleep and contribute to other health-related issues.

This is a fairly common condition with around 41% of Americans experiencing some form of night sweats in their lifetime. It more commonly affects women.

Night sweats are usually indicative of an underlying condition or illness. In the last few years, nights sweats have also emerged as a symptom of COVID-19.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the causes and treatment options for night sweats.

What are Night Sweats?

Night sweats are repeated episodes of heavy sweating while you’re asleep. They are usually heavy enough to soak through your clothes and bedding.

Waking up after sweating heavily due to a warm room or sleeping under too many blankets isn’t typically classified as experiencing night sweats.

Night sweats can be accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Fever

  • Weight loss

  • Pain in specific areas

  • Coughing

  • Diarrhea

These symptoms are classified as the more serious side effects of night sweats. It’s recommended that you make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience any of these.

How to Tell the Difference Between Night Sweats and Regular Sweating

Knowing the difference between night sweats and normal perspiration can be helpful, especially when seeking treatment or wondering if you should be concerned about your symptoms.

Regular sweating can occur due to a number of factors, including:

  • Exercising before bed

  • Stress

  • Eating spicy food

  • Acid reflux and heartburn

  • Environmental factors like sleeping under too many blankets or in a room that’s too warm and poorly ventilated

These factors usually aren’t cause for concern and can be treated with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medication.

Night sweats, however, are caused by underlying medical conditions that range from mild to severe. These can include:

  • Mental health issues

  • Viral infections

  • Low blood sugar

Some of these factors can be life-threatening, so it’s recommended that you speak to a healthcare provider as soon as possible if you’re experiencing night sweats.

What Causes Night Sweats?

Night sweats are usually caused by an underlying medical condition or illness.

It’s always recommended to speak to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your symptoms.

The following can be common causes of night sweats:

  • Menopause

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Underlying viral infections like COVID-19

  • Alcohol or caffeine consumption

  • Hyperhidrosis — a condition in which the body produces too much sweat for no reason

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • Withdrawal from addictive substances

  • Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea

  • Autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, or rheumatoid arthritis

Night sweats can also be caused by these medical conditions:

  • Cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, or prostate cancer

  • Hyperthyroidism (or overactive thyroid)

  • Tuberculosis or HIV

  • Stroke

Certain medications can also contribute to night sweats, including:

  • Antidepressants

  • Hormone replacement therapy treatments

  • Methadone — a drug used to treat opioid addiction

  • Hypoglycemic agents used to treat low blood sugar

Night sweats are one of the key symptoms of the Omicron and Delta variants, with over 40% of patients reporting heavy perspiration after infection.

It’s also a common long-term symptom that many patients continue to experience months after the initial infection.

If you don’t have any underlying conditions and are still experiencing night sweats, there is a good chance that they are being caused by a COVID-19 infection. It’s recommended that you get tested to be sure.

While you wait to see if your test shows a positive result, isolate yourself from vulnerable people and wear a mask to keep others safe.

Besides taking any medication prescribed by your doctor, the best treatment for COVID-19 is to rest and drink plenty of liquids.

Medical professionals also agree that staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations may help prevent night sweats.

How to Determine if You Have COVID-19

Although you may know the common symptoms of COVID-19 quite well, it’s always good to remind yourself of what they are. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it may be time to get tested for COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Body aches

  • Sore throat

  • Congested or runny nose

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of taste or smell

  • Diarrhea

  • Headache

Symptoms of other COVID-19 variants may also include night sweats or sneezing.

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How are Night Sweats Diagnosed?

A licensed healthcare provider can provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment options for night sweats.

They will likely ask you about the following:

  • How often you’ve been having night sweats and how long they usually last.

  • If you are taking any new kinds of medications.

  • If you are experiencing any other symptoms.

They may recommend additional diagnostic procedures like blood tests or getting X-rays done to determine the cause of your night sweats.

What Are the Treatment Options for Night Sweats?

The treatment for night sweats will differ depending on the cause. Usually, medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and steroids are used to treat night sweats.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics or antiviral drugs to treat an infection.

If night sweats are caused by menopause, they can be treated with medication that reduces hot flashes. These include:

  • Paroxetine

  • Gabapentin

  • Venlafaxine

In severe cases where night sweats are a symptom of an underlying condition, you may need the following treatments:

  • Surgery

  • Hormone replacement therapy that can help reduce menopausal symptoms

  • Chemotherapy

  • Radiation

  • Checking into rehab if night sweats are caused by a drug problem

If night sweats are caused by COVID-19, there’s no set treatment to alleviate it. Your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Getting enough rest

  • Following a balanced diet

  • Exercising regularly

  • Implementing ways to manage stress and anxiety

Can night sweats be prevented?

Lifestyle changes may help prevent some of the more common causes of night sweats.

To lower your risk of experiencing them, your health care provider may recommend the following:

  • Sleep in a cooler environment

  • Change your bedding to something lighter and more breathable

  • Avoid using tobacco products and drugs

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, especially before bed

  • Avoid eating spicy food if you are also experiencing menopause symptoms

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight

When should you see a doctor?

Although night sweats aren’t always cause for concern, it’s good to know when to see a doctor.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have regular night sweats that disrupt your sleep

  • Have a fever, cough, or diarrhea

  • Are losing weight for no reason

These factors may indicate a more serious problem that requires targeted treatments.

Are You Worried About Night Sweats?

If you're experiencing some of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article or are worried that you may have a chronic condition, you can talk to a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from the comfort of your home. Head over to LifeMD to make your first video appointment.

Dr. Jonathan Guirguis

Dr. Guirguis attended Nova Southeastern University for medical school and stayed in South Florida to train in Internal Medicine. Born outside Chicago, he slowly made his way down south, settling in Texas with his wife and three children.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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