Do frequent night sweat or hot flushes bother you? Night sweats are described as repeated episodes of profuse sweating that causes your pyjamas and bed to get wet. Hence these are usually signs that are related to a medical problem.
Do not ignore the problem unless your doctor has identified the underlying condition and is treating you.
However, do not worry about the occasions when you wake up at night sweating simply because the room was too hot or you had fallen asleep under a mountain of quilts.
You are more likely to be experiencing it if you also have symptoms like fever, weight loss, localised pain, diarrhoea or cough.
Causes of Night Sweats
Women commonly experience it just before or soon after attaining menopause. However, this is normal and expected. Even then, you may check with your doctor for hormone replacement therapy or to rule out any other cause of concern.
Other causes of night sweats include:
- Medicines: Certain medicines used to treat depression, diabetes, and cancers
- Hormonal disorders: Many women suffer night sweats at the time of menopause. Excess of other hormones like thyroid and adrenal hormones can also cause sweating at night
- Cancers: Night sweats can be a symptom of certain cancers like leukaemia and Hodgkin’s or Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, cancers of the intestine, bone marrow, adrenal gland and thyroid
- Infections: Tuberculosis and Brucellosis (a bacterial infection). Infections of the heart’s inner lining, bones, pus-filled abscesses and HIV/AIDS are also associated with profuse sweating at night
- Nervous system related: Anxiety, damage to nerves controlling involuntary activities, stroke, and certain spinal cord diseases
- Addiction to alcohol, opioids, cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines can also cause sweating at night
While night sweats are often a cause for concern, they may not always warrant a visit to the doctor. Do get in touch with your doctor if:
- You regularly experience night sweats
- Disturbed sleep, leaving you tired through the day
- You also have a fever, pain in a specific part of your body, weight loss, cough, diarrhoea, or other symptoms
- You are not likely to be experiencing menopause anytime soon, or the symptoms have started months or years after you had no menopausal symptoms
Treatment of Night Sweats
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), night sweats occur due to deficiency in yin or qi (vital energy). Generally, the TCM practitioners aim to enrich the yin as a treatment for night sweats while also considering the affected systems, disharmonies and toxicities while customising the treatment to each individual.
Even for night sweats associated with serious conditions like cancers, the beneficial effects of TCM remedies are well recognised.
Research has shown acupuncture to be very effective in treating night sweats due to cancers when various other medical treatments have failed.
A study in breast cancer survivors with night sweats due to hormonal therapies also concluded that acupuncture is safe and effective in relieving menopausal symptoms and night sweats.
Acupuncture can also help the body to restore itself to harmony. Some important acupuncture points used to treat night sweats include Yin Xi (HT 6) and Hou Xi (SI 3).
External herbal remedies
You can apply certain herbal remedies externally on the body as that may also help relieve night sweats. As each person reacts differently to TCM treatments, it is best to consult a TCM practitioner to know what suits you best.
Depending on the patient’s constitution, these remedies involve applying pastes made from herbal powders on the umbilicus, nipples or soles. Alternatively, you can dust and rub herbal powders on your body.
Teas and food recipes
Here are some tea and food recipes to help you deal with night sweats.
- Make a tea from smoked plum (10 pieces), shriveled wheat (15g), mulberry leaf (10g) and red dates (10 pieces), boiled in 2 litres of water.
- Make a tea with dried immature peach (15 pieces) and red dates (10 pieces), boiled in 2 litres of water.
- Prepare a tea from Hairyvein agrimonia herb (xian he cao, 30g) and red dates (15 pieces), boiled in 2 litres of water.
- Boil processed rhemannia rhizome (30g) and smoked plum (20g) squashed in 500ml of water for 20 minutes, add honey to taste
- Eat mulberry leaf powder with a bowl of rice soup.
It is important to bring in lifestyle and dietary changes as well. Avoid hot and spicy foods like pepper, mustard, ginger, mutton, fennel, cinnamon and lychee. Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake.
Eat more cooling and nourishing foods like white fungus, lily bulb, radish, lotus seed, honey, lotus root, pears, loquat fruit, orange, peach, Chinese yam, tomato, water chestnut, Chinese cabbage, soybean sprout, kelp, duck, oyster, animal liver, cuttlefish, sea cucumber, conch and eels.
Maintain a work-life balance and ensure you get adequate rest. Exercise daily and try relaxation practices and meditation to reduce your stress. Drink up on water and have a cool bath before going to bed, and keep your bedroom well ventilated and cool.
Night sweats need not stop you from getting a good night’s sleep. Use these traditional and natural remedies to relax and restore your sleep.
- Shen-Nong. Chinese Medical Treatment for night sweats.[Accessed 9 February, 2022]
- Mayo Clinic. Night Sweats [Accessed 9 February, 2022]
- Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. Acupuncture for the Treatment of Paraneoplastic Night Sweats. [Accessed 9 February, 2022]
- Research Square. Acupuncture in the Real World: Evaluating a 15- year NADA auricular acupuncture service for breast cancer survivors experiencing hot flushes and night sweats as a consequence of adjuvant hormonal therapies. [Accessed 9 February, 2022]