What are night sweats?
Night sweats, also known as nocturnal hyperhidrosis, pertains to excessive sweating at night. It is normal for anyone to sweat. Our sweat glands continuously work throughout out the day and night. However, if you have woken up at night to find that your bedsheets are drenched in sweat, then you are most likely experiencing night sweats. But if the sweating is due to hot temperature or the too warm bed sheets, then it's not night sweats. When a person experience night sweats, they usually experience it whilst the surrounding temperature is cold.
Night sweats are usually harmless, but sometimes it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Such medical conditions include hypoglycaemia, hyperthyroidism, and infections. Certain drugs, such as antidepressants and hypoglycaemic agents, can also cause night sweats. Another common cause of night sweats are alcohol and/or drug abuse. You may experience night sweats if you are an alcoholic, a binge drinker, or even if you just had one glass of alcohol.
How does alcohol cause night sweats?
Why do people sweat after consuming too much alcohol? The reason behind this is alcohol metabolism. Just like anything else that you ingest through your mouth, alcohol also enters your intestines and is absorbed into your blood vessels. The absorbed alcohol is then carried to your liver where the alcohol is metabolized. The liver synthesizes enzymes that will help breakdown the alcohol before the molecules are absorbed. This is a time-consuming process and your liver can only digest a certain amount of alcohol at a time. Therefore, if you consume alcohol at a faster rate than the rate of your liver's metabolism, then your liver will fail to metabolize the excessive alcohol. This excessive alcohol will remain in your blood stream, giving rise to many side effects such as sweating.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It also affects the cardiovascular system and every part of your body. Therefore, consuming alcohol can make your heart beat a whole lot faster and dilatation of the peripheral blood vessels. When these blood vessels are dilated, you will sweat a lot more than usual, and you may experience this in the form of night sweats.
Night sweats may also occur during the withdrawal phase of alcohol drinking, but this is only temporary.
Does this mean that you are losing alcohol through sweat?
Yes, you are losing a small amount of alcohol through sweating. Majority of the alcohol you consume is absorbed through your intestines and is metabolized in the liver. But only 10% out of this consumed alcohol leaves the body through urine, breath, and sweat. The rest is broken into small by-products in the liver through the process of metabolism.
Night sweats in alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal is a phase that a person may go through a few hours or weeks after their last alcohol drink. It may last from a few days to a few weeks.
Night sweats in alcohol withdrawal is usually associated with other symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite, headache, body aches and pains, muscle aches, pains, and fever. Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include vomiting, increased heart rate, palpitations, raised blood pressure, tremors and confusion.
What is delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens is known to be the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Delirium tremens commonly presents with signs and symptoms like severe sweating, fever, hallucinations, and convulsions. These symptoms usually appear about 48 to 96 hours after taking your last drink. However, it is possible for you to get symptoms even up to 10 days after your last drink.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Disorientation in time, place, and person.
- Mood changes
- Increased activity
Alcohol intolerance and night sweats
Night sweats is also seen in patients suffering from alcohol intolerance. Alcohol intolerance is a condition that results due to a genetic mutation. Any person who has this mutation, is unable to produce the enzyme that is needed to break down the toxins in alcohol.
The common signs and symptoms of alcohol intolerance include:
- Facial redness
- Low blood pressure.
How to deal with alcohol related night sweats?
There are several ways that can help you to deal with alcohol-related night sweats. Here are a few tips to deal with night sweats.
- Drink plenty of water as you will be losing a lot of fluids through excessive sweating.
- Remove your bed sheets if they are drenched in sweat.
- Keep your bedroom comfortable and cool so that excessive sweating can be avoided or reduced.
- Do no use too many blankets while sleeping.
- If you sweat too much, wash your skin frequently to remove the excess salt that is accumulated in the dried sweat.
Are you dependent on alcohol?
Your doctor will find out if you are dependent on alcohol or not based on certain criteria. If you have 3 or more of the following signs and symptoms, you may be dependent on alcohol.
- Drinking more alcohol than before
- You continue to drink alcohol even after knowing its serious bad effects on your health.
- You have increased your tolerance to alcohol. This means that you need to drink more than before to gain the same high or drunkenness.
- You develop withdrawal symptoms if you stay away from alcohol for a short period of time. And these symptoms disappear when you take some alcohol.
- You have issues controlling the amount of alcohol you drink or reducing the amount of alcohol you consume.
- You devote more time and effort just to drink alcohol.
- Alcohol becomes your priority, and you spend very less time on all the other important things in your life.
If you feel you have at least 3 or more of the above symptoms, then you may be dependent on alcohol, and this is not a good thing. But do not worry, you have help. Visit your nearest health care professional, and they will offer you help to cut down your alcohol consumption step by step.
- Night sweats are usually harmless but sometimes it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
- Alcohol and drug abuse can cause night sweats.
- It is important to limit alcohol consumption or cease completely if you feel you are becoming dependent on it.