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Night Sweats From Anxiety - Causes and Treatment

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
Night Sweats From Anxiety - Causes and Treatment

Night sweats are a common and distressing anxiety symptom. Many people with anxiety find themselves wide awake at all hours of the night, dripping in sweat. It can be incredibly uncomfortable, and in some cases, it can lead to further anxiety that never seems to let up. Often, this can prevent you from getting the good quality sleep that you need in order to function during the day.

Night sweats can be confusing, in some cases leading to health anxiety as people worry that something is medically wrong. While night sweats can be a symptom of other health issues, it is also something that many of those with anxiety deal with often.

The Cycle of Anxiety and Night Sweats

Those with anxiety often deal with negative and worrisome thoughts. This is especially true if you have panic attacks. It's not uncommon for anxiety to cause night sweats, and it's also not uncommon for night sweats to lead to even greater levels of anxiety.

How Does Anxiety Cause Night Sweats?

Anxiety symptoms result from the activation of your brain’s fight or flight system. An anxiety disorder (or someone that deals with intense anxiety regularly) is when your fight or flight system is responding inappropriately to certain situations. In other words, people with anxiety disorders have extreme fear responses in their brains and bodies, in response to situations which do not necessarily warrant such a reaction. 

When the fight or flight system is activated, blood rushes to the parts of your body where energy is needed to fight or flee in the face of a threat. During this process, you experience what's known as vasoconstriction, or the constricting of the blood vessels. Once they've constricted, your body starts to heat up as a result.

At this point, however, your body needs to cool down before overheating. The sweating, therefore, is your body attempting to cool you down. 

The Cyclical Nature of Night Sweats and Anxiety

An interesting question, though, is why you experience anxiety at all, especially at night. It could be due to several different factors.

What makes night sweats problematic, especially for those with anxiety, is that they can often cause further anxiety. When you're suffering from night sweats, you may imagine that some sort of medical issue is causing this. Those feelings may cause further anxiety, which in turn leads to further night sweats and an even harder time sleeping.

This is why it's so important that you reduce your anxiety early on, in order to get to the root of your night sweats. Otherwise, all it takes is a simple hot flash and it can become very challenging to stop the cycle of anxiety, sweat, insomnia and more anxiety. 

How to Stop Night Sweats

When you feel a hot flash starting, there are a few things you can do. First, adjust your clothes or sheets so that you don't overheat. Your physical environment does affect how hot you become during sleep; and so a cooler environment can reduce the extent of your night sweats as well as improving your quality of sleep. 

Also, if your night sweats cause you so much distress that you cannot fall asleep while you're suffering, don't try to fall asleep. Instead, get up and walk around so that you're more comfortable. Trying to sleep when you're suffering from night sweat insomnia can cause further anxiety. 

It's better to get up, move around, and do things to help you relax rather than trying to force yourself to sleep. During this time, try to avoid activities that are going to expose you to bright lights or stimulate your mind, as this will make it harder for you to fall asleep. Instead, engage in a calming routine that takes place primarily in the dark. This will help your mind wind down for the night. 

If your anxiety is caused by a thought or thoughts that you simply can't shake, write the thoughts out in a journal. Writing thoughts on paper can help your mind to feel more comfortable about letting them go. This can help you to relax and get a better night’s sleep without any anxiety-related night sweats. 

Cure Anxiety to Stop Night Sweats

When anxiety causes your night sweats, it can be challenging to stop this process in its tracks. As we have discussed today, this can affect your sleep and make the very anxiety that’s causing your night sweats even worse. It’s important, then, that you finds ways to manage your underlying anxiety.

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