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Night Sweats and Caffeine

Night sweats, also known as sleep hyperhidrosis, may be a symptom of some underlying cause. Some possible causes include: diabetes insipidus, hyperthyroidism, cerebral palsy, hypothalamic lesions, head injuries, epilepsy, sleep apnea, sudden onset migraines, hepatitis-C, AIDS-related lymphoma, tuberculosis, anemia, any illness with fever, spinal cord infarction, familial dysautomia, and cerebral stroke. Now that I have scared you, dont panic. Although night sweats can be a symptom of many serious conditions, they can also be much simpler to get rid of sometimes.

For instance, a friend of mine used to have night sweats every night until she cut out caffeine. The caffeine hadn’t ever disagreed her when she was younger. But once she stopped drinking her beloved diet colas and switched to bottled water, not only did she save money, but she hasnt had any more night sweats.

If you suffer from night sweats and drink coffee, iced tea, green tea, caffeinated soft drinks, cocoa, energy drinks like red bull, or even eat a lot of chocolate, you could try reducing the amount instead of quitting entirely and that may do the trick. Or try cutting them out altogether within 3 hours of bedtime. Normally, caffeine’s half-life in the blood and central nervous system is around 34 hours, but for women taking oral contraceptives, this is raised to 510 hours[1], and in pregnant women the half-life is roughly 911 hours[2].

Mild Night Sweats

Night sweats is usually defined as drenching sweats that require the patient to change bedclothes [3]. Most cases are milder, though, and these are what were talking about today, the kind everyone seems to get now and then. Also, we have to rule out menopause first, since this is a fairly common cause as well[4]. Next, acid reflux has also been shown to be linked to night sweats[5], so you can try some of the anti-reflux medications if your doctor agrees to it. Speaking of medications, some can cause night sweats as a side effect, especially interferon, Pegaspargase, Zenapax and some SSRIs.

Dont forget that caffeine is a drug, and that it is addictive. Like any drug, it also has its side effects, and can causes or contribute health problems, such irregular heartbeats, heartburn and ulcers. In nature, where it is found in more than 60 different types of plants, it acts as a natural pesticide which paralyzes and kills particular insects feeding on the plants[6].

Still, at the end of the day, caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants, obviously, increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system results in increased sweating. So cutting out caffeine from your diet is worth a try, you have nothing to lose but your clammy sheets.

References

1. Meyer, FP; Canzler E, Giers H, Walther H. (1991). “Time course of inhibition of caffeine elimination in response to the oral depot contraceptive agent Deposiston. Hormonal contraceptives and caffeine elimination”. Zentralbl Gynakol 113 (6): 297302

2. Ortweiler, W; Simon HU, Splinter FK, Peiker G, Siegert C, Traeger A. (1985). “Determination of caffeine and metamizole elimination in pregnancy and after delivery as an in vivo method for characterization of various cytochrome p-450 dependent biotransformation reactions”. Biomed Biochim Acta. 44 (78): 118999

3. Smetana GW. Diagnosis of night sweats. JAMA 1993;270:2502-3

4. McAllister M. Menopause: providing comprehensive care for women in transition. Lippincotts Prim Care Pract 1998;2:256-70.

5. Reynolds WA. Are night sweats a sign of esophageal reflux? [Letter]. J Clin Gastroenterol 1989;11:590-1.

6. Frischknecht, P. M.; Urmer-Dufek J. and Baumann T.W.]] (1986). “Purine alkaloid formation in buds and developing leaflets of Coffea arabica: expression of an optimal defence strategy?” Phytochemistry 25 (3): 613 – 616. Journal of the Phytochemical Society of Europe and the Phytochemical Society of North America.. ISSN: 0031-9422.

Image: Espresso Cup, credit: Timothy Vollmer, Creative Commons License