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Can Alcohol Cause Night Sweats?

Night sweats occur while people are sleeping. They are defined as repeated episodes of intense perspiration, typically enough to soak your clothes and bedding. Night sweats can happen if you are sleeping in a warm room with too many blankets. In these cases, they are generally not linked to a medical condition.

Repeated and extreme night sweats may be caused by an underlying condition, such as cancer, menopause, an infection, medications, or an autoimmune disease. You’ll likely experience fever, weight loss, localized pain, diarrhea, coughing, or other symptoms of illness in addition to the night sweats.

night sweats alcohol

Night sweats can also be linked to alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking results in severe intoxication, which may cause vomiting, upset stomach, slurred speech, coordination problems, and severe sweating. Even moderate drinking can result in night sweats. 

How Does Alcohol Cause Night Sweats?

No matter how much alcohol you drink, you may experience night sweats when you go to sleep. This is because alcohol is toxic. Your body recognizes that it is a toxin, so it tries to get rid of the substance as quickly as possible through perspiration. Alcohol also affects the nervous system and how the body regulates your heart, blood pressure, and body temperature. It widens your blood vessels and increases your heart rate, which causes sweating. 

In rare cases, alcohol-induced night sweats may be a symptom of alcohol intolerance (a genetic condition). The most common symptoms include nausea, itching, rashes, swelling, and severe stomach pain after drinking. Flushing of the neck, face, and chest can also occur if you drink too much.

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Are Night Sweats a Symptom of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol is an addictive depressant substance. It has a sedating effect on the central nervous system (CNS) and brain when it enters the body. Drinking heavily and in excess over a long period changes the chemistry of the brain. This results in alcohol dependence (alcohol use disorder), which means the body has become physically dependent on alcohol. 

When a person with alcohol use disorder stops drinking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur within a few hours or days after the person’s last drink.

One possible symptom of alcohol withdrawal is night sweats. Excessive alcohol consumption can induce sweating because it negatively affects the heart and increases heart rate. As the heart rhythm becomes too fast and irregular, the blood vessels in the skin widen. This process is medically known as vasodilation (the skin becomes flushed due to dilated blood vessels, and severe sweating occurs). 

If you drink heavily and experience night sweats after stopping alcohol use, it could be a sign of alcohol withdrawal. 

Other Common Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary and may or may not include night sweats. People who develop moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms are more likely to have night sweats. 

Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening. If you develop any of the following withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use, it may be a sign that you have alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Mild withdrawal symptoms:

  • Minor headache 
  • Minor tremors (alcohol ‘shakes’)
  • Anxiety
  • Clammy feeling
  • Some nausea
  • Mild itching
  • Irritability
  • Mild sensitivity to light and sounds

Moderate withdrawal symptoms:

  • More extreme nausea
  • Head pressure/moderate headaches
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Tremors (alcohol ‘shakes’) 
  • Anxiety and depression symptoms
  • More severe sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Some confusion
  • Sweating, including night sweats
  • Numbness or burning 
  • Feeling of pins and needles on the skin

Severe withdrawal symptoms:

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can result in delirium tremens (DTs). This is the most serious and life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal that requires urgent medical attention. Signs of DTs include, but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting
  • Constant nausea
  • Extreme irritability
  • Severe tremors
  • Severe confusion and decreased cognitive function
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Drenching sweats, including night sweats

Anyone undergoing alcohol withdrawal should do so under the guidance of medical professionals in an inpatient treatment facility (detox). Alcohol addiction treatment is the most effective way to recover and abstain from alcohol long-term.  

Common Questions and Answers

How long do night sweats last after you quit drinking?

Night sweats that are caused by alcohol withdrawal typically only last a few days. However, they can last longer in some people. How long they last depend on the severity of withdrawal symptoms (ranging from mild to life-threatening).

What are some other possible causes of night sweats?

Sometimes mild night sweats do not have an underlying cause and are nothing to worry about. Frequent and severe night sweats, though, may be caused by an underlying health condition. They can be a side effect of taking certain medications or menopause. Autoimmune diseases, cancer (such as lymphoma), and infections can also trigger severe night sweats. It is best to seek medical advice if you are concerned.

Can drinking alcohol cause hot flashes?

Yes, alcohol can trigger hot flashes. This is because alcohol causes vasodilation (blood vessel expansion), which leads to sweating and makes you feel warmer. Red wine is especially linked to hot flashes, but this varies.

How are night sweats different from hot flashes?

Hot flashes are typically related to menopause. These flashes are sudden feelings of extreme body heat that can occur during the day or night.

Night sweats are different from hot flashes because they only occur while sleeping. They also result in severe perspiration, often soaking your bedding and clothes (to the point where you have to change them).

Can alcohol intolerance cause night sweats?

Alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition that makes it difficult for the body to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol. Flushing of the neck, face, and chest after drinking is a common symptom of alcohol intolerance. This condition can also increase your heart rate and cause an overheating sensation in the body, resulting in night sweats.

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Resources

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“Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics.

“Alcohol Intolerance.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-intolerance/symptoms-causes/syc-20369211

“Alcohol Intolerance: Symptoms, Tests & Alcohol Allergy.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17659-alcohol-intolerance.

“Alcohol Metabolism: An Update.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm.

Alcohol Intolerance, www.nchmd.org/education/mayo-health-library/details/CON-20369194.

“Are Night Sweats a Normal Part of Drinking Alcohol?” Alcoholics Anonymous, 25 Aug. 2016, alcoholicsanonymous.com/are-night-sweats-a-normal-part-of-drinking-alcohol/.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alcohol-withdrawal-a-to-z.

L;, Mold JW;Holtzclaw BJ;McCarthy. “Night Sweats: a Systematic Review of the Literature.” Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23136329/.

“Night Sweats.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/night-sweats/basics/definition/sym-20050768.

“Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder.

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