Are Night Sweats a Normal Part of Drinking Alcohol?

Night sweats can ruin your sleep quality and leave you feeling tired the next day. While many people experience night sweats on occasion, it may be a sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Learn more about the relationship between alcoholic night sweats and heavy drinking.

In this article:

What Are Night Sweats?

Night sweating often presents as paroxysmal sweating—or sweating that comes and goes.1 Paroxysmal sweats may come and go. People who suffer from night sweats may experience heavy perspiration during sleep. They might wake up frequently during the night. They may feel hot, stuffy, or restless at night.2 Often, people who suffer from night sweats wake up with damp bedding.

Night sweats are common, especially for women in their 40s or 50s. Hormonal changes during menopause can trigger hot flashes and sweating.2 Pregnant women may experience night sweats, too.3 These symptoms are usually temporary and resolve on their own.

But sometimes, night sweats can be a sign of a serious medical problem. Nighttime sweating is an early warning sign of certain types of cancer.4 People struggling with substance use disorders often report night sweats, too. Heavy drinkers are especially prone to night sweats. Alcoholic night sweats may occur after an episode of binge drinking. A person who drinks daily may also experience chronic night sweats.5

Alcohol is a legal drug in the United States, readily available to anyone age 21 and older. Like any drug, alcohol has a profound effect on your body. Alcohol can alter your heart rate and dilate blood vessels. It affects circulation, body temperature, and fluid regulation, which can lead to heavy sweating.6

Some people believe that sweating after alcohol consumption is a good thing. You may have heard that it’s possible to “sweat out” excess alcohol, but this is a myth. As alcohol passes through your body, your liver breaks it down and flushes it out. The liver is responsible for clearing 90% of the alcohol in your body. Sweating eliminates only a tiny percentage of the alcohol you consume.7

Instead, excess sweating can lead to dehydration.8 Sweating after drinking can disrupt the balance of fluids in your body. Because alcohol can increase your body temperature, forcing yourself to sweat after drinking may raise your temperature to dangerous levels. People who have been drinking should never use saunas or steam rooms.9

Some people may experience unexplained sweating after drinking unrelated to avoid saunas, high outdoor temperatures, or exercise equipment. In some cases, unexplained sweating may be withdrawal symptom.5

How Long Does It Take for Alcohol to Trigger Night Sweats?

Some people have a strong reaction to alcohol and may develop night sweats after one drink. But most people can expect night sweats after binge drinking. Medical providers agree that having four to five drinks within a short period qualifies as binge drinking. Binge drinking has potential health risks and it may be a warning sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD)—the clinical name for alcohol addiction.10

Experts recommend that women limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day and that men have no more than two drinks per day.11 Having many drinks in one sitting can pose serious health risks. People who binge drink are at a higher risk for incident related to behavioral impairment. Researchers have found that most people charged with DUIs have a pattern of binge drinking.12

Binge drinking also increases your risk of high blood pressure, developing alcohol-related memory issues or dementia, and liver disease. Research has also shown some correlation between binge drinking and an elevated risk for certain cancers over a person’s lifetime.10

Are Night Sweats a Sign That I’m Addicted to Alcohol?

People who binge drink often have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, but they may not have AUD. With help, these individuals might be able to establish healthy drinking habits.13

Addiction is different. People with AUD report an intense urge to drink. People with AUD might also:14

  • Have trouble limiting or controlling their drinking
  • Spend a lot of time thinking about, acquiring, using, or recovering from using alcohol
  • Hide alcohol or lie about how much they drink
  • Have made repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking

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People with AUD may also have a tolerance for alcohol. If you have developed a tolerance for alcohol, you may need to drink more to achieve the same effects. You might also notice withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable, painful, or even life-threatening.5

Night sweats are a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. If you use alcohol for a long period of time, your body can become dependent on alcohol. When you stop drinking, you might experience:5

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mood swings

You might feel anxious, restless, or irritable. Many individuals experiencing withdrawal also report insomnia.15 Night sweats may worsen insomnia and intensify restlessness.

In severe cases, a person experiencing alcohol withdrawal might also have:15

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Delirium tremens (DTs), which is an extremely severe and dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal characterized by shaking, seizures, and hallucinations

A detox facility provides support and supervision during the withdrawal process. Medical staff provides medication to prevent medically significant events, such as seizures, and ease discomfort.

Alcohol poisoning and untreated withdrawal can sometimes be fatal. Seek help right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:16

  • Vomiting that won’t go away
  • Seizures
  • Bluish or discolored skin
  • Slow breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Hallucinations or paranoia
  • Uncontrollable shaking

Many people who drink experience alcohol sweats later that evening. But if you have chronic night sweats, you may be experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms usually start hours after your last drink. Symptoms may peak within 24-72 hours.17

If you suspect that your night sweats might be a sign of withdrawal, reach out for help right away. Never attempt to detox from alcohol on your own. Unsupervised detoxes can put your health and your life at risk.17

How Are Night Sweats Treated?

Night sweats aren’t always a sign of addiction or unhealthy drinking habits. Other health problems can cause night sweats or paroxysmal sweats, too.4 If you experience unusual sweating that affects your sleep quality, consult your doctor. They can perform tests to eliminate common causes of night sweats.

Treatment can vary depending on the cause of your night sweats. Your doctor may prescribe medication or suggest lifestyle changes. If your symptoms are due to menopause, you have several specialized treatment options. Speak to your gynecologist to learn more about menopause care.

Many people find it helpful to adjust their bedroom environment. You can ease the discomfort of night sweats by:18

  • Placing a fan in the bedroom or opening a window
  • Turning on air-conditioning
  • Taking a cool shower before bed
  • Removing heavy blankets or down pillows
  • Switching to moisture-wicking bedding
  • Wearing lightweight cotton pajamas
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or deep breathing

How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Alcohol use disorder must be diagnosed by a mental health professional. During an assessment, the clinician will evaluate you based on whether you have experienced certain criteria within the last year.

While your primary care doctor care doctor cannot diagnose AUD, your doctor may perform a screening to check for AUD. During this screening, they may ask how many alcoholic drinks you have on an average day and whether you have strong urges or cravings to drink alcohol. 19

People with AUD may find it difficult to seek help like these initial screenings or to answer questions about their alcohol use honestly.  But AUD isn’t a sign of weakness or immorality. It’s a medical condition that needs specialized care. Treatment can help you find and maintain sobriety from alcohol.14

Your treatment may involve several services. If you experience medically significant or severe withdrawal symptoms, medical detox will help you taper off alcohol and provide treatment for withdrawal symptoms.20

After detox, you may attend a rehab program. In this stage, you have the opportunity to learn more about how your current thought patterns lead to certain behaviors, and to learn new coping strategies.20

A wide range of treatment programs is available. Some patients may want to change their relationship with alcohol, even though they aren’t addicted. Therapy and support groups can help these patients establish healthy boundaries and habits.

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Resources

  1. Fealey, R.D. (2012). Chapter 115 – Disorders of Sweating. Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System (Third Edition), 553–559. Academic Press.
  2. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Night sweats.
  3. Thurston, R. C., Luther, J. F., Wisniewski, S. R., Eng, H., & Wisner, K. L. (2013, September 13). Prospective evaluation of nighttime hot flashes during pregnancy and postpartum. Fertility and Sterility, 100(6), 1667–1672.
  4. National Cancer Institute. (2011). Night sweats.
  5. Newman, R. K., Stobart, M. A., & Gomez, A. E. (2019, October 27). Alcohol Withdrawal. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing.
  6. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2011). Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.
  7. Paton, A. (2005, January 06). Alcohol in the body. BMJ, 330(7482), 85–87.
  8. S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). Dehydration. MedlinePlus.
  9. Ylikahri, R., Heikkonen, E., & Soukas, A. (1988). The sauna and alcohol. Annals of Clinical Research, 20(4), 287–291.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Binge Drinking.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.
  12. Sloan, F. A., Eldred, L. M., & Davis, D. V. (2013). Addiction, drinking behavior, and driving under the influence. Substance Use & Misuse, 49(6), 661–676.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, November 20). Most people who drink excessively are not alcohol dependent. CDC Newsroom.
  14. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.
  15. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.
  16. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017). Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.
  17. S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Alcohol withdrawal. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.
  18. S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Cancer treatment: dealing with hot flashes and night sweats. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.
  19. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2005). Alcohol Alert.
  20. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
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