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Is There a Connection between Sertraline and Night Sweats?

By John Markley
Updated Apr 01, 2024
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Experiencing night sweats can be a disconcerting side effect when starting a new medication. For those taking sertraline, commonly known as Zoloft, night sweats are a recognized phenomenon. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, about 14% of patients on sertraline (an SSRI) may experience night sweats. 

Psychiatrist.com lists sweating as one of the side effects of sertraline use, reported by 38% of patients. This side effect is more prevalent during the initial phase of treatment or after a dosage increase, although it can occur at any time. While these episodes are generally not harmful, they can disrupt sleep and cause discomfort. Understanding this potential side effect is crucial for patients to manage expectations and seek appropriate relief if necessary.

Excessive sweating during sleep is called nocturnal hyperhidrosis. For sweating to be considered hyperhidrosis there must be more sweating than is needed to regulate the body's temperature, which is sweating's primary function, so the term “night sweats” does not include normal sweating during the night due to heat. People who suffer from hyperhidrosis while sleeping often experience it during waking hours as well. This is another common side effect of sertraline, so the association of sertraline and night sweats is part of a more general group of common side effects.

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a category of psychiatric drugs that also includes several other common antidepressants. The mechanism by which they work is still not fully understood, but it is believed that their effects are caused by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the synapses between nerve cells. Excessive sweating is a common side effect of SSRIs, although the reason for this is still not understood. The connection between sertraline and night sweats appears to be especially strong, for unknown reasons.

While there is a relationship between sertraline and night sweats, there may be many other causes of night sweats. Some of them are serious medical conditions that include various cancers, infections such as tuberculosis, and disorders such as epilepsy and diabetes mellitus. Thus, in some cases night sweats experienced by someone who is taking sertraline may be the product of a separate, more serious problem rather than a side effect of the medication. Night sweats can also be caused by normal hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause. Many people also sweat excessively due to an innate genetic predisposition to do so, rather than as an effect of some other underlying cause or health problem.

Other Causes of Night Sweats

Medications are a common culprit of night sweats, but there are other causes to be aware of.

Stress

Stress has harsh impacts on the human body, and night sweats can be one of them. If you're experiencing high-stress levels due to work, home life, or other factors, this could cause excessive night sweating. 

Sleeping Environment

Sometimes it's as simple as turning the thermostat down or getting a new comforter. Consider if your sleepwear or bedding is too thick and heavy, making you sweat. 

Another possibility is that the environment is too hot or too cold. Too hot makes you sweat, obviously, but too cold can make you tighten your body and curl into a ball, causing you to sweat from your own body heat. 

Menopause

As mentioned earlier, night sweats during menopause are very common. While there are no ways to stop this without some kind of hormone therapy, you can manage the sweating with tips explained later on in this article. 

Sweating Disorder

Another cause previously mentioned is that you may have a sweating disorder that makes you sweat more than usual. The most common sweating disorder is hyperhidrosis, which you can take medication for. 

Underlying Medical Issue

Many medical problems can cause night sweats. Certain infections, types of cancer, drug abuse disorders, and more can cause night sweats. If they're severe and persist, you should see a doctor. 

Poor Habits

Poor habits that occur right before bed, like smoking or drinking, can cause night sweats. You should avoid these activities if you want to manage your nighttime sweating. 

Other Medications That Cause Night Sweats

Aside from drugs similar to sertraline, which includes most depression medications and SSRIs, some other medications commonly lead to night sweats. 

If you’re on any of the medications discussed below, they could be causing your night sweats. Changing medications or reducing the dosage after talking to your doctor can help solve your problem. 

Hormone Therapy: People do hormone therapy for many reasons, from transitioning to IVF to menopause treatment, and the hormone disruption often causes night sweats. 

Methadone: This medication helps treat opioid addiction disorders and manage withdrawal pain, almost always causing night sweats. 

Diabetes Medications: Many diabetes medications to treat high blood sugar or high blood pressure have side effects, including night sweats. 

Steroids: If you’re taking steroids for whatever reason, they frequently cause night sweats due to the drastic chemical effects on your body. 

Pain Relievers: Taking too many painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, can lead to night sweats. Only take these medications as necessary. 

Remedies for Night Sweats

If you don’t want to adjust your medication or can't pinpoint the cause of your night sweats, below are some ways to relieve and hopefully reduce your sweating at night. 

Stay Hydrated

Keep plenty of cold water near you during the night. Having ice water handy or even just cool water can significantly reduce your discomfort and hot flashes, especially during menopause. 

Plus, it never hurts to stay hydrated throughout the night! Unfortunately, it just may lead to more bathroom trips for some people. 

Use a Cold Pack

Keep an ice pack or cold pack by your bed. The best way to use it is to place it under your pillow. Everyone knows the term “the cool side of the pillow,” and keeping an ice pack under your pillow brings a new level of coolness. Throughout the night, if you wake up sweaty, you can flip the pillow to the cool side, relieving sweating and discomfort. 

Avoid Night Sweat Triggers 

Substances such as alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, and cigarettes can contribute to night sweats. If you tend to consume or use any of these substances a few hours before bed, stopping could reduce or even eliminate your night sweats. 

De-stressing Exercises

If you think your night sweats may be from stress, you can do de-stressing exercises before bedtime. Relieve stress through deep breathing, relaxation, and moderate exercise, to help you go to bed with fewer worries and relax better. Meditation, yoga, and similar activities can help. 

See Your Doctor

If you try all of these tips and still are drenched in sweat every morning and it only seems to be getting worse, you should see a doctor. Many underlying medical conditions can cause night sweats, so do not ignore this problem for too long. 

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Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Feb 05, 2014

@literally45-- If you didn't have any night sweats before taking sertraline, then it's most likely the drug causing it. If you had some mild night sweats before taking sertraline, the drug might just be exacerbating that symptom. Are you under extra stress lately?

Night sweats actually do occur with stress, anxiety and depression. Whenever I've had depression, I've also had night sweats. It's the body trying to cope with the extra stress. Some people also suffer from nightmares due to stress and this can trigger night sweats as well. So it might not just be the sertraline.

By literally45 — On Feb 04, 2014

@SarahGen-- I have no idea about withdrawal but sertraline is giving me really bad night sweats. I started the medication one month ago and the night sweats started soon after. I wake up once, sometime twice at night, literally drenched. I have to change my clothes when I wake up and I've had to buy more pairs of pajamas. I hope this side effect goes away soon because I don't think I can continue taking this medication otherwise.

My doctor thinks that things will get better in the next few weeks. He actually didn't believe that it was the sertraline at first and insisted that it might be a hormonal imbalance. But I had all my hormones checked and they're all fine so it's definitely the sertraline. I don't know why some doctors are so reluctant to believe their patient when night sweats is a known side effect of this medication.

By SarahGen — On Feb 04, 2014

Does sertraline cause night sweats during withdrawal?

I never experienced night sweats when I first started the medication, but I'm experiencing them frequently now as I withdraw. Has anyone else experienced this?

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