Many people with lung cancer struggle to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to producing common symptoms of lung cancer like pain and coughing, night sweats can cause disrupted sleep.
Night sweats, which are episodes of heavy or excessive sweating during the night, can be caused by treatments for lung cancer and the cancer itself. Episodes of night sweats can leave a person feeling uncomfortable. They may also make it difficult to fall back asleep. Luckily, there are ways you and your oncologist can work together to manage your night sweats and help you get a cooler, more comfortable sleep.
As their name suggests, night sweats cause a person to become overheated and experience episodes of extreme sweating at night, most often while sleeping. In the case of cancer, this sweating is excessive enough that it often soaks through a person’s clothes or sheets. Cancer-related night sweats may also be accompanied by chills and a racing heartbeat.
Many people with lung cancer find that night sweats are uncomfortable and disrupt their sleep. As one MyLungCancerTeam member shared, “Had one of those nights myself last night for the first time in ages. Woke up feeling like someone dumped me in a pool. Fatigue from this illness and its subsequent treatments is more than enough without the addition of lack of sleep.”
Some members find that their night sweats coincide with anxiety about their lung cancer. “Had a ‘night sweats’ type of night. Normally, I do not feel stressed by the fact I have lung cancer,” one member shared. “The night sweats are very infrequent and are likely indications that my mind occasionally realizes I am in a dangerous situation. Maybe thoughts of my upcoming PET scan brought on last night’s sweats. Who knows?”
Night sweats can be a symptom of several types of cancer, including lung cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia. Sweating can also be a side effect of some lung cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Night sweats can happen because the body is trying to fight lung cancer. Heating up its core temperature is one of the body’s ways of fighting infections and illnesses, including cancer. This process can cause both fever and night sweats.
Feelings of anxiety about lung cancer or its treatments may also lead to night sweats, sometimes with nightmares. This is because the body’s stress response alters body temperature and metabolic rate.
Chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments may cause a person with lung cancer to experience night sweats. Certain medications — like antidepressants and opioid pain medications — used to manage lung cancer symptoms and complications can also lead to nighttime sweating.
Night sweats can interrupt your sleep, which can impact your quality of life and overall well-being. If night sweats are interfering with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, talk to your oncology care team or other health care provider. They can help determine the cause of these episodes and work with you to find a way to manage them.
You can help prevent or cope with extreme sweating and overheating in several ways. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation and breathing exercises, and new bedtime routines can help you be more comfortable while sleeping.
Let your oncologist know if you think certain treatments have been contributing to night sweats. If chemotherapy or other lung cancer treatments are to blame, changing or adjusting your treatments may help alleviate the issue.
CBT is a form of talk therapy that’s proved effective for those dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. CBT helps people notice unhelpful thinking or behavioral patterns and learn healthy ways to cope with them. These learned coping skills can help you gain a sense of control over your night sweating episodes, allowing you to better manage your symptoms.
Other mind-body techniques may also help you manage night sweats. Relaxation, breathing techniques, and other types of mindfulness-based stress reduction methods can offer benefits similar to those of CBT.
The goals of these techniques are to relax your body, relieve the stress and negative feelings brought on by night sweats, and help cool down your body. You may learn these techniques through CBT. Your oncologist or a mental health care provider such as a psychotherapist may also be able to help.
You can do several things on your own to help keep cool at night and prevent or reduce night sweats. Practicing good sleep hygiene and using methods to keep yourself cool may help you get better, more comfortable sleep.
Opt for natural fibers, like cotton, or try sweat-wicking bedding. You may also want to consider using a thin sheet instead of a blanket.
Sleep specialists recommend keeping your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal comfort. If your home doesn’t have central air conditioning, consider putting in a window box or using a fan to keep air cool and circulating.
Some foods and drinks can aggravate the gastrointestinal system and lead to night sweats. Avoid hot beverages and spicy foods, in particular, in the afternoon or evening.
Symptoms and side effects like night sweats can be challenging. The good news is that you don’t have to deal with them alone. MyLungCancerTeam is the social network for those with lung cancer and their loved ones and caregivers. Here, members from around the world come together to ask questions, offer support and advice, and connect with others who understand life with lung cancer.
Have you dealt with night sweats with lung cancer or during treatment? Share your experience and tips in the comments below or by posting on MyLungCancerTeam.