GERD and night sweats: What is the link?

Night sweats can be very discomforting. But how does GERD cause night sweats, and how can you manage night sweats caused by GERDs? Read on to find out.

A man experiencing sweating at night

Key takeaways

  • The link between GERD and night sweats remains unclear, with limited evidence to explain how GERD causes night sweats. But some doctors have observed that their patients with GERD also experience night sweats, suggesting both may be linked.
  • Having acid refluxes occasionally is no cause for concern, but if it occurs more than twice a week, a doctor may diagnose GERD.
  • If night sweats persist and disrupt your sleep regularly, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, and it is time to check in with your doctor.

Waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat can be very unpleasant, especially if it happens on a regular basis. It can disrupt sleep and make you cranky, especially if you repeatedly change bedding.

There are several reasons you might wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, one of which includes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

This article will explore the relationship between GERD and night sweats, how to treat night sweats caused by GERD, other causes of night sweats, and when to contact your doctor.

What is GERD?

GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It occurs when stomach acid moves back into the esophagus (a tube that connects your mouth and stomach). This acid reflux can irritate the lining of your esophagus and lead to heartburn and other symptoms.  

Having acid refluxes once in a while is pretty normal; however, if it occurs more than twice in a week, then a doctor may diagnose GERD.

How GERD can cause night sweats

Similar to sleep apnea, GERD may also be linked to night sweats. But currently, very limited evidence exists to explain how GERD can cause night sweats. Most of the information is based on doctors who observe this symptom in their patients with GERD.

However, some researchers believe acid reflux may trigger the autonomic nervous system leading to increased heart rate. This increased heart rate may lead to excessive sweating because as the heart rate increases, the body tries to dissipate heat, and sweating is one way the body does so.

In people with GERD, sweating is usually worse at night due to increased acid reflux. This is because when you lie down, there is an easier flow of acid back to the esophagus because there's no gravity available to keep the acid down. 

How to treat night sweats caused by GERD

Night sweats can be very uncomfortable, especially if they occur regularly and interrupt sleep. If you have night sweats regularly, in addition to other diagnostic features of GERD, then your doctor might recommend treating the underlying cause. Some common medications that your doctor may prescribe include:

  • Histamine receptor blockers: These are also called Histamine 2 receptor blockers or simply H2 blockers. H2 blocker works by slowing down the production of stomach acid, which may help reduce night sweats. Some examples of H2 Blockers include Famotidine, Cimetidine, and Nizatidine.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Proton pump inhibitors also work by blocking the proteins needed for the production of Stomach acid. Examples of PPIs include lansoprazole, omeprazole, esomeprazole and rabeprazole. 

Aside from medication, you can also take certain steps to help improve the quality of your sleep if you have night sweats. Some of these include:

  • Wear light and loose-fitted clothes to bed.
  • Elevate the head of the bed with pillows. 
  • Keep your air conditioning on, or use a bedroom fan. If you can't afford it, keep the room well-ventilated.
  • Sip cool water at night.
  • Keep a cold pack close to your pillows, or use a mattress with cooling gels. 

Is night sweat always a cause for alarm

No, not really. It is normal to experience night sweats occasionally, and they are often nothing to worry about. Night sweats may be due to physical activity or maybe fever.

However, if night sweats persist and disrupt your sleep regularly, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, and it is time to check in with your doctor. Your doctor will perform a diagnostic test to rule out any underlying condition. 

Other causes of night sweat

In addition to GERD, other causes of night sweat may include:

  • Menopause: Night sweat is a common symptom found in menopausal women. These night sweats, in addition to hot flashes, can last for several years.  
  • Tuberculosis: Night sweats can be a sign of tuberculosis. If you wake up regularly drenched in sweat, in addition to experiencing a shortage of breath, loss of weight, and persistent coughing, your doctor may suspect tuberculosis.
  • Medications: certain medications like antidepressants, beta-blockers, insulin, hormone replacement therapy, viagra, and prednisolone may cause excessive sweating at night. 
  • Cancer: Night sweat is a common symptom found in cancer patients and even survivors. This night sweats may arise due to surgery, radiation therapy, and certain cancer medications.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes whose blood sugar level falls low, especially at night (nocturnal hypoglycemia), may experience night sweats.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Night sweat is another common symptom found in people whose body produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).

Other symptoms of GERD and when to contact a doctor

In addition to night sweats, other common symptoms you may experience if you have GERD include:

  •    Heartburn
  •    Chest pain    
  •    Difficulting swallowing (Dysphagia)
  •    Acidic or sour taste in the mouth
  •    Coughing
  •    Sore throat                        

Keep in mind that it is quite common to experience occasional acid reflux, especially after eating a large meal or lying down immediately after eating.

However, if this reflux becomes recurrent, you need to contact a doctor because GERD, when left untreated, can lead to serious complications such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding; respiratory problems like chest congestion; or Barrett's esophagus, which is a risk factor for esophageal cancer.