Why do I sweat after alcohol? Understanding night sweats

Do you find yourself waking up covered in sweat after drinking? You might be experiencing night sweats due to alcohol.

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Sweat is crucial for keeping our bodies cool, but sweating can be uncomfortable when you’re trying to sleep.

There are numerous reasons why you may experience night sweats, such as going through menopause, having low blood sugar, or even suffering with a fever. In addition, certain medications, including antidepressants and steroids, can also cause night sweats. Your bedroom environment may also have an effect. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, you’ve experienced night sweats.

While there could be several different explanations for this, alcohol is a common cause of night sweats and this can be a physical sign of alcoholism. In this piece, we’ll go into detail on the relationship between alcohol and sweating, and what you can do to cope with alcohol-induced night sweats.

What are alcohol sweats?

Alcohol sweats happen due to an increase in the amount of perspiration your body produces when you stop drinking alcohol. You might also experience other symptoms after drinking, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Flushed face or skin
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Disturbed sleep

Why do I sweat after alcohol?

A common cause of sweating after drinking is due to alcohol withdrawal. If you’re a regular drinker or you struggle with alcohol addiction, you might experience certain feelings and sensations after a period of not drinking. This is known as alcohol withdrawal and is your body’s response to alcohol dependency. One of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is excessive sweating.

There are other possible explanations for alcohol sweats. The effects of alcohol on the body are wide ranging and include our central nervous system and circulatory system. When we drink alcohol, our heart rate increases and a process called vasodilation widens our blood vessels. This can lead to perspiration.

You might also sweat after drinking due to having an intolerance to alcohol. Having an alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition where your body isn’t able to produce the enzymes it needs to break down toxins in alcohol. The effects are similar to that of the medication Antabuse (disulfiram), which is often used to treat alcohol addiction.

As well as sweating, this can lead to symptoms like facial redness, nausea, vomiting or low blood pressure.

How long does alcohol stay in the body?

When you’re withdrawing from alcohol, the process can begin quite quickly. Here's information on how long it takes for alcohol to leave your body. Alcohol can be detected in:

  • Blood for up to 6 hours
  • Urine for 12 to 24 hours
  • Breath for 12 to 24 hours
  • Saliva for 12 to 24 hours
  • Hair for up to 90 days

Night sweats and alcohol 

If you’re a regular drinker and find you’re waking up with night sweats after drinking, it could be a sign of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of your last drink and last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks.

Every person will have a unique experience when going through alcohol withdrawal. The symptoms you experience, the severity and the risk they pose to you will depend on your personal history and your physical and mental health.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • High temperature and/or chills
  • Tics and tremors (‘the shakes’)
  • Irregular or increased heart rate
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intense cravings for alcohol

A small percentage of people might experience the most severe withdrawal symptoms, known as delirium tremens.

The symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Severe disorientation and confusion
  • Extreme agitation
  • Visual and/or auditory hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure

Delirium tremens symptoms generally occur within 2 to 4 days of your last drink. In rare cases, they can be serious enough to be life threatening. If you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

How to stop alcohol night sweats

Sweating results in your body losing moisture. Replacing these fluids by drinking lots of water can help you to cope with night sweats and sleep a little better at night. Good general bedroom habits can also help to limit the severity of night sweats and keep you more comfortable. These include things like:

  • Changing your bedsheets regularly
  • Showering before bed to rinse off any dried sweat and salt on your body
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dry
  • Avoiding blankets and hot water bottles in your bed

If your night sweats are a result of alcohol withdrawal, you could also try cutting down on how much you drink. Things like reducing the number of days you drink, organising social events without alcohol and replacing alcohol as a means to cope with stress or anxiety with other relaxation techniques, are all effective means of reducing your alcohol intake.

Physical withdrawal symptoms can be damaging to your health, so if you're regularly experiencing them, get medical advice before stopping drinking completely. Speak to your GP for a medical opinion on the best next steps for you.

Getting help for alcohol addiction

You can also get in touch with Priory, a leading private provider of treatment for alcohol addiction. Our treatments include a medically-assisted alcohol detox, which can help deal with harmful withdrawal symptoms in a safe, secure environment. For many, this precedes a stay in one of our leading rehab centres located across the UK.

As a first step, we offer a free addiction assessment, where we can develop an understanding of the difficulties you’ve been experiencing and talk you through how we could help. Use the information below to get started.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Patrick Mbaya (MB ChB, MSc, MD, FRCPsych, Cert. Psychopharmacology), Lead Consultant for Addictions at Priory Hospital Altrincham.

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