Night Sweats—Not Just For Women
Roughly 4-5 million men in the U.S. suffer from “andropause”, the male equivalent of female menopause. Only 5-10% will ever seek treatment however, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As men age, male hormones, known as androgens gradually decrease over time, and by age 40 symptoms of a hormonal imbalance may begin to occur. These range from low energy, depression, reduced muscle mass, and erectile dysfunction, to insomnia, increased body fat, and difficulty concentrating. Men may also experience temperature disturbances at night while sleeping.
Night Sweats, Men Have Them Too
While night sweats can be the result of a myriad of medical conditions including, heart problems, endocrine disorders, and certain cancers, men nearing middle age may simply be entering a period of male menopause. In fact, testosterone levels begin to diminish at a rate of about 1% each year after age 30. Night sweats usually start with a flushing of the skin on the face and move throughout the trunk of the body. As this happens, the body begins to perspire, often leaving the individual in a cold sweat.
What Causes Night Sweats?
While women get night sweats because of diminished estrogen levels in the body during menopause, men get night sweats as well. Male night sweats are an inconvenient reality few men like to talk about. Sweats, caused by hot flashes that can last up to four minutes disrupt sleep and cause discomfort due to intense heat, or a chill. Just like women, men get night sweats because of hormonal changes within the body. When testosterone levels drop in middle age, the temperature center in the brain’s hypothalamus receives false messages signaling that the body is overheated. When this occurs blood vessels naturally expand in an attempt to release heat and cool the body. While some men will never experience hormone levels low enough to cause hot flashes or night sweats, others will suffer varying levels of discomfort.
Night Sweats in Men—Androgen Deprivation
Night sweats also occur in men undergoing hormone therapy for prostate cancer. The intentional reduction of testosterone in the body triggers the brain’s thermal center, just as it does in middle age. A reduction in human growth hormone and cortisol in males may be partially responsible for hot flashes and night sweats as well.
Because the male hormone testosterone stimulates the growth of cancer cells in the prostate, reducing levels (either temporarily or long-term) can aid in treatment of the disease. The majority of men receiving androgen deprivation therapy (70%-80%) suffer hot flashes and night sweats as a result.
Decrease Male Night Sweats Naturally
There are a number of things men can do naturally to lessen the frequency of night sweats.
- Avoiding spicy foods at dinner that can raise body temperature.
- Not eating before bedtime since digestion raises body temperature.
- Avoiding foods like pickles, citrus fruit, tomatoes and white sugar close to bedtime.
- Refraining from alcohol consumption that can raise body temperature prior to bedtime.
- Avoiding intense physical exercise directly before sleep.
- Reduce the consumption of caffeine, heavy, or fatty foods throughout the day.
- Avoiding rapid weight gain.
- Quitting smoking.
- Avoiding antipyretic, over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen.
Hormone replacement therapy for low testosterone, human growth hormone, and cortisol may provide the necessary relief from hot flashes and night sweats in andropausal men. Therapies may be delivered through intra-muscular injection, transdermal gels or patches, sub dermal implants, or oral medications. Once optimal hormone levels are achieved, many of the symptoms related to “male menopause” are reduced, or eliminated altogether.