MS & Night Sweats
Last updated: August 2022
Throughout my many years of living with multiple sclerosis, I’ve learned a lot about the disease: not only how it affects me, but others as well. During this learning process, I’ve had numerous moments where I’ve learned of a symptom that really got me thinking. In particular, it’d make me wonder if maybe I had MS way before I was diagnosed. As I looked back on my life with this newfound knowledge, one such symptom that jumped out to me was night sweats. These are a common occurrence among those with MS, where we often awake in the middle of the night completely soaked by our own sweat.
Waking up to soaked bedding
I noticed some heavy night sweats in the year and half leading up to my first (or what I thought was my first) exacerbation. In general, I’ve always been a pretty sweaty guy, but this was different. I’d wake up in the middle of the night or the next morning absolutely drenched. My bedding was completely soaked, enough that there were times where you could wring it out. It was very unpleasant (and even more so for the girlfriends of mine at the time who also ended up extremely wet).
Realizing it was sweat
The first few times it happened, I thought maybe I had wet myself or a friend had urinated in the wrong place (this was early college for me, there were some boozy nights, so none of that seemed too far-fetched at the time). It eventually became clear that it was sweat and that it was my sweat. It would occur pretty frequently and then it suddenly stopped happening. It became relegated to one of those stories people tell (remember that time you were so sweaty in the middle of the night!) until years later, and I discussed it with my neurologist.
Trouble regulating body temperature
People with MS experience a lot of difficulties when it comes to temperature. I’ll try not to rehash too much, but you can read a more thorough description of why over here. We are very sensitive to temperature changes. Some people are worse off as temps get higher, others as they get lower, and yes, some hate any kind of temperature swing in any direction. Not only are those with MS more sensitive to temperature changes, they can also experience trouble regulating their body temperature.1
Night sweats in people with MS
Despite all the work done studying the effects of temperature on those with MS, it wasn’t some published study or official list of symptoms that made this symptom jump out at me. It was one of my first neurologists who mentioned it to me. After that, I talked to numerous other people with MS who, at some point, experienced night sweats. Not only MS, but I know folks with other autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, who have also experienced bouts of night sweats. The more I talked to various people, the more it made sense to me. Night sweats fit in well when you consider the role inflammation plays in the way the immune system tries to fight off invaders. As I learned more, I began to consider that maybe this period of time where I endured all those night sweats was the true beginning of my MS journey.
Cause for concern?
So what do you do if you experience heavy night sweating? Well, there isn’t a ton you can do, other than keeping your room cool. I’m not so sure that even a cold room will help everyone though. I do think it’s something worth mentioning to your doctor. It’s something that should be put in your chart because you never know when it might mean something down the line. I think there are a lot of symptoms (or potential symptoms) that people tend to gloss over and think they don’t matter. People excuse a lot of potential symptoms that could be signs of something important. You never know when that little bit of information might become important, so always tell your doctor, no matter how silly it might seem.
So has anyone else experienced night sweating? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!
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