Night sweats is a perspiration disorder that occurs during sleep and stops upon waking. People with night sweats are frequently awakened by damp sleepwear and sheets, leading to an interrupted sleep. The sweating can appear on a particular body region or over the entire body. Night sweats are quite common especially in elderly people and are not usually a significant cause for concern.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory, the lung disseminates protective qi over the exterior regions of the body, the protective qi not only forms a barrier against the invasion of exogenous pathogens, but also regulates the sweat pores, nourishes the skin, hair and muscles. At night, the protective qi enters the interior regions and attaches to the nutrient substances (yin aspect of body) during sleep, as a part of sleep-wake cyclical activities.
Night sweats occur:
- When the body is deficient in yin, protective qi loses its attachment and wanders internally during sleep. It will then agitate the relatively excess yang to generate fire which forces the body fluids to emerge out of the body. When awake, the protective qi flow backs to the exterior body, so the phenomenon will stop. Severe night sweats often accompanied by red cheeks, emaciation, hot flashes, warm palms and soles, thirst and a red tongue which indicate a consumptive and overheated state.
- A low level of qi (vital energy) can affect the opening and closing of the sweat pores. At night, protective qi entering internally will further weaken the sweat pores, and thus leads to night sweats.
Generally, enriching yin is an important approach for the treatment of night sweats, TCM physicians also consider the affected systems (e.g.,heart, kidney and liver), depleted substances (e.g.,blood and qi) as well as the accumulated pathogens(e.g., fire, damp-heat, blood stasis) when choosing remedies. Women with menstrual problems also have to reconsolidate both the conception vessel and thoroughfare vessel.
In the prescriptions, common ingredients for arresting the sweating are oyster shell, shriveled wheat, ephedra root, schisandra root of glutinous rice straw, processed rhemannia rhizome and gallnet of Chinese sumac.
For people with night sweats, it is important to maintain a balance between work and rest. Exercise daily to help the metabolism and minimize stress; keep the bedroom ventilated and cool; change clothes and bed sheets when they are soaked; take a cool bath before bed or when wake up hot and clammy, and drink water to rehydrate the body too.
These and other Traditional Chinese practices all form part of TCM, each adding a little to the history and methodology of Acupuncture and Herbs.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture or Herbs treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.