Treating Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Night Sweats

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Senior Caucasian man in bed  with insomnia
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Most people will experience night sweats at some point in their lives. Keeping your bedroom too hot, using too many blankets, or experiencing hormonal changes as the result of menopause are just a few of the many things that can cause you to overheat while sleeping. But if you’re experiencing ongoing, drenching night sweats, you should check in with your doctor. Night sweats of this nature can be related to certain types of cancer, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). If you have CLL, you may be very familiar with night sweats. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to relieve this symptom and get a better night’s sleep.

What causes night sweats with chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer that occurs in a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. CLL is a slow-growing cancer, and many people have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis. Instead, it’s often discovered when an abnormally high number of white blood cells is found during routine blood work.

In some cases, however, night sweats may emerge as a symptom even before a CLL diagnosis is made. The exact cause of night sweats is unknown, but it’s believed your body may raise its temperature as part of an inflammatory response to try and “fight off” the cancer cells. If your night sweats have lasted for several weeks, your doctor may want to do some further testing, especially if other CLL leukemia symptoms are present, such as weight loss, fatigue, bruising, enlarged lymph nodes, and enlarged spleen.

CLL can also weaken your immune system and make you more prone to infections. As a result, you may experience fever and night sweats as a result of your body mounting a response against an infection.

Even after a CLL diagnosis, new or worsening night sweats may be a sign your cancer is progressing, indicating it may be time to start treatment. However, certain CLL treatments may cause you to sweat while sleeping, as well. Chemotherapy has been known to cause hot flashes and night sweats. Medications prescribed to some CLL patients, including steroids, opioid painkillers, and antidepressants, may also lead to night sweats as a side effect.

How can you make it more comfortable to sleep when you have CLL leukemia?

Waking up covered in sweat is unpleasant for anyone. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help you get a better night’s sleep:

  • Pay attention to the temperature of your bedroom. Open windows, fans, and air conditioners can circulate the air.
  • Cool off in the shower at the end of the day.
  • Wear loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing while you sleep. Consider sleeping in layers you can remove if you get too warm.
  • Swap your sheets for new moisture-wicking ones and try a gel pillow.
  • Keep ice water next to your bed to sip throughout the night.
  • Use ice packs or cold compresses on your body.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Decreasing your stress level may help lower your heart rate and body temperature.
  • Avoid things that can trigger sweating, such as spicy foods, alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
  • Exercise early in the day, rather than at night.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.

Talk to your doctor if you’re continuing to struggle with night sweats. Some herbs and supplements, such as black cohosh, may help, but they should be used only under your doctor’s supervision. You may want to reach out to a CLL leukemia support group as well. Others’ experiences and tips may guide you towards a peaceful night’s sleep.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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