Night sweats refers to excessive sweating during sleep. Light sweating typically wouldn't be characterized as night sweats. They are more akin to hot flashes one experiences at night. It's a common problem that affects men and women alike and can be caused by a host of conditions from medically benign issues like a hot bedroom or sleeping under too many blankets all the way to more serious medical conditions like excessive stress or anxiety, side effects from medications, or even neurological problems.
Mild sweating at night would not be called "night sweats." The amount of sweat produced from this condition is excessive. It can vary greatly from lightly sweating into one's pajamas to soaking the bedsheets and bed. Sometimes the amount of overheating and perspiration that one experiences during an episode is so great that it wakes people up in the middle of the night, prompting them to move over to a dry part of the bed or possibly even to change their bed clothes. If it's clear that the sweating is a result of a hot environment, wearing lighter pajamas, using lighter blankets or keeping an open airflow in the bedroom can prevent future episodes. If the sleeping conditions are not hot however, there may be medical causes.
A variety of medical conditions or medically-related situations can contribute to the occurrence of night sweats. Perhaps the most common or most obvious is stress and anxiety. Stressful waking lives can manifest in dreams that cause great anxiety and result in this condition. For women in menopause, sweating episodes can occur at night just as hot flashes occur during the day. They may also be a byproduct or side effect of certain medications or combinations of medications. Those who suffer from idiopathic hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating generally, may also sweat excessively during the nighttime hours. Infections, hormonal imbalances, certain cancers, and even neurological problems can also cause this condition.
In most cases, night sweats are harmless — the result of a hot environment or a temporarily stressful period in one's life. Medical professionals, however, recommend that those who suffer from these nuisances for a prolonged period seek the advice of a medical professional as they could be a symptom of a more serious medical problem.