What are Menopausal Night Sweats


In addition to hot flashes, many menopausal women experience the symptoms of night sweats. You wake up in the middle of the night cold and clammy, your heart pounding, and the sheets drenched in sweat. It’s hard to calm down and get comfortable again, and it’s impossible not to be irritated by the interruption to a good night’s sleep.

So why do women in menopause have night sweats, and, more importantly, is there anything that can be done about them?

 

Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by a complex interaction that involves fluctuating estrogen levels; the hypothalamus (a region of the brain that regulates body temperature); norepinephrine, a key brain chemical, and specialized receptors in the brain; and the body’s blood vessels and sweat glands.

During menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate. The hypothalamus, a region of the brain that regulates body temperature and is affected by hormones, can become confused by these changes in estrogen levels. Like a faulty thermostat, the hypothalamus may respond to the changes in estrogen as if it senses an increase in your body’s temperature. In an attempt to cool you down, the hypothalamus sets off a cascade of events, including dilating blood vessels to release heat (which you feel as a hot flash) and triggering sweat glands (which you feel as sudden, intense perspiration).

According to JoAnn Manson, MD, MPH, PhD, an endocrinologist and professor of women’s health at Harvard Medical School, about 80 percent of women in menopause experience some hot flashes and night sweats. She adds, “Of those women, 15 to 20 percent will have symptoms severe enough to warrant medication if they want it.”

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to keep night sweats and hot flashes at bay. Here are a few of the many strategies to consider:

Breathe deeply
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies suggest that slow, rhythmic deep breathing, known as paced or relaxation breathing, may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Relaxation breathing may also help you get back to sleep after a night-sweat episode.

Look for patterns
Either right when you wake up from a night sweat or the next morning, take a minute to write down anything you might have done differently before the incident. Did you eat anything spicy? Drink some alcohol? Smoke tobacco? (All three are thought to worsen symptoms.) By keeping track of such potential triggers, you’ll be able to glean a pattern and avoid those things in the future.

Stay comfortable
Put a fan in your bedroom to keep air cool and circulating.

Try natural hormone replacement therapy
Though HRT has come under scrutiny for its potential risks, it continues to be a popular and effective way to negate some of the more trying symptoms of menopause (like night sweats, hot flashes, depression and moodiness).

 

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of natural hormone replacement therapy; depending on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health, it could be an appropriate strategy for you.

Consider a natural course. Study results have been mixed about alternative remedies for menopause, but some women have found relief from symptoms using herbs and supplements such as Black Cohosh, Evening Primrose Oil or Dong Quai. These are just a few that may help.

Exercise. Some research indicates that increasing cardio-respiratory fitness, including walking and yoga, could be a way to reduce menopausal symptoms. One study found, for example, that women who engaged in regular physical activity had fewer and less severe night sweats.

 

 

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