Menopausal Night Sweats


Expert’s Name: Stephanie Ackerman

Hot Flushes

Every night I battle the sheets. I wake up a few times with my sheets wrapped around me drenched in sweat. Then I shiver. I start the night with several layers. I am always cold when I go to sleep. I have the down comforter, the blanket, the sheets and the bedspread. Sometimes, I wear flannel pajamas if I am really cold. Every few hours I shed a layer until I am down to the sheet and drenched in sweat. Of course, once I get to that point, usually the chills set in. My husband calls it bedtime aerobics. For those of you in peri-menopause, you know it as night sweats.

Night sweats, just like its day time cousin “hot flashes,” are caused by a hormonal imbalance. Estrogen levels fluctuate which in turn sends a message to the part of the brain, the hypothalamus, to regulate the body’s temperature. The hypothalamus gets confused with the fluctuating estrogen levels and sends messages for blood vessels to dilate and heat and then to cool you down by releasing sweat.

According to the Nation Sleep Foundation 61% of post-menopausal women experience sleep problems. During peri-menopause, various studies have reported 35-80% of women have experienced insomnia due to night sweats. As women get closer to menopause they get less sleep often waking several times a night. Why do night sweats wake us? When blood vessels dilate heat is released to the face, neck, arms, chests, stomach and some even experience this is their toes. Many experience a tingling or itchy feeling. Our body reacts by sweating to cool us down and thus we wake up wet and chilled. Anxiety, stress, and fatigue often lead to night sweats. Many women have night sweats over the course of several years this interrupted sleep can lead to other health concerns.

Cooling Down

There are several things you can do to help alleviate night sweats. First set the stage for optimal sleep:

  • Keep your room cool and ventilated. You may want a fan near by.
  • Wear loose clothing made of natural fibers.
  • Gingerly explain to your partner to stay away!
  • Go to sleep at the same time each night.
  • Exercise regularly, but not within two hours of bedtime.
  • Practice deep breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques.
  • Do not take a nap during the daytime.
  • Keep a glass of cold water by your bedside. Hydrate during the day.
  • Keep a pad of paper nearby to write down any thoughts so you don’t stay awake worrying.

Making positive changes in your eating habits can greatly affect your sleep and having night sweats. Women who are overweight have more of a chance of experiencing frequent night sweats than women who maintain a healthy weight. Do not eat a large meal within two hours of going to sleep. Studies have shown that avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, hot, and spicy food can lead to less nightsweats and a better night sleep.

Also worth mentioning is the increase in popularity of memory foam mattresses. Memory foam is typically referred to as visco-elastic foam, and responds to your body heat. As the foam traps your body heat, the mattress contours to your body. This means that your body is surrounded by 30% more mattress and less air. Many women experience more frequent and longer night sweats due to sleeping on memory foam. I have a memory foam mattress and I love the comfort, but if I knew that the bed would retain my body heat, I may have chosen differently.

Many women choose to take herbal supplements and find relief. Some of the most widely used supplements are: St. John’s Wort, black cohosh, chaste berry, ginseng, maca, magnesium, red clover, dong quai, and pine bark. Please check with your physician, since high doses and contraindications with other medications can be dangerous.

Lastly, have a good sense of humor. You burn calories when you sweat! Use night sweats as an excuse to buy lightweight natural fabrics sexy lingerie.

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