Are night sweats keeping you up?

Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, sweating profusely but have no idea what’s wrong or if you should be concerned?

Woman lying awake at night / Night sweats concept

Waking up with sheets and bedclothes drenched is an unpleasant and sleep disrupting part of perimenopause and menopause. Night sweats during this transition time of a woman’s life are actually severe nocturnal hot flashes and have nothing to do with an overheated bedroom.

If night sweats are plaguing you [and your partner], here are some simple solutions to prevent or lessen them.

Deep breathing

Simply breathing slowly and deeply can lessen a severe hot flash and stave off night sweats. Before retiring each night, spend some time deep breathing as a preventive measure. At the first sign of excess heat during the night, gently relax your muscles and breathe in quietude.

Bedclothes and bedding

Changing the fabrics that you sleep in [and on] is a great first step to beating the heat. A number of companies now sell wicking sleepwear for people suffering from night sweats and flashes. These pyjamas literally wick away heat and moisture as you sleep, preventing a night sweat from becoming a bed drencher. Always be sure to wear loose fitting and light bedclothes as constrictive clothing is known to precipitate night sweats.

Cooling bed linens also aid in preventing night sweats. Bamboo sheets and/or mattress pads are naturally cooling. Linen sheets cool as well, but some find them too coarse for comfort. Ditch the high thread count bedding for low thread count cotton which has a looser weave, allowing air to circulate more freely.

Down comforters are very popular, but can trap heat and increase the incidence of night sweats. Try a light cotton comforter or blanket, instead. Similarly, down pillows can cause overheating, so replace them with a comfortable synthetic or one made with buckwheat hulls.

Stress is a frequent trigger of hot flashes and night sweats

Cool the bedroom

Open the windows for breeze or turn on the air conditioning. If this proves too cold for a bed partner, a fan may be a better option.

A simple bedside fan can provide instant relief.

Exercise

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the severity and number of hot flashes and night sweats. Think of it as sweating during your workouts, so you don’t have to sweat at night. It has the added benefit of reducing stress which too is implicated in nocturnal flashes and sweats.

Stress reduction

Stress is a frequent trigger of hot flashes and night sweats. Unfortunately, each nocturnal episode of overheating causes more stress and a vicious cycle can ensue. It’s important to relieve stress on a daily basis to reduce these occurrences.

Meditation has been shown to decrease the incidence of night sweats. You don’t have to take classes or do anything special—simply set aside time to relax without interruptions and clear your mind.

You may also wish to try a walking meditation—simply walk noticing every step, the trees, breeze, and birds. In this way, you can get your exercise and reduce stress at the same time.

Avoid sugar, which has been linked to an increase in night sweats

Natural modalities

Be cool. At the first sign of a hot flash, apply something cold to the back of the neck or to your wrists—you can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas. Using an ice pack covered with a soft cloth can aid in sleeping and help prevent those night-time hot flashes.

Hypnosis and acupuncture have been shown to be successful for some women in reducing these and other symptoms of the Pause. If your night sweats are not diminished or relieved by the above suggestions, you may wish to try one of these complementary treatments.

Yoga has been shown to provide both, relaxation and the added benefit of increased flexibility. Be sure to check with your yoga instructor about poses that are beneficial for midlife women. Bikram [hot yoga] is not recommended for women who are suffering from hot flashes or night sweats.

Diet

Increase your intake of soya, chickpeas, flaxseed and lentils which contain plant oestrogens that may act as weak oestrogen for your body. Other foods that are beneficial include grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended to use these dietary sources rather than supplements which may cause sensitivity or allergies in some women. Avoid sugar, which has been linked to an increase in night sweats.

Avoid hot flash triggers

Ideally, avoid caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and hot beverages as they can cause hot flashes. If that feels like all the joy has gone out of your life [as some women have told me after hearing this suggestion], then try limiting your intake. If you do have an evening cocktail, limit yourself to one several hours before bedtime. Similarly, with caffeine, chocolate or hot beverages, try not to indulge after 6pm.

Spicy food is another culprit that can raise your core temperature and lead to night sweats. If you are suffering from night sweats, you may wish to avoid your favourite Mexican, Thai, or Cajun dinners until your hormonal state stabilises.

Keep a track

Every woman’s menopause is unique. Discover your own hot flash triggers by keeping a hot flash diary to see what produces or exacerbates your flashes. Note what you were doing, how you were feeling, what you ate or drank prior to the onset of flashes or night sweats. A pen that lights up when you click it on is ideal for night time notes without waking your partner.

You may also like: Women @40

Time

Tincture of time helps in all things, including menopausal night sweats. As your body reaches a new level of hormonal balance, these and other symptoms will likely diminish or disappear. Menopause can be a wonderful beginning of a woman’s Second Act, once the worst of the changes are in her rear-view mirror.

Note: Night sweats are a common symptom of menopause but may also result from other more serious conditions. If you suspect you are perimenopausal or menopausal, it is helpful to have your hormones tested by your trusted health care practitioner to confirm this as well as to rule out other causes. Certain medications such as antidepressants and certain high blood pressure meds may cause or worsen night sweats.


This article first appeared in the May 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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