Hot flushes and night sweats are symptoms of menopause. Here's some advice on how to make sure they don't impact your life too heavily
How long can women experience hot flushes for?
Hot flushes, along with their bedtime equivalent, night sweats, are the symptoms most commonly associated with the menopause. For the majority of women, the menopause can occur anytime between the ages of 45 and 55. On average, hot flushes and night sweats last seven years, and for some women these can last up to 11 years.
What does a hot flush feel like?
A hot flush can occur at any time without warning and last between one and five minutes, the feeling of which can also range from being warm to that of generating personal thermo-nuclear heat! You may become flushed in the face and neck, experience heart palpitations and/or feel anxious at the same time. Following the heat there is a surge in perspiration as your body is attempting to regulate temperature. These surges in perspiration are very different to gradual exercise-related perspiration and can often, especially at night, feel like several litres of liquid have been poured over you in one go. To date, there is no record of how much perspiration is lost during a typical hot flush/night sweat.
Why do night sweats occur?
Nights sweats are the night time equivalent of hot flushes which occur as a result of the drop in oestrogen levels during the menopause, and the impact of this upon the part of the brain that regulates body temperature—the hypothalamus.
Because these happen whilst you are asleep you are more than likely to wake after the hot flush when your body has cooled down leaving you, your bedclothes and bedding cold and damp. Damp refers to a puddle of moisture unless you are wearing menopausal clothing or using bedding that effectively absorbs and wicks away the excessive perspiration. Bedding and bedclothes will need changing to have any attempt at a restful nights sleep for both you and any sleep partner.
Does everyone get hot flushes and night sweats?
No. Approximately 75 percent of women will get hot flushes and night sweats during the menopause. Why some women don’t experience them is not entirely known: the University of Pittsburgh undertook some research in 2016 which acknowledged a link between ethnicity and the menopause with Japanese and Chinese women less likely to have severe menopause symptoms. Whether this is also linked to diet which in this case is high in soy, and body shape as well as other lifestyle factors is not completely certain. Other studies have found no conclusive link between eating soy-rich foods and menopausal symptoms.
What can I do to manage the symptoms of menopause?
The most important thing is to understand your own body and recognise what triggers result in specific menopausal symptoms. Take time out for yourself where possible. Say 'no' more often to ensure that you don’t over-commit yourself as fatigue is common during the menopause and you need to recognise that you are less likely to be able to operate with the same energy levels. Review your diet and exercise regime and include yoga if possible as this will help with mental—as well as physical—wellbeing. Go and have a relaxing bath as this will also aid sleep. Basically, take care of yourself.
How can I decrease how often I experience hot flushes?
There are a number of approaches that can be taken to decrease the frequency of hot flushes, the most common of which are: hormone replacement therapy (HRT), natural remedies, diet, exercise, breathing techniques, regulating the temperature of your immediate environment and wearing breathable/menopausal clothing.
Maintaining a healthy weight for your height and exercise can help reduce the frequency of hot flushes. Regular exercise will help with weight management and increase energy levels, thus helping with any fatigue and help you sleep better.
Is there anything that has been known to trigger hot flushes?
During peri-menopause (the time leading up to menopause) a number of women will draw a correlation between their menstrual cycle and hot flushes. Therefore, if you become aware that your hot flushes take place a week before your period is due you may wish to dress in layers during the day, wear clothing during the night that keeps you cool and dry/drier, avoid known triggers such as alcohol, spicy food and hot drinks.
Is there anything I can do to prevent night sweats?
Taking HRT which replaces the oestrogen lost during the menopause is probably the only way to prevent night sweats, and once you stop taking HRT menopausal symptoms may come back for a short time. Although some women have great success with HRT, it is not suitable for all and like many medications can sometimes take time to find the right prescription for you.
If you are not taking HRT, you can put measures in places that will alleviate the negative impact that night sweats have on your life by making yourself more comfortable and hopefully be able to have a restful night sleep in a relatively dry environment.
When should I go to see my doctor about symptoms of menopause?
There are 34 symptoms of the menopause which vary from anxiety, brittle nails, acne to vaginal dryness, loss of libido, hot flushes and night sweats etc. By themselves they are fairly incongruous and you might not immediately associate them with the menopause, except of course for the obvious hot flushes and night sweats. If you are still having periods and you are under 50 years of age, both you and your doctor may not initially associate the symptoms you present with the menopause and as such may be treated for other illnesses and conditions. For example, anxiety and depression are very common during the menopause and anti-depressants are regularly prescribed rather than other treatments for the menopause such as HRT.
Go and speak to your doctor as soon as you feel your body and moods start to interfere with your day-to-day life. If you are working full-time, the triple whammy of the common symptoms like night sweats, insomnia and fatigue can have a serious impact upon your ability to function during the day, your working life and your personal relationships.
Please note that the answers provided below are general guidance as the triggers, symptoms and reaction to treatment/remedies vary from woman to woman.
Article courtesy of Ms Jane Hallam, Founder of innovative clothing company Esteem—No Pause. http://www.esteemmanchester.com. After experiencing the discomfort of her own menopausal night sweats, Jane sought to develop an effective and stylish solution to be worn as nightwear, the result is a range of clothing that can be worn flexibly as lingerie, daywear, nightwear, lounge wear and even exercise wear. More importantly the clothing provides the solution to drier, more comfortable nights.