Hot flashes are, by far, the most common symptom of menopause. Night sweats are also a common symptom for menopausal women to experience. For women who regularly experience these symptoms, it is important to explore different treatments so these symptoms can be effectively reduced. There are a range of treatments available for hot flashes and night sweats that can help make your transition through menopause a little cooler.
What Are Hot Flashes and Night Sweats?
Hot flashes are sudden sensations of intense heat in the upper part of the body that are accompanied by an increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and flushing of the face, neck, and chest. Night sweats are the same as hot flashes, expect they occur at night and interrupt a woman's sleep. Night sweats can significantly impact a woman's sleeping pattern and overall health.
Over half of all hot flashes start in the neck, head, scalp, and ears.
The duration of hot flashes and night sweats varies between thirty seconds and five minutes. Their intensity and frequency is different for every woman. Research shows that women who begin experiencing hot flashes and night sweats younger, tend to experience them for longer periods of time. Hot flashes and night sweats can reoccur from anywhere from six months to 10 years.
Avoiding the Triggers
Researchers are still trying to determine the exact cause of hot flashes, but most believe that the primary cause is a hormonal imbalance that affects the body's ability to regulate its temperature. There are other factors that can trigger night sweats; these include certain lifestyle habits, stress and anxiety, and some medications. Common hot flashes and night sweat triggers include:
- Hot drinks
- Warm environments
- Diet pills
- Spicy food
What Is The Best Treatment for Hot Flashes and Night Sweats?
Simple adjustments to your daily life, such as wearing clothes made of natural fabrics or practicing deep breathing techniques can decrease the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. These lifestyle changes include:
- Eat a diet rich in protein, fiber, fruits, vegetables, and grains
- Stop smoking
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Use a portable hand fan
Many women also choose to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT can be taken in many different forms, but it usually contains a combination of estrogen and progesterone, which supplements the hormone levels in your body to reduce menopause symptoms. HRT has been shown to effectively reduce night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness caused by menopause. However, HRT can increase a woman's risk for getting some serious medical conditions, so it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors before you begin using it.
Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice where needles are inserted into pressure points into the body, is also used to relieve hot flashes in some women, with varying degrees of success. Many women also turn to herbal supplements, such as black cohosh, but a lot of the research surrounding these supplements is mixed. Many women find that the best treatment method is a combination of different medicines and lifestyle changes.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7)."Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.