Hot flashes and night sweats are two of the most common symptoms of menopause. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur in the night, and both require a few special tactics to minimize. The main cause of these blazing episodes is a drop in estrogen levels, which directly affects the hypothalamus, the area of the brain in charge of body temperature.
If you're struggling with extreme experiences that lead to panic, dizziness, or insomnia, you may want to also consider looking towards your lifestyle or routine. Often, small adjustments can make profound improvements.
Phytoestrogenic Herbal Supplements
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds that are received by estrogen receptors in the body and act in a similar way, but more weakly. Their action can help regulate the hypothalamus and thereby prevent hot flashes and night sweats from getting in the way of your life. The most studied herbs in this area are soy, black cohosh, red clover, and dong quai. They all have some sort of estrogenic effect on the body, though not all women respond to them in the same way.
A sedentary lifestyle can increase a person's risk of suffering from hot flashes and night sweats. Also, being overweight or obese can make you much more susceptible to hot flashes and night sweats.
Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of exercise each day - like swimming, dancing, or brisk walking - in order to stay healthy. Regular exercise can also facilitate weight loss. However, it is a good idea to try to exercise in the morning or during the day, because exercising too close to bedtime can increase a person's risk of getting night sweats.
It's almost impossible to overestimate the impact that stress has on the body. When you're stressed, the amygdala in the brain, which is in charge of emotional response, gets alerted. Your body then reacts as if it's in a state of danger by releasing adrenaline, which can trigger hot flashes.
Every day, put aside at least 15 minutes to turn on calming music, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Take slow, deep inhales into your belly, and exhale fully to release your worries. Several studies verify the benefit of paced breathing and relaxation techniques.
During the day, you should wear loose, breathable layers in light colors. Try to keep an ice pack in the freezer, cold water on your nightstand, and a portable fan at your side to quickly bring down your temperature in the case of a flash.
At night, make sure you have light sheets and wear breathable pajamas. Keep the air conditioner or fans on cold in the summer, and crack open a window in the winter.
To ensure a restful night's sleep and a productive day, try one or more of these treatments for hot flashes and night sweats. If hot flashes and night sweats are lowering your quality of life, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor. A doctor will be able to help you find an effective treatment plan that suits your lifestyle and symptoms.
- Carmody, J. , Crawford, S. & Churchill, L. (2006). A pilot study of mindfulness-based stress reduction for hot flashes. Menopause, 13(5), 760-769. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16932242
- National Health Service UK. (2015). Hot flushes: how to cope. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
- National Prescribing Service Australia: Medicinewise. (2014). Managing hot flushes in menopause. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.nps.org.au/publications/consumer/medicinewise-living/2014/managing-hot-flushes
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2014). Soy. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/soy
- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Dong Quai: MedlinePlus supplements. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/936.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements. (2008). Black cohosh. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BlackCohosh-HealthProfessional/
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Menopause. Retrieved March 31, 2014, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/index.html
- Sood, R. , Sood, A. , Wolf, S.L. , Linquist, B.M. , Liu, H. , Sloan, J.A. , Satele, D.V. , Loprinzi, C.L. and Barton, D.L. (2013). Paced breathing compared with usual breathing for hot flashes. Menopause, 20(2), 179-184. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31826934b6