Night sweats and hot flashes are two of the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting around 80% of women in this stage. The two are closely linked symptoms, but what's the actual difference between them? And, if you suffer from one, does that mean that you'll experience the other?
Night Sweats and Hot Flashes
Night sweats are episodes of extreme heat and perspiration that happen during sleep. The episodes vary in length and frequency between women and can range from mild to severe. However, they often disrupt sleep. Night sweats are characterized by an increased heart rate, flushing of the face, neck, and chest, headaches, nausea, and excessive sweating.
Cold chills may follow immediately after the sudden burst of heat. Night sweats are typically caused by hormonal imbalance, typical of menopause. Changing estrogen levels can confuse the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates temperature, and cause it to react by sending unnecessary signals to the rest of the body telling it to cool down.
Hot flashes are the daytime equivalent of night sweats. The cause and symptoms of the two are the same.
What Are the Differences Between Night Sweat and Hot Flashes?
The main difference between these two menopausal symptoms is the time of the day that they occur. Women only have night sweats while they are sleeping. Hot flashes occur during the day. The causes and symptoms of night sweats and hot flashes are the same, as are most of the treatment options.
Practical differences also exist when it comes to managing each symptom. Lifestyle changes are typically made, and these will vary. For example, if you are suffering from night sweats, choose more appropriate nightwear, less bedding, and avoid exercising late at night. If you have hot flashes, position your desk at work so it's near a window or air vent, and make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day.
If I Have Night Sweats, Will I Also Have Hot Flashes?
The symptoms of menopause are different for every woman. Some suffer from both night sweats and hot flashes, and others don't experience either one. And, just because you have one, it doesn't mean that you will have the other. However, if you do experience both, there are some ways in which you can alleviate the frequency and severity of them.
More Information on Night Sweats
The causes, symptoms, and treatments for night sweats and hot flashes are very similar. If you are suffering from night sweats and hot flashes, or both, there are methods to manage them.
If you are concerned about your symptoms, please talk to your doctor.
- The National Institute of Health. "Signs of the Menopausal Transition" www.nih.gov
- Boston Women's Health Collective. "Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and Sleep Disturbances". Our Bodies, Ourselves, 2006.
- Von Muhlen, DG, et al. "A community-based study of menopause symptoms and estrogen replacement in older women". Maturitas. Sept 1995; 22(2):71-8.