Night sweats are the nocturnal version of hot flashes, and they are also one of the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting as many as 75% of women. As menopause approaches, women often have questions about the related symptoms. Understanding what to expect, why night sweats occur, and how to manage night sweats can all help a woman feel better prepared for menopause. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Night Sweats?
Night sweats, medically termed "sleep hyperhidrosis," are episodes of nocturnal sweating, which can range from mild to severe. For some women, night sweats are so intense that they regularly interrupt sleep, which can in turn affect many aspects of daily life, including work and social activities. Common symptoms of night sweats include:
- Sudden and intense feelings of heat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Damp or soaked bedding
Women who are suffering from night sweats during menopause may experience both mild and severe episodes, which range in intensity and frequency during the night.
Who Is Affected by Night Sweats?
Many women in their 40s and 50s experience night sweats; however, they can also occur while a woman is still menstruating. The majority of women tend to develop symptoms 2 - 10 years before menopause during a stage known as perimenopause.
Research shows that not all women are affected by night sweats in the same way, and other factors, such as age and race, can influence how likely a woman is to develop night sweats during the menopausal or perimenopausal transition.
Night sweats are often experienced most intensely during perimenopause, the stage prior to menopause. After that, hormone levels even out, and night sweats tend to subside. However, approximately 10% of women continue to experience night sweats during postmenopause.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Although night sweats are a common and normal symptom of menopause or perimenopause, a woman with questions or concerns should talk to her doctor. Though relatively rare, there are more serious causes of night sweats that happen during this time. Some serious symptoms that may warrant a trip to the doctor include:
- Problems with breathing during sleep
- Infection or fever
- Chronic fatigue
- Persistent coughing
- Drastic weight loss
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to rule out an underlying conditions. For more information on night sweats and how to treat them, follow the links below.
- Boston Women's Health Collective. (2006). Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and Sleep Disturbances. Our Bodies, Ourselves.
- National Health Service UK. (2014). Menopause: five self-help tips. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/Menopauseselfhelp.aspx
- National Institute on Aging. (2015). Signs of the Menopausal Transition. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/signs-menopausal-transition
- National Institutes of Health. (2015). Sweating. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003218.htm