Imagine waking up in the middle of the night with your heart racing, skin flushed, and the bed soaked with sweat. While it may sound like a nightmare, this experience is actually due to a common menopause symptom: night sweats.
Though not all women experience night sweats during menopause, many women do. Of these women, approximately one in four will experience more severe night sweats.
One of the first steps towards managing and controlling night sweats is to learn what is happening to the body and why. Read below to discover the answers to the most frequently asked questions about night sweats.
Q: What Are Night Sweats?
Medically termed "sleep hyperhidrosis," night sweats are similar to hot flashes, but are chiefly characterized by excessive or abnormal sweating during sleep. The hormonal imbalance that occurs during menopause triggers increased heart rate, blood flow, and perspiration.
In addition to these effects, night sweats can also negatively affect sleep patterns, causing fatigue and irritability in a woman's daily life. Please read on to learn more about the specific symptoms of night sweats.
Q: What Are Common Symptoms of Night Sweats?
Night sweats can produce a host of symptoms. While every woman experiences night sweats differently, the following are the most common symptoms of night sweats.
Common Symptoms of Night Sweats
- Sudden and intense feelings of heat
- Sweating (mild to profuse)
- Heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat
- Damp or soaked clothes and bedding
- Frequent interruptions of sleep
- Loss of sleep or insomnia
Q: What Causes Night Sweats?
The short answer: Fluctuating hormone levels in the body.
Did You Know?
In women with high levels of anxiety, night sweats are five times more likely to occur.
The longer answer: During the menopause transition, the body decreases estrogen production. This can provoke the hypothalamus - the part of the brain that regulates body temperature - to perceive that the body is "too hot." In response, it launches a series of the physiological reactions to down, such as sweating and flushing.
Additionally, some medical conditions can cause night sweats. A woman who experiences night sweats accompanied by other unexplained symptoms may wish to speak with her doctor.
Q: When Can Women Expect to Start Having Night Sweats?
Many women in their 40s and 50s develop night sweats, which often begin before the actual cessation of a woman's menstrual cycle. One study found that approximately 19% of women aged 40 - 55 who still had regular periods experienced night sweats. Most women begin to develop symptoms during perimenopause, which typically occurs two to ten years before menopause.
Q: How Long Will Night Sweats Continue?
Night sweats are often at their most intense during perimenopause. After this, a woman's body adapts to its new hormone levels and night sweats tend to subside. However, approximately 10% of women continue to experience night sweats after menopause.
Luckily, women can take several measures to reduce the frequency and duration of night sweats. Keep reading to find out how to avoid night sweats and what treatment options are available.
Q: What Is the Best Way to Manage Night Sweat Episodes?
The following are some helpful tips a woman can use to manage night sweats when they occur.
Managing Night Sweats
- Sleep in a cool, well-ventilated room
- Keep a moist towel close to the bed
- Wear breathable sleepwear that wicks away moisture
- Keep a cold glass of water near the bedside
- Take a cool shower just before bed
- Use cotton sheets
Q: What Can Be Done to Reduce the Frequency of Night Sweats?
While it may not be possible to completely prevent night sweats, it is certainly possible to reduce their frequency by taking a few simple measures.
Reducing the Frequency of Night Sweats
- Avoid spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and rigorous exercise before bed.
- Try to relieve stress before bedtime by meditating or doing other breathing exercises.
- Exercise on a regular basis, preferably earlier in the day.
- Eat healthier foods and increase your intake of foods containing vitamin E, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
Q: When Should I See a Doctor about Night Sweats?
Although night sweats are a common and normal symptom of menopause, a woman with questions or concerns should speak openly with her healthcare provider. Though relatively rare, there are more serious causes of night sweats. Some symptoms that may warrant a trip to the doctor include:
- Gasping or lapses in breathing during sleep
- Infection or fever
- Intense fatigue
- A persistent cough
- Drastic weight loss
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to rule out medical conditions.
Q: What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Night Sweats?Three approaches can be considered for treating night sweats: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative medicine, and (3) prescription medication. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for night sweats to discover the best route to relief.
- 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 April 7, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/Menopauseselfhelp.aspx
- National Institute on Aging. (2015). Signs of the Menopausal Transition. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/signs-menopausal-transition