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Diseases & Conditions > Menopause

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Night Sweats & Menopause

Sheryl Kraft

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There’s nothing worse than being roused out of a deep sleep because of a full bladder.

No, wait – there is. Being roused out of a deep sleep because your sheets are soaked.

You can thank night sweats for that. Throughout the menopause transition, many of us are awakened to the feeling of intense heat. No, your blanket is (probably) not too heavy nor is your room (likely) too hot.

Thank your changing hormone levels for ushering in the heat. Night sweats are among the most troublesome, common and annoying problems associated with menopause. Suddenly your inner thermostat has gone awry and forgotten how to regulate itself. Suddenly, you’re bathed in drenching sweat, often prompted to get up and change your clothing – or the sheets – or both.

And then, you have to start all over.

Every woman experiences night sweats differently, and every woman has different triggers. The most common:

• Alcohol
• Spicy food
• Caffeine
• Smoking
• Stress

But take heart – there are certain lifestyle changes to help you manage your night sweats:

• Take a cool shower before bed.
• Wear light bedclothes (or none at all).
• Keep the thermostat turned down. The best sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Manage and reduce stress as much as possible.
• Use relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga.
• Practice deep breathing.
• Keep cold water near your bed to sip on.
• Avoid hot beverages before bed.
• Use a bedside fan.
• Keep a small bowl of ice water and a washcloth near your bed to cool yourself off.
• Turn your pillow often (or chill your pillowcase).
• Use several layers of bedding so you can adjust as needed. It’s best to use breathable and fast-drying cotton fabrics.
• Use cooling sprays or gels.
• Don’t smoke; if you do, quit.
• Maintain a healthy weight.

Hormone therapy can be used to help manage night sweats by leveling out your hormone levels. It is a very effective treatment for hot flashes in women who are able to use it, but there are risks associated with taking hormones, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and dementia. The risks vary by a woman's age and whether she has had a hysterectomy. Women are encouraged to discuss the risks with a health care professional.

Some women opt for a low-dose antidepressant like paroxetine, which is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that has been approved by the FDA. Others like acupuncture for balancing their hormones.

In the meantime, if you’re bothered by night sweats and have trouble falling back to sleep, here are some effective ways to get the sleep you need. And remember, other symptoms that go along with menopause – like mood swings, depression and anxiety – can be helped by a good night’s rest, too.

• Nap smart. That means not too long and not too late: Experts say that 20 minutes is the ideal time, and that napping too late in the day can keep you up at night. It’s best to avoid late afternoon or evening naps.

• Avoid large meals. Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with the quality of your sleep by raising your body temperature and interfering with the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

• Use relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.

• Keep your eyes off the clock. This only makes the stress and anxiety of trying to fall back to sleep worse.

• Keep your room dark. Light can interfere with your body’s “sleep clock.” Better yet, use an eye shade to block out any outside light.

• Avoid using alcohol. It might help you nod off initially, but it compromises your quality of sleep.

If you would like to speak to a doctor about hormone therapy treatment options, click here.

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