Night Sweats and Hot Flashes are one of the most common complaints in women’s life experience during menopause and perimenopause. Over two-thirds of women experience hot flashes during perimenopause, which is the gradual slow-down of a woman’s reproductive system as she approaches menopause. Just one of many menopause symptoms. Menopause causes a variety of familiar symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness among others. Hot flashes are the most common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
What are Hot Flashes and Night Sweats?
A very distinct side effects of menopause, a hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that comes on without warning. Your body may react to the feeling of heat with its natural cooling systems, causing you to sweat. Sometimes a hot flash is called a hot flush, especially when it’s accompanied by reddening of the face and neck and sweating. Some women also report an increase in heart rate and chills during a hot flash.
When a hot flash occurs while you’re sleeping, you may experience night sweats. Night sweats aren’t dangerous or unhealthy, but they can be uncomfortable and cause difficulty sleeping. Hot flashes and night sweats may be severe enough to interfere with the quality of life.
What Causes Hot Flashes During Menopause?
Healthcare providers are still studying the exact causes of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, but current research suggests that that the rapid changes in temperature result from a decrease or fluctuation of estrogen hormone level in the body.
During perimenopause and menopause, the body must adjust to the changes that result from lower estrogen levels. Lower estrogen levels are thought to trick the part of the brain that regulates body temperature into reacting as though the surrounding environment is very hot. This triggers attempts to cool the body off, including dilation of the blood vessels, causing flushing and sweating.
Women who experience abrupt menopause when their ovaries are surgically removed often suffer severe hot flashes that start right after surgery and typically last longer than those in women who undergo natural menopause.
What can I do about Menopausal Night Sweats and Hot Flashes?
There is no estimated length of time that perimenopausal and menopausal women will have to endure hot flashes and night sweats. Some women will experience only a handful of them at the onset of menopause, while others will have them for life. The good news is that generally hot flashes tend to decrease in severity over time.
While you probably cannot completely prevent menopausal hot flashes, there are some known triggers that you can avoid to decrease their impact on your life:
- Hot Environments
- Spicy foods
- Cigarette smoke
- Tight clothes
Keep your bedroom cool at night and wear light pajamas made with natural fibers, like cotton. You may also find that daily exercise eases hot flashes. If you’re not used to exercising, you could try activities that are easy on your body, like swimming, biking, and walking.
Relax and reduce stress. Slow and deep breathing and meditation are techniques that can help relieve stress and reduce hot flashes.
Alternative Remedies for Menopausal Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Many women have mild symptoms and would prefer trying over-the-counter solutions to their hot flashes and night sweats. These include Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, Ibuprofen, black cohosh, and evening primrose oil. Plant estrogens, also known as isoflavonoids, are thought to provide some relief as they may deliver weak estrogenic effects. Foods that contain plant estrogens include soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu.
Prescription Options to Address Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
We recommend that you use lifestyle changes to manage hot flashes and night sweat for at least 3 months before trying medication.
It is important to discuss treatment options for night sweats and hot flashes with your gynecologist. Hormone replacement therapy is an option if symptoms are severe. It works by re-introducing estrogen through a pill, cream, patch, rings, or spray. However there are some risks that come with hormone therapy, and patients with a history or risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer may be advised against taking HRT altogether.
Hormone therapy is an effective way to treat hot flashes, but the Women’s Health Initiative study found an increased risk for heart disease, blood clots, and stroke, and an increase in breast cancer when women took oral estrogen and progestin long-term.
Fortunately, there are non-hormone options available that do not carry the same risks. One of them is FDA approved for the treatment of hot flashes and is called Brisdelle® (fluoxetine). Other prescriptions include Effexor® (venlafaxine), Paxil® (paroxetine), Prozac® (fluoxetine), and Lexapro® (escitalopram). Gabapentin (Neurontin), an anti-seizure medication, and clonidine (Catapres) used to treat high blood pressure, are also sometimes prescribed for hot flashes. Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for hot flashes and may only need to be taken during the menopausal transition. While many of these are used for the treatment of depression, they may also be effective in treating menopausal symptoms as well.