How To Ease Night Sweats
Experiencing multiple menopausal symptoms at one time can be a challenge, but when those symptoms begin to disrupt your routines, like your sleep schedule, it can be twice as difficult. Women in menopause may be familiar with the horror of hot flashes, but this symptom can take another form that can interrupt getting a good night’s sleep, night sweats.
Night sweats are essentially hot flashes that you experience at night, and they’re uncomfortable for multiple reasons. Not only do they raise body temperature and induce sweating, but they can simultaneously cause chills through the sheer amount of sweat that drenches clothing and bedding.
What Causes Night Sweats?
Night sweats are essentially just hot flashes, so they share the same causes and contributing factors. As we know, hot flashes are triggered by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature. When estrogen levels deplete during the start of peri/menopause, the hypothalamus' ability to regulate body temperature decreases slightly. It becomes sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature both internally and externally.
Now, it might seem like the cooler air of nighttime temperatures would lessen the intensity or frequency of night sweats, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, most women can still experience hot flashes even during colder weather due to other factors like caffeine, chronic stress, and health conditions like high blood pressure.
Why Night Sweats Increase Insomnia
Night sweats often contribute to sleep deprivation conditions, primarily insomnia, and it’s not hard to see why. Experiencing night sweats adds discomfort to an already tentative sleeping situation. Insomnia is a sleep deprivation condition in which an individual has difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. Night sweats can not only make it difficult for women to fall asleep but it can also cause women to wake up periodically throughout the night and prevent them from falling back asleep.
For many, the relationship between night sweats and insomnia doesn’t seem like it would be cause for concern over one’s health, but in fact, it can have quite a negative impact on women’s health. People need to sleep in order to maintain the health of nearly all systems in the body. Sleep helps us convert stored information into memory, preserve our immune system, and help heal muscle and organ tissues. Without enough sleep, our bodies cannot perform their best which can cause us to become more susceptible to illness of all kinds, from infections to lowered cognitive functions.
How You Can Combat Night Sweats
Night sweats are an uncomfortable byproduct of menopause and they can make it far more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. No one wants to wake up to a puddle of sweat in the middle of the night. So, the question is, what can women do to help combat their night sweats?
Skip the Glass of Wine
Alcohol is a hot flash trigger, and drinking that glass of wine or that one beer before bed can increase your chances of having night sweats. Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it widens your blood vessels. This allows blood to flow through your bloodstream at a faster rate. While this may seem like a good thing, it doesn't come without its consequences. When blood moves quickly through the body, it increases your heart rate. When your heart beats fast your body temperature rises. This causes your brain to think you're overheating and triggers a hot flash or night sweat. So instead of drinking that glass of wine before bed, stick to a refreshing cold glass of water.
Avoid Caffeine in the Afternoon
It can take anywhere from three to five hours for the average person to metabolize caffeine, for women in menopause, it can take even longer. Some women have found that one cup of coffee can fuel them for up to 12 hours, depending on how they inherently metabolize caffeine. While many of us may rely on that second cup of coffee to get through the 2:30 feeling, that caffeine can stay in your system long enough to throw off your circadian rhythm.
Why is this important? Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows the blood vessels. This can make it more difficult for blood to flow through the body quickly and increases blood pressure. When blood pressure increases it puts strain on the heart, and the heart beats faster in order to compensate for that pressure. High blood pressure and an increased heart rate, as we know, lead to a rise in body temperature which triggers hot flashes and night sweats.
So rather than sip on that cup of coffee after 2 o'clock, switch it out for a non-caffeinated tea or do some exercise to help release endorphins to keep yourself energized.
Relieve Stress Before Bed
Stress is one of the leading causes of contracting illnesses, developing health problems, and worsening menopausal symptoms. Think about what happens to you when you're under stress. Number one, you start to feel your body temperature rising. Number two, you start to have issues breathing and feel restless. Number three, you start to feel sweatier around your forehead, the palms of your hands, and your armpits. Stress hormones raise your body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and all of these things trigger night sweats.
The best thing to do is to find ways to manage and relieve stress before going to sleep. One of the simplest things you can do is to do deep breathing exercises before bed. Take half an hour to sit still, with your eyes closed and focus on breathing deeply. Follow along to a breathing exercise video or download an app. Deep breathing helps relax your brain and body by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets circulated to the brain and the muscles and maintains steady body temperature.
Instead of sitting on the couch scrolling through your work emails, engage in one of your favorite hobbies. Read a book, paint, sketch, sew, do yoga, whatever brings you joy, and helps you decompress. Engaging in an activity that you enjoy is a great way to relieve stress and increase happiness hormones like dopamine and serotonin. When these hormones are high, your body and brain can relax more effectively.
Don't Let Night Sweats Defeat You
Your night sweats do not have to dictate your sleep schedule or your quality of sleep. You can fight back against your night sweats by making simple adjustments to your routine. Talk to your doctor about your menopausal symptoms and discuss all the options available to you that can help you find some menopausal relief.