Why You Get Dizzy During a Hot Flash
Of the many menopausal symptoms women may experience during their lifetimes, hot flashes can often be the most disorienting. These sudden rushes of heat can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and can happen up to 20 times a day or more. Women experience hot flashes at different frequencies and intensities, but that doesn’t make them any less uncomfortable. And some women, experience more than just the sudden rush of heat — they report feeling light-headed, short of breath, and even dizzy during a hot flash, which can be dangerous, as hot flashes can strike at any time.
Why do some people get dizzy during hot flashes? And what can we do if we feel dizziness coming on after a hot flash?
Why a Hot Flash Happens
Your body temperature is controlled by an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. As women enter menopause, the hypothalamus begins to regulate body temperature differently due to the depletion of the sex hormones, primarily estrogen. Estrogen targets a variety of cellular groups in the hypothalamus that help it register and maintain body temperature. When estrogen can no longer target those cellular groups, the hypothalamus becomes extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature.
Because of the drop in estrogen and increase in hypothalamus sensitivity, the body overreacts to any sign that the body might be becoming "too warm." It will increase heart rate and blood pressure, both of which raise the body temperature even more. These increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature cause the hypothalamus to send signals to the sweat glands in the skin. These glands then start to produce sweat in order to cool the surface of the skin and bring the body temperature back down.
Why Some Women Experience Dizziness During Hot Flashes
When you experience that kind of increase in blood pressure and heart rate, it can lower the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain, which causes you to feel short of breath or even dizzy.
Not all women may experience dizziness or shortness of breath during a hot flash, as everyone’s stress response differs. Women with certain mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may experience shortness of breath or dizziness during hot flashes more often than women who don’t. But that doesn’t mean that women who have not been diagnosed with those conditions are exempt from experiencing those same sensations during a hot flash.
What Should You Do if You Feel Dizzy?
If you do experience shortness of breath or dizziness during a hot flash, there are things you can do to help ease these symptoms.
If you find yourself feeling dizzy, drink a glass of water. Many of us don’t drink enough water each day and are often dehydrated as a result. When the body doesn’t have enough fluids, mainly water, the volume of blood in your body decreases and can keep oxygen from getting to your brain as effectively. Unfortunately, dehydration can create a feeling of wooziness on its own, and add to feelings of dizziness during a hot flash.
Sit Back or Lay Down
If you’re experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath, you should steady yourself immediately by sitting back in a chair or laying down. Standing up when you feel dizzy or light-headed can increase your chance of falling over, because the body can’t balance when the brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen. Make sure to stay sitting or laying down until your hot flash is over and you stop feeling dizzy or short of breath.
Don’t Panic if You Feel Dizzy
If you experience dizziness, light-headedness, or shortness of breath during a hot flash, the important thing is to to remember not to panic! Try to keep calm — if you get agitated, you risk increasing your stress hormones and compounding the problem. Drink water, lay down, and wait things out, no matter how long it takes.