While night sweats, the nocturnal cousin of hot flashes, can be uncomfortable and disruptive, they don't usually signal a more serious underlying condition. In fact, night sweats are one of the most common symptoms of menopause which typically begins in a woman's late 40s to early 50s. Scientific studies suggest that as many as 75% of menopausal women experience night sweats.
When a woman approaches menopause, she may have many questions about the potential symptoms, including night sweats. Understanding what to expect, why these symptoms occur, and how to manage them can help a woman best prepare for this transitional period. Keep reading to learn more about night sweats.
About Night Sweats
Night sweats, medically termed "sleep hyperhidrosis", are episodes of nighttime sweating, which can range from mild to profuse. Night sweats are similar to the hot flashes that can affect menopausal women during the waking hours.
Oftentimes, night sweats can be so intense that they interrupt a woman's sleep, which can affect many aspects of her daily life. Common symptoms of night sweats include: sudden and intense heat, irregular heartbeat, nausea, flushing, chills, and headaches.
Women with menopause-related night sweats may experience anywhere from mild to severe symptoms of these night sweats, varying in duration, during their usual sleeping hours.
Who is affected?
Night Sweats and Sleep
The symptoms of night sweats can drastically disturb sleep patterns, making it difficult to get a good night's rest. Because of this, women who suffer from night sweats often experience:
• Sleep disorders
• Trouble concentrating
• Heightened levels of stress
Many women in their 40s and 50s develop night sweats, which often begin before the actual cessation of the menstrual cycle. One study found that approximately 19% of women aged 40 to 55 who still had regular periods experienced night sweats. Most women begin to develop symptoms three to ten years before actual menopause, during the span of time called perimenopause.
Research shows that not all women are affected the same. Age, race, and other factors can influence how likely a woman is to develop night sweats during menopause.
Age can affect a woman's experience of night sweats. One large study found that younger women are significantly more likely than older women to experience night sweats. Another found that only 10% of patients older than 64 experienced night sweats.
Studies have found that the prevalence of night sweats varies by race. One study found that 3 in 4 Caucasian women experience night sweats. Another found that African-American women were more likely to have night sweats than Caucasian or Hispanic women. Asian women where least likely to report night sweats.
Click here to learn more about night sweats, or continue reading below to learn what causes night sweats.
There is a variety of symptoms associated with menopausal night sweats, including excess perspiration, nausea, and irregular heartbeat. The cause of night sweats is thought to be linked with decreased hormone levels. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important first step in managing night sweats. This includes elements such as a balanced diet and exercise.
Choosing the right sleepwear during menopause can make a huge difference between waking up cold and wet and sleeping well. If you suffer from night sweats, try to wear pajamas that are made of moisture wicking fabrics and that promote air circulation. Also, avoid wearing socks and consider layering your bedding.
Causes of Night Sweats
Many women who experience night sweats want to know the reason behind this symptom of menopause. While the exact cause of night sweats is unknown, most experts point to hormonal imbalance as the primary culprit.
During menopause, levels of the hormone estrogen become erratic and eventually begin a steady and permanent decline. This change in estrogen levels affects the hypothalamus in the brain, which is responsible for the regulation of body temperature. As a result, the hypothalamus often prompts a series of physiological reactions, which women experience as hot flashes or night sweats.
While hormonal imbalance is by far the most common cause of night sweats in menopause, there are also rare medical causes, such as diabetes, anxiety, neurological conditions, sleep apnea, cancer, and thyroid disorder.
Night sweat triggers
Certain factors can intensify night sweats or make them more frequent. Avoiding these triggers can help to alleviate both hot flashes and night sweats.
• Excess bedding
• Close proximity to bed partner
• Hot rooms
• Warm weather
• Saunas, tubs, hot showers
• Disturbing dreams
• Hot or spicy foods
• Alcohol or caffeine
• Diet pills
• Drug use
Click here to find out more about the causes of night sweats, or continue reading below to learn more about treatments.
Night sweats in women are most commonly caused by hormonal imbalance during menopause. However, there are other possible causes, such as infections, medications, or more serious health conditions. Menopausal night sweats can be treated easily and effectively with a variety of treatment options. These range from making changes to sleeping environment to hormone replacement therapy.
Heavy night sweats can be a particularly stressful experience. These episodes are caused by a hormonal imbalance and may be exacerbated by a number of factors, including a vitamin-deficient diet, sedentary lifestyle, and not getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Simple strategies may be adopted to effectively treat heavy night sweats.
Treatment of Night Sweats
Treatment of night sweats often begins with lifestyle changes that can help to reduce the frequency and severity of night sweats. This approach typically involves avoiding night sweats triggers, and taking steps to relieve stress and improve diet and exercise. For instance, tryptophan is an amino acid that helps aid in sleep and can be found in dairy products, nuts, and eggs, which all can help to encourage a good night of sleep.
While these lifestyle changes can help to relieve night sweats and improve sleep patterns, they are unable to get at the root cause of night sweats, which is hormonal imbalance.
Fortunately, alternative medicine treatments are available to safely and effectively correct hormonal imbalances with little or no risk. In fact, most experts recommend that women combine lifestyle changes with natural therapies to achieve relief from night sweats.
In extreme cases of night sweats, women may turn to more drastic measures, such as pharmaceutical or surgical options. These medical options are usually only advised if lifestyle changes and natural therapies do not help.
Most experts recommend that women who suffer from night sweats and wish to treat them begin with lifestyle changes, then move onto alternative medicines (ideally combining the two) and finally, look to drugs or surgery if nothing else is effective. Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for night sweats during menopause in these three categories.
Popular treatments for night sweats include medicinal, non-medicinal, and natural options. Simple methods such as maintaining a cool sleeping environment, avoiding alcohol and drinking cool fluids may help. Other women may wish to try medical approaches, such as the use of anticholinergic drugs. Natural medicinal options include black cohosh and red clover.
A variety of natural methods can provide relief from the effects of menopausal night sweats. Maintaining a diet rich in vitamins is important in alleviating night sweats: vitamins C, E, and B, for example, are particularly important. Phytoestrogenic and hormone-regulating supplements may also be used to ease night sweats.
- The National Institute of Health. "Signs of the Menopausal Transition". www.nih.gov.
- Boston Women's Health Collective. "Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and Sleep Disturbances". Our Bodies, Ourselves, 2006.
- Von Muhlen, DG, et al. "A community-based study of menopause symptoms and estrogen replacement in older women". Maturitas. Sept 1995; 22(2):71-8.
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