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Hot flashes and night sweats often come with the menopause territory. As if these symptoms weren’t disruptive enough, you may find yourself losing sleep because of them. Not getting enough sleep from menopause symptoms means more than just crankiness the next day. Long-term sleep deprivation decreases your ability to function during everyday activities, and can even lead to other health problems. If hot flashes and night sweats are causing sleepless nights, it’s time to figure out what you can do about it.
What’s Behind Those Menopause Symptoms?
Due to a variety of symptoms, menopause can mean different things for different women. From a medical standpoint, menopause is defined as not having your period for one year. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the average age for menopause is 51 years old. The absence of periods and the influx of menopausal symptoms is attributed to hormonal changes. When you enter menopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone.
Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common menopause symptoms. Estrogen is the culprit here. The ACOG estimates that 75 percent of perimenopausal women experience hot flashes. Signs of hot flashes and accompanying night sweats include:
- red, blushing skin (especially on the face)
- feelings of hotness, even in cool temperatures
- drenching sweat during times of inactivity
- inability to focus due to general discomfort
Hot flashes can happen more than once a day, and they strike without warning. The symptoms can also occur during perimenopause. This is the time leading up to menopause, when your periods start becoming more and more irregular.
When Menopause Disrupts Sleep
Hot flashes from menopause can be so intense that they interrupt normal activities. In fact, it’s not uncommon for women to lose sleep over them. To make matters worse, hot flashes and subsequent night sweats can last for several minutes at a time. You may find yourself waking up more than once a night, and unable to find relief for long periods of time. When you can’t sleep, other health problems can arise. Over the long-term, a regular lack of sleep can cause:
- slowed metabolism
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- heart problems
You Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The key for your health (and for your sanity) is to get those sleepless nights under control. Given the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats, such a task may seem impossible. Success in getting sleep is dependent on a combination of lifestyle changes as well as the possibility of medical intervention.
You can help reduce hot flashes at night by:
- not taking daytime naps
- avoiding alcohol
- reducing caffeine intake (and avoiding it at night)
- eat small dinners
- exercising every day
Also, it goes without saying that you want to keep your bedroom as cool as possible. During the cold winter months, this can be challenging, especially if you sleep in the same bed as your partner. Try dressing in layers and use several small. Lightweight blankets instead of one heavy comforter. Keep shades drawn during the day to prevent your room heating from the sun.
Lifestyle changes can help minimize night sweats from hot flashes. While hot flashes may also be minimized, hormone therapy can help prevent them. Among the options are:
- estrogen-only therapy
- combined estrogen-progestin
- prescription antidepressants
Hormone therapy is not for everyone, but if you suffer from severe sleep deprivation, it may be time to consider how medications can help combat nighttime hot flashes. Talk to your doctor about the benefits versus any risks. With a little work, you can be on your way to better sleep without all of the heat and sweat of menopause.
- Hormone Therapy (2013, April). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Retrieved June 11, 2014 from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/pfs003.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140611T0805242007
- Menopause Symptom Relief and Treatments (2010, September 22). Office on Women’s Health. Retrieved June 11, 2014 from http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/symptom-relief-treatment/
Kristeen Cherney is a freelance health and lifestyle writer who focuses on preventive measures for a better quality of life. She holds a BA in Communication, and is currently finishing her MA in English.