Night sweats and hot flashes are two of the most frequent complaints that doctors hear from female patients in their 50’s and 60’s.
Most frequently, the cause of night sweats and hot flashes are linked to perimenopause or menopause. They are also symptoms of premenopause and early menopause.
As to the symptom itself, a night sweat episode has been described as a feeling of warm inner heat which builds in intensity. Like hot flashes, the symptom may be most frequently felt in the face, neck and upper chest areas. However, they may quickly transfer into a feeling of overall body warmth.
Statistically, they sometime build in intensity as a woman gets closer to late perimenopause and menopause. The biggest difference between normal feelings of being too warm and night sweats is the level of intensity. They can become so intense that they can awaken the sufferer from a deep sleep. Unfortunately, individual bouts can last as long as thirty minutes and be repeated as frequently as once per hour.
As can be seen, severe night sweats can be sleep disruptive and lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to or intensify other symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. These include anger, mood swings, irritability, heart palpitations, or even heart disease and cancer.
Severe episodes do not allow the sufferer to achieve a good night’s sleep, sometimes referred to as REM sleep.
As a woman ages, she naturally loses hormones and estrogens. Declining hormone levels have been directly linked to night sweats and are one of the most frequently diagnosed symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Mild to moderate symptoms (associated with perimenopause and menopause) can normally be treated by the individual sufferer, without medical intervention.
These treatments involve changes or modifications to diet, exercise, sleepwear, and bedding, coupled with an added dose of common sense.
Night sweat sufferers should consider diet changes which include switching to several light meals per day rather than two or three heavy meals. Portion control is important, as well as the avoidance of hot or spicy hot foods. Avoid in-between meals or late-evening snacks. Don’t use alcohol or tobacco products as these are sure-fire cause of night sweat triggers. Establish better eating habits. Do not consume the final meal of the day later than 6:00PM. Watch out for “trigger” foods or beverages which can be a precursor to episodes.
Cravings are another symptom associated with perimenopause and menopause. As much as possible, try to limit special craving foods as these can be responsible for unnecessary weight gain and can be a cause of night sweats.
Pick light-weight wicking type sleepwear, perhaps a size or two too large and eliminate tight fitting or confining sleepwear. Bedding should also be layered so that outer layers can easily be kicked off with the approach of an episode.
Exercise should be intensified. Overall exercise that stimulates the heart and cardiovascular system are good. Load bearing exercises including mild weight training should also be considered as they keep bones and muscles strong and help to ward off bone loss and osteoporosis.
While moderate to severe night sweat suffers may require a more intense health regimen, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and bioidenticals should be avoided due to the increased risk of developing heart disease and various types of cancer.
In addition to the preventative measures previously mentioned, those suffering from moderate to severe night sweats might want to consider supplementation.