Menopause and night sweats: 6 common questions answered

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

19 August 2019

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about night sweats and six of the common questions that I get asked.

1. Are night sweats the same as hot flushes?

So, night sweats and hot flushes. We tend to lump them together but they are quite different in many ways. And there are those women who will get night sweats who don't get hot flushes during the day. So I thought, today, I would just talk about night sweats on their own and give them a little bit of focus. One of the main questions is, "Are night sweats the same as hot flushes?".

Very often, they stem from the same causes but the symptoms themselves and the reaction in the body are very, very different. With hot flushes during the day, you normally find you can feel them starting. There's some point in the body where you suddenly realise you're feeling a little bit warm and, very often, a hot flush will sweep upwards, from somewhere in the body maybe right up to the head.

And that will give you, obviously, a big tip that, you know, a hot flush is coming. Whereas, with a night sweat, because you're already asleep, very often the first indication you get is when they've already occurred and you suddenly wake up, and you're soaking wet. So, the night sweats are more to do with sweating and perspiring, rather than just getting a raft of heat coming up through the body. So, they can be treated slightly differently.

2. Can dehydration cause night sweats?

The answer is definitely yes. This is one of these vicious circles that can arise during the menopause. If you're waking up several times during the night and you are really sweating profusely, you are going to get dehydrated very, very quickly.

And, for a lot of women, water just isn't on the radar. So they're getting up, they're getting on with their day. They may be having cups of tea, or coffee, or fruit juices, so that dehydration is not being addressed. So, if you end up being dehydrated all day, that's going to put tremendous pressure on your nervous system.

And, unfortunately, one of the symptoms of a really stressed nervous system is excess perspiration. So, this is something that starts one way and, because you've got the two things running together, it just literally goes on and on. You get dehydrated during the day, you have the night sweats at night, you're dehydrated the next day, and so on.

And, unless you can learn to break that cycle, then the night sweats are likely to continue.

3. Why are my night sweats getting worse?

We get people asking "Why are my night sweats getting worse?". This is one of these situations where there are two main causes. One is the fact that there is another hormonal shift going on. And remember, your hormones don't necessarily fall in harmony or nicely right through the menopause.

There can be periods where there's very little movement; or there can be periods where you can get a huge fall, a huge crash of hormones. So, your hormones suddenly changing can be enough to trigger the night sweats. The other side can be more to do with lifestyle. It's a good idea, if symptoms get worse, (I'm not just talking about night sweats - but if any menopause symptom you notice starts to get worse), then one of the best things you can do is a little diary because, very often, there is an external cause that's triggering it.

So, if you find that your night sweats are not improving or they're getting worse, look at what's going on in your life. Are you extra stressed? Remember the connection to the nervous system. If you're extra stressed, then that makes it more likely that your nervous system is going to over-fire during the night, giving you more or worse night sweats.

Have you changed your diet in any way? Have you been really busy? You know, if you're not sleeping well, if you're absolutely fatigued, your body's not going to rest during the night, and that restlessness can be enough to trigger night sweats as well. So, look at what's going on in your life. You may find a clue and, if you can address the clue, then, very often, the night sweats will start to improve.

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4. How can I stop menopausal night sweats?

So, number four - lots of people are asking how they can stop the night sweats. The number one remedy for hot flushes and night sweats is sage. We have our licensed Menoforce tablets, and these are specifically for menopausal hot flushes and night sweats.

If you're getting night sweats, I would recommend taking the tablet with your evening meal. We do find that some women take it in the morning and, by evening, it might have worn off. Also, some women are taking it right before they go to bed on an empty stomach. These kinds of tablets are better taken with food. So, if you take the tablet with your evening meal, it's got plenty of time to be broken down, absorbed, and utilised by the time that you're ready to go to bed.

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Remember I talked about dehydration? Water is vital here. And, again, there are a number of women who come back and tell me that they've just started to drink a little bit more water and it's had a huge positive impact on their night sweats. So, plenty of plain water during the day and also have a little shot glass of warm water just before you go to bed.

You don't want to drink too much in the evening because that will overload your bladder and that can wake you up again, and you will end up going to the toilet, which will affect your sleep. But we do find that just a little shot glass of warm water works well: the warm water settles the whole system and gives you enough hydration just to keep your body that little bit happier.

Also, have a snack before you go to bed. Again, you know, with the menopause, there are so many things going on for all of us. Many women want to lose weight, so they have an evening meal and they don't have anything else to eat before they go to bed. The problem here is that your blood sugar control in the menopause can go all over the place, so if you're eating at, say, 6 or 7 in the evening and you're getting a hot flush at 3 in the morning, that could be because you're going literally 8 or 9 hours without any food.

So a little snack about an hour before you go to bed can be absolutely lovely. And, again, a lot of women come back to me and say that little snack has made a huge difference. I have done a video blog on snacks so, if you want the best ones, then please pop over and have a look at that. They're really easy, and a lot of them are extremely tasty.

5. Can night sweats return after menopause?

So, another question is, "Can the night sweats return after the menopause?". Yes, again, because this is all to do with the nervous system. I mean, basically, anybody under a lot of stress can end up with night sweats.

It's not just a menopausal symptom. We get men who end up with night sweats. We get young people who end up with night sweats. So, again, for this one, if your night sweats disappear, and maybe a year or two later they come back, again, look at your lifestyle. It may well be that you're under a lot of stress.

The other thing that can happen is it can be other health issues causing sweats. So it's always a good idea, if they suddenly appear out of nowhere, to please go to your doctor and just get a general health check just to make sure that there's nothing else going on at this particular time.

6. Can night sweats be caused by something other than menopause?

And number six, "Can hot flushes be caused by other things?" And yes, you know, we've talked about dehydration, we've talked about stress.

Going on a diet? Totally. If you are really cutting your calorie intake right through the day and not just in the evening, then your nervous system can get extremely jumpy because you're not eating enough food, and that can trigger the night sweats as well.

It can be smoking. You know, unfortunately, one of the things that smoking does is that it really revs up your nervous system. And, if you're having a few cigarettes in the evening, then your nervous system is already on high alert before you get into bed.

Caffeine is the same, you know, tea, and coffee, and your fizzy drinks, will all rev up your nervous system and that will predispose you or make you more vulnerable to night sweats.

And, again, there are a number of women who've come back and said, "I've just cut out my tea and my coffee in the evening, and my night sweats have decreased or completely disappeared". So these are simple little things that you can do just to help yourself.

Also, watch your night time snacks. If you're sitting eating crisps, or salted nuts, or you're having any kind of high-salt, or high-sugar snack, that can really affect your blood sugar levels and that can be another trigger during the night as well.

So, I hope these tips were helpful. If any of you out there have any other good tips for helping with your night sweats, or if there's anything else that you can do that you find really helpful, then, obviously, please let us know.

And, just one other thing that I've just suddenly remembered! When you're in bed, if your duvet or your blankets are too heavy, that's going to make you overheat. And remember the fresh air. We live in a time when we have central heating, where we tend to keep the windows shut maybe because it's too noisy or it's too drafty but, when you sleep, having fresh air in your bedroom at night can make a huge difference to your quality of sleep.

And that can be beneficial for dealing with your night sweats as well, so just a little add-on there. So I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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