What are menopause night sweats and how can you stop them?

Night sweats were one menopause symptom I managed to avoid – until I got a dose of gastric flu this year and woke up dripping in the middle of the night (which wasn’t exactly the way I envisioned spending my wedding anniversary, but hey, this is 2020…)

Like many menopause symptoms, it’s not until you experience them that you realise how bad they are. I had no idea about night sweats until a friend showed me a photo of her bed, with an imprint of her body sweated into the bottom sheet like a menopause Turin shroud.

That gave me some insight, but suffering them myself made me understand fully what some menopausal women go through.

If you are suffering, here’s my guide to menopausal night sweats and how you can prevent them… (And please pop over to my YouTube channel and subscribe.)

Menopause night sweats – top tips to get a dry night's sleep

What are night sweats?

Like the advert says, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. You sweat. At night.

However, we’re not talking a “ooh, Chris Hemsworth in Thor” sweat. We’re talking full-on shower in your bed, leaving you soaking wet, cold and causing yet-another sleepless night.

It’s thought up to three-quarters of menopausal women will have hot flushes and/or night sweats. I had the flushes, but not the sweats.

What causes them?

Night sweats are basically hot flushes (or hot flashes, as the US calls them) when you’re in bed.

woman unable to sleep through menopause night sweats
Feeling hot and sweaty has a huge impact on your sleep

It’s thought they’re caused by the changing levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your body having a party with your internal heating controls. (Think of you when you were a teenager and your dad battlng over the central heating.) As a result, your body temperature goes sky-high. Check out my piece on hot flushes in my Menopause Myths video for more info.

There are other triggers that can cause night sweats, such as:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods

Some “experts” also talk about thick clothing or heavy blankets… I don’t know about you, but I’m shocked at the suggestion lots of blankets could make you hot (*rolls eyes*). Seriously, I don’t know a menopausal woman who doesn’t sleep with the lightest of coverings on.

How long do they last?

Obviously, everyone is different. As I always say, everyone has their own menopause. But they can last…

Take a deep breath…

They can last up to ten years. Or even longer. I have heard of women in their 70s still getting hot flushes.

Please stop crying. They can also disappear quite quickly – I rarely have one these days. And there are steps you can take to help. It’s a case of empowering yourself.

How to prevent night sweats?

Keep a diary to see if there are any triggers that make your night sweat worse. Write down their frequency and any information you think might help: what you’ve eaten, how you’re feeling, if you’ve exercised or not…

Wear something in bed. I know you’re probably thinking it’s better to strip off, but there are brands who do wonderful clothing to help wick the sweat away, which will keep you cooler and drier. I’m a huge fan of Fifty One Apparel* – inexpensive, good quality menopause clothing. You don’t have to pay a fortune to look and feel good.

Spicy food can be a trigger for menopause night sweats

Practice mindfulness before you go to bed. Research has shown that it can help reduce how much a hot sweat or night flush affects you. The Clarity app is very good.

Exercise. It’s always the get-out-of-menopause-free card because it works. I notice a big difference in how I feel and sleep when I exercise. Hand on heart, that doesn’t mean I’m as good as I should be, though, but even a walk in the fresh air will help. Yoga is said to be particularly good – it links into mindfulness.

Watch your diet. Try to keep away from caffeine (that includes green tea), spicy foods and alcohol, or cut back if, like me, you can’t live without them. (Hey, quality of life counts.) Also, add sage leaves to your food as studies suggest it can have a positive impact on flushing and sweats. Liquorice, black cohosh, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, agnus castor and red clover can also help.

Stop smoking because it constricts your blood vessels and is just generally bad for you.

If you’re suffering from other symptoms and you really can’t cope, then HRT and anti-depressants will also help hot flushes. As ever, think it through and decide if it’s right for you. My HRT pros and cons article can help if you have worries about its safety.

What about you? What tips would you give to help night sweats? I’d love to hear in the comments below

*Fifty One Apparel have gifted me pieces to review.

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