Night sweats are a common condition which affects more than 40% of adults. There are a variety of underlying conditions which can cause this sleep disruptive symptom, but the most common reason it happens is menopause.
Although night sweats are normal during menopause, they can seriously disrupt your sleep and affect the quality of your day to day life. So, learning how to manage this symptom and find relief is essential.
I know first hand just how disruptive night sweats can be. I experienced hot flashes and night sweats frequently throughout my menopausal journey. The problem would keep me awake long past my bedtime, and I’d often wake up in the night with my clothes and bedsheets soaked through. I had an endless pile of laundry to get through, and I rarely felt like I’d had enough sleep.
Thankfully, I found several ways to ease my night sweats, and reduce their severity and frequency, and now, I’m determined to help other women do the same. So, are you waking up covered in sweat and struggling to drift off back to sleep? Do you miss the days of dry bed sheets and a guaranteed good night’s sleep? Don;t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of women are in the same boat, and in this post, I’ll share some tried and tested ways to find relief.
What Are Menopausal Night Sweats?
Many women going through menopause are familiar with hot flashes. That uncomfortable wave of heat sweeps across your body at seemingly random intervals throughout the day. But did you know that night sweats are actually the same phenomenon? The only difference is that they occur during sleep.
During hot flashes and night sweats, the blood vessels in the body expand. This leads to a sudden increase in blood flow, which in turn, creates heat. And with heat comes excess sweating, even in a cool environment.
What Causes Menopausal Night Sweats?
Menopausal hot flashes and night sweats are triggered by a disruption to the body’s usual hormone levels. During menopause, our estrogen and progesterone levels plummet. The decrease in these reproductive hormones also leads to a change in other hormones which regulate our internal thermostats.
This disruption can trigger the body to enter a cool-down mode, and excess sweating occurs.
The ambient temperature doesn’t have to be particularly warm for this phenomenon to occur. In fact, many women I speak to still experience severe hot flashes and night sweats even when the weather is chilly and the thermostat is dialed down low.
10 Ways to Manage and Reduce Menopausal Night Sweats
While there is no one-size-fits-all cure for menopausal night sweats, thankfully, help is out there.
When I was battling hot flashes and night sweats during perimenopause, I was desperate to find a solution. So, I began exploring the latest science around vasomotor symptoms and talking to other women who were suffering with the same issue.
Through my research I discovered several interventions that have made a big difference both for me, and millions of other women around the globe.
Below, I’ll share 10 tried and tested tips that can help reduce the frequency and severity of night sweats, and put you on your journey to sleep success.
1. Keep Your Bedroom Cool
Of course, it’s still possible to suffer from night sweats in a chilly bedroom. But if you’re used to sleeping in a warm environment, dropping the thermostat by a few degrees can make a big difference.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends maintaining an ambient bedroom temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees F. While this may not eliminate the problem, it can lead to a less sweaty and disrupted night’s sleep.
2. Use Cooling Pads and Ice Packs
If keeping your bedroom within the ideal temperature range isn’t possible, consider a cooling gel mattress pad and pillow pad. You can also slip an ice pack under your pillow to pull out when a hot flash strikes.
3. Opt for Natural Fiber Bedding and Clothing
Synthetic materials such as polyester can trap heat and exacerbate night sweats. Instead, choose a natural fiber material such as bamboo. Bamboo sheets and clothing are 100% natural and breathable, and most importantly, they also dry quickly. Cotton is another popular choice for cooling bedding. However, pure cotton bedsheets hold moisture for much longer than bamboo-based material. So, bear this in mind when choosing fabrics to combat night sweats.
4. Dress Down for Bed
If you usually wear multiple layers and long sleeves to bed, try switching to something lighter and cooler. While you may feel slightly too cool before you drift off to sleep, you’ll soon warm up. And, crucially, those excess layers won’t send your inner thermostat into overdrive.
5. Keep Dry Sheets and Clothes by Your Bedside
If you regularly wake up drenched in sweat, you know just how unpleasant it can be to try to fall back asleep in wet clothing. To make matters worse, once a hot flash has passed, your body’s temperature regulation can swing too far in the opposite direction, leaving you feeling cold.
So, when night sweats were disrupting my sleep, I made sure to keep a set of clean and dry PJs, sheets, and a blanket by the side of my bed. This way, if I woke up drenched in sweat during the night, I could quickly change my clothes and bedding and drift off comofrtably once again.
6. Drink Water Regularly
While drinking water alone won’t cure your night sweating episodes, it will stop you from dehydrating when nighttime perspiration occurs. For an extra cooling bonus, add a few cubes of ice to your water and keep a glass on the nightstand by your bed.
7. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Even at the best of times, too much coffee and alcohol can impact your sleep. But during menopause, these substances are even more detrimental.
Caffeine appears to increase the dilation of blood vessels, which is the major driving force behind hot flashes and night sweats. It’s also known to raise heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. So, if you routinely drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks in the afternoons, try limiting yourself to one cup in the morning. Or even better, eliminate them entirely to see how your symptoms improve. I personally noticed a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of my night sweats when I cut out caffeine.
Research by Dr. Juliana Kling, a Women’s Health Specialist at the Mayo Clinic, also suggests that alcohol is bad news. It can worsen vasomotor menopause symptoms and trigger episodes of night sweats. Plus, drinking excess alcohol during menopause can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis and other more serious conditions such as heart disease.
8. Add Natural Supplements and Whole Foods to Your Diet
A wide variety of natural supplements and whole foods have been suggested to reduce the severity and frequency of menopausal night sweats.
Some of the most common are listed below:
- Black cohosh. This herb, also known as rattleweed, bugbane, and black snakeroot, is a traditional Native American remedy that has been used to ease menopausal symptoms. Medical research to date has not proven any clear benefit, and the American College of OB/GYN physicians does not recommend it.
- Evening primrose. Regular supplementation with evening primrose oil or capsules is thought to boost hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins can help counteract the hormonal disruptions responsible for night sweats and other troublesome menopausal symptoms.
- Pycnogenol (pine bark).
New findings suggest that pine bark can significantly reduce a whole host of menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes. This supplement boasts several beneficial mechanisms, including the reduction of blood vessel hyperactivity.
- Red clover. Red clover contains isoflavones, a compound that functions in a similar way to estrogen. Since menopausal night sweats are due to a drop in estrogen levels, regular supplementation with this natural herb may help to alleviate the symptom. Red clover is also used to treat menopause-related bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
- Soybeans and soy products. A meta-analysis of multiple randomized controlled trials has shown that regular soy consumption significantly decreases the severity and frequency of hot flashes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. This is thought to be due to their high content of phytoestrogens.
- Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds also contain phytoestrogens, so they provide similar estrogen-boosting benefits as soy. One study showed that hot flashes and night sweats were significantly reduced after consuming 40 grams a day of ground, whole flaxseeds.
Natural supplements and whole foods may be used to manage menopausal symptoms. However, many have not been rigorously studied, and, in general, are not as carefully monitored for safety as pharmaceuticals. Just because something is “natural”, does not make it “safe”.
Many interact with other foods, natural remedies, or medications. Always consult your doctor before trying any new supplement.
9. Try Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been used to treat countless symptoms, disorders, and diseases for millennia, and menopausal night sweats are no exception. And in recent years, Western medicine has finally begun to embrace the use of acupuncture for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
Proponents claim that acupuncture treats the underlying causes of menopausal night sweats by restoring the body’s natural harmony. It can also help with stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders that are commonly seen in women during menopause.
10. Talk to Your Doctor
If frequent night sweats are affecting your ability to sleep, talk to your doctor. They’ll provide support and may suggest over-the-counter or prescription medications that can help.
Some prescription medications which are commonly used for women suffering from menopausal night sweats include:
- HRT, or hormone replacement therapy
- Low doses of antidepressants such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, or venlafaxine
- The anti-seizure drug gabapentin
- The blood drug medication clonidine
- Brisdelle, a paroxetine(SSRI) based drug used to treat hot flashes
- Duavee, a conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene formula used to ease hot flashes and prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis
Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter medications such as vitamin E, vitamin B, and ibuprofen.
At one time, it was thought that menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats disappeared after a maximum of around two years after menopause.
However, many women have different experiences. Night sweats can last for several years after the date of your final period.
The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) found that women who were overweight, former smokers, stressed, or suffering from depression or anxiety were more likely to experience these vasomotor symptoms for a longer time.
Women who began having hot flashes and night sweats earlier in perimenopause experienced their symptoms for an average of 9-10 years. Yet for those who only noticed them after their final period, the symptoms stayed for an average of just 3.5 years.
No. Not all women will suffer from night sweats during their menopausal journey. Nor will they necessarily experience hot flashes during the day.
But these vasomotor symptomsare extremely common. They affect around 75% of us at some point during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. That leaves a quarter of women who will be fortunate enough to swerve them completely.
Night sweats are a normal part of menopause, and most women will experience them to some degree during this transitional time.
In rare cases, night sweats can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. If you also notice any of the following symptoms alongside night sweats, visit your doctor:
Unintentional weight loss
Fever and chills
Weakness and fatigue
Swollen lymph nodes
Night sweats are one of the most troublesome symptoms for women going through menopause. These nocturnal hot flashes can leave you feeling cold, clammy, and uncomfortable. And worst of all, they can greatly impact your sleep.
Thankfully, several interventions can help to lessen the symptoms. And in some cases, even get rid of night sweats altogether.
Remember, you don’t have to suffer alone if you’re struggling with hot flashes and night sweats. Try the tips above, and talk to your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you.
- What’s the Best Temperature for Sleep?
- Mayo Clinic Minute: Why alcohol and menopause can be a dangerous mix
- Uses and side effects of black cohosh for menopause
- Evening Primrose Oil and Menopause
- Red Clover: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects (healthline.com)
- Acupuncture reduces hot flashes, night sweats in menopause (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Hot Flashes: Why They Happen, Treatment, Prevention (webmd.com)
- Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition