About 75% of menopausal women experience periodic hot flashes and night sweats. And while they can be uncomfortable, they’re a normal response to the drop in estrogen.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur as you sleep and can reduce the quality of your sleep. Hot flashes may manifest themselves as a sudden and unexplainable sensation of heat, usually focused on the face, neck, and chest. As your blood vessels dilate, your skin may redden.
Some women also experience sweating if the hot flash is intense, followed by a drop in temperature that may cause them to feel chill. Due to significant body temperature fluctuations, many women don’t know how to dress.
Our experts at Bethel Family Medicine understand how uncomfortable and sometimes harmful hot flashes can be, especially during the night if they cause poor quality sleep. Below, we asked them to explain how to manage hot flashes.
Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. This can happen due to menopause but also due to medications, thyroid disorders, or side effects from cancer treatment that may disrupt estrogen production.
When estrogen levels are lower, the hypothalamus becomes more sensitive to small changes in body temperature, and when the temperature is too high, hot flashes are used to make you sweat, with the purpose of cooling you down afterward.
Some women experience symptoms daily, for years at a time.
Spicy foods, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine are more likely to increase your risk for hot flashes. Caffeine and alcohol affect your peripheral blood vessels, dilating them and constricting them, which contributes to the sensation of heat.
In addition, a stressful environment and exposure to heat may also trigger symptoms.
If you have difficulty sleeping at night, lower your temperature and keep a cool bottle of water next to your bed. Changing to bed sheets made out of lightweight fabrics such as linen and cotton may also help prevent you from overheating.
You may be able to reduce hot flashes and night sweats by making certain lifestyle changes, but if they’re bothering you daily, for months at a time, know that there are treatments that may help.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps with several menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. But if you have a history of estrogen-dependent cancers or blood clots and you aren’t a good candidate for HRT, antidepressants may also help, as they balance certain neurotransmitters.
Contact us to schedule an appointment and see what options are available for managing your menopausal symptoms.