How many times have you tossed and turned, and woken up uncomfortable, restless and drenched in sweat? Like most menopausal women, you’ve probably experienced more than your share of hot flashes. However, you may also be experiencing night sweats, one of the most distressing menopause symptoms. Menopause night sweats are essentially nocturnal hot flashes, interrupting your sleep, affecting your energy levels, and leading to physical symptoms such as chills and insomnia.
Night Sweats Definition
As the name suggests, night sweats are defined by sudden bouts of overheating during sleep. The medical name for this condition is “sleep hyperhidrosis.”
Symptoms of Menopause Night Sweats
Sudden intense overheating, flushing and drenching perspiration are the primary symptoms of menopause night sweats. In addition, your heart may race or you may experience irregular heartbeats. Night sweats may also cause nausea or headaches. As the profuse perspiration cools, you may experience chills. In many women, rises in temperature and discomfort that accompany night sweats may also contribute to the development of insomnia or nightmares.
Here are the most common menopause night sweat symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Bizarre or disturbing dreams
- Difficulty concentrating
Risks of Night Sweats
Menopause night sweats are more than just an uncomfortable symptom of hormonal changes. Because they interrupt normal sleep cycles, night sweats can lead to other, more serious conditions. Lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability and depression are common symptoms of menopause that can be exacerbated by disrupted sleep. In addition to the discomfort they cause, night sweats can also affect other aspects of your life – such as mood and health – by interfering with normal sleep cycles.
What Causes Night Sweats?
As with most symptoms of menopause, night sweats are primarily caused by hormonal fluctuation. The hypothalamus is a part of the endocrine system located in the brain. Among other functions, the hypothalamus regulates body temperature. As estrogen levels decline, the hypothalamus is affected and sends signals to the vascular system that result in hot flashes and night sweats.
There are also many external triggers that can set off night sweats. Environmental factors, such as warm weather or an overheated bedroom, are obvious causes. Consuming hot or spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and smoking are also likely to trigger night sweats. Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety contribute as well.
Menopause Night Sweats Treatments
Avoiding common triggers is a good place to start when dealing with night sweats. Avoid stressful situations or taking a hot shower right before bed. Products such as wicking nightclothes and cooling pillows may offer some relief. Taking slow deep breaths can sometimes help calm you.
However, prevention by going to the root of the problem is a much better approach than simply dealing with the symptom once it has woken you from your sleep. Regulating erratic hormone levels can relieve not only night sweats, but other symptoms of menopause as well. When communication among these glands is enhanced, the body is better able to regulate hormone production and ease the common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats.
Night Sweats FAQs
Q: How many women experience night sweats during menopause?
A: Approximately three out of every four white or Hispanic women experience night sweats during menopause. That figure is slightly higher for African-American women and slightly lower for Asian women.