July 06, 2021 7 min read
For some of us, it’s a familiar feeling … that slow heat creeping up your arms, chest, neck, and face. Your heart begins to race and suddenly beads of sweat break out all over your body. And just as quickly as it began … it fades away, leaving behind a red, flushed face, chilly skin, and damp clothes in its wake. The dreaded hot flashes!
Hot flashes have been nicknamed ‘personal summers’ by many women” Kiarra King, M.D (OBGyn)
80% of women are affected by hot flashes as they begin to approach menopause, and most experience hot flashes at night. A common side effect is excessive sweating, or night sweats, which leads to disturbed sleep. While an episode can come and go within five minutes, it does take a long time for the body to cool down afterward. Data also shows that women on average tend to experience hot flashes with night sweats for around 7 years, while they go through menopause.
Often, hot flashes occur at night only, with increased intensity and frequency. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone that are responsible for controlling body temperature, tend to fluctuate rapidly in the night, causing hot flashes when sleeping. The feeling of intense heat that causes excessive night sweats, even if the surrounding temperature is normal, is characteristic of hot flashes. The sweating may be so intense that it causes women to wake up several times in the night.
Hot flashes occur when the body’s thermostat- a section of the brain known as the hypothalamus- becomes extremely sensitive to even slight changes in the body’s temperature. When hormones like estrogen begin to fall, the brain begins to think that the body is too warm and sets off a chain reaction, to cool it down quickly. This is what causes hot flashes at night – with the blood vessels in the skin dilating and increased sweating, which is then followed by chills. Hot flashes at night cause “night sweats” which are often intense and frequent enough to disturb sleeping patterns.
The most common cause of hormonal fluctuations, especially a dip in estrogen levels, is menopause. However, there are other lesser-known causes that may go unnoticed and tend to affect both men and women.
The first indication of menopause is a broken thermostat.” ― Dorothea Benton Frank, Sullivan's Island
When a woman’s childbearing years wind down, it comes hand in hand with extreme fluctuations in female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This causes many of the dreaded symptoms of menopause, like mood swings, depression, anxiety, weight gain, lethargy, and erratic bleeding during monthly periods, until they come to a complete stop. The most common complaint, however, is hot flashes at night, which give rise to night sweats.
While women begin to transition into menopause in their 40s, it can start earlier in some people due to hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus due to cancer, fibroids, or other diseases), trauma or accidents, and in some cases, as a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation for cancer. These conditions bring about the same fluctuations in hormone levels and result in symptoms like menopause, including hot flashes at night.
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), millions of women going through menopause, even those on estrogen supplements, may be suffering from thyroid disease, that may not have been diagnosed yet. The symptoms of both are similar, with lethargy, mood swings, and disturbed sleep.
Overactivity of the thyroid gland, called hyperthyroidism, can also cause sweating and flushing and is also one of the most overlooked causes of hot flashes at night, which is not menopause.
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia that may be caused due to insufficient intake, or changes in diabetes medications like insulin, are also known to induce sweating and rapid heart rate followed by chills.
Tea, coffee, or other caffeinated drinks taken after dinner or closer to bedtime, does make the frequency and intensity of hot flashes increase, especially at night.
Synthetic clothing and heavy blankets make the body temperature warmer and invariably make hot flashes at night even more uncomfortable, especially in rooms that are under-ventilated.
Lymphoma is most associated with increased sweating and may mimic hot flashes at night.
Women with breast cancer who take tamoxifen for treatment, also experience hot flashes and night sweats.
Studies have shown that around 8-22% of people taking antidepressants suffer from night sweats. Even medications taken for fever like aspirin may also cause night sweats and flushing.
Recent evidence shows that even men experience hot flashes at night. While women experience a sudden dip in hormones as they age, men experience a more gradual decline, with a 2% drop in testosterone every year, after they enter their 30s. Studies also show that 80% of men who undergo androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer suffer through hot flashes at night.
Studies show that hot flashes are worse at night, because of the sudden change in hormone levels that occur once the sun sets. These fluctuations trigger new and more intense hot flashes and night sweats, at an alarming frequency of about one every hour, overnight.
Hot flashes are the prime cause of sleep disruption in women over age fifty.” Suzanne Woodward of Wayne State University School of Medicine
As a result of poor sleep, women often get up feeling tired and lethargic. They are more prone to mood swings and tend to be irritable. Disturbed sleep affects both mental and physical health, from headaches to high blood pressure. After a while, the jolts of caffeinated energy from unending cups of coffee … just stop working the next day!
It is necessary to address this issue as disturbed sleeping patterns can slowly become a bad habit that sticks around long after the hot flashes subside ... a bad habit that becomes notoriously hard to break.
The intensity and severity of menopause symptoms may vary amongst women. Those who experience a lot of difficulties are usually prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to maintain optimum levels of estrogen and progesterone.
While medications may help in reducing hot flashes due to menopause and other hormone-related causes, many people are seeking alternative solutions as they look at how to control hot flashes at night. Lifestyle changes are known to help with many of the other reasons for night sweats.
Here are some natural remedies for hot flashes at night.
Keeping room temperatures cool by putting on the air conditioning, turning on the fan, or leaving the door and windows open for great ventilation, go a long way in providing a comfortable environment for people who suffer from hot flashes.
Another factor to consider is the bedding and pillows that are used while sleeping. Blankets, sheets, and pajamas made from cool, moisture-wicking material like linen, cotton, or wool, make people feel cooler and they tend to avoid waking up due to hot flashes at night.
Cooling pillows like Moona, maintain a constantly low temperature that provides the most ideal environment for cool, undisturbed sleep. Moona’s system is unique because its memory foam pillow pad is attached to a Pod containing a heat pump that uses water to regulate the pillow’s temperature. The system also integrates seamlessly with its mobile app, which through a small movement sensor attached to the pillow pad, can measure, and give insight to temperature profiles during the night. Studies have shown that 87% of people who had difficulty sleeping, saw an improvement after using Moona.
Common hot flash triggers that are known for causing increasing body temperatures, should be avoided to get a break from hot flashes at night.
• Spicy food
• Obesity and weight gain
• Red wine
• Hot baths in the evenings
• Tight clothing
Hot flashes come on with such intensity that people have been known to chew ice chips just to cool their bodies down rapidly to feel better. While this may be a quick fix, supplementing daily diets has shown to have more long-lasting effects.
Plant estrogens are found in soy products and are known to balance the decline of natural estrogens in the body. This reduces the drastic effect of estrogen deficiency and reduces the severity of hot flashes. Foods like soybeans, tofu, edamame, and black cohosh are estrogen-rich food that may be helpful. In addition, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, and primrose oil also provide relief.
Meditation and deep breathing exercises, like slow abdominal breathing over 6-8 breaths per minute, have also helped people cope with hot flashes. Cardio exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing during the day are great mood boosters and hormone regulators, which can keep hot flashes at night to a minimum.
Steamy nights filled with night sweats and hot flashes, sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially if we have to deal with it for years together. Minor changes in daily routines and natural remedies for hot flashes at night, have brought about life-changing results for many people looking to escape these symptoms, and we should consider these before medications, that may have their own side effects.
Taking control of the temperature of your surroundings is a quick and easy way to alleviate hot flashes at night and improve the quality of your sleep. Check out Moona’s Pillow Pad, which helps you cool down to fall asleep faster … and stay asleep while keeping hot flashes and night sweats away!
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