Women today who have reached or are about to reach menopause can probably remember their mothers or grandmothers saying, “Men sweat. Women glow.” That saying has come down through the years to color our attitudes, making many of us feel that it’s unladylike and unattractive to sweat. If you suffer from hot flashes at night, then you’re no stranger to sweat. You know first-hand that sweat from hot flashes doesn’t make you glow and there’s nothing dainty about it…it makes you miserable!
Nighttime hot flashes that wake you up soaking wet aren’t just uncomfortable; they can be harmful to your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, constant sleep interruption night after night can lead to chronic insomnia, which in turn can lead to mental health problems ranging from memory lapse to feeling anxious and down in the dumps. The good news — there are ways to cope.
Six Tips for Managing Hot Flashes at Night
Here are some suggestions for coping with this ghastly menopause symptom:
1. There are triggers for hot flashes — whether during the day or at night — and knowing and avoiding them can help. Here are some of the most common many women have noticed:
- Spicy food. When you go out to restaurants with spicy food, ask for mild heat. Hot and spicy food, such as Mexican, Thai or some Chinese meals, may trigger or worsen hot flashes.
- Alcohol. Try to cut out alcoholic beverages or at least cut down on them. If you think soft drinks or sparkling water are boring, try a creative and sophisticated craft cocktail without alcohol. How does a virgin Mojito sound?
- Caffeine. It’s not so easy for coffee addicts to swear off caffeine, but if you do it gradually by substituting decaf for half a cup of coffee, and then dropping to a quarter coffee and three-quarters decaf, you’ll be more successful in cutting back.
- Tight clothing. Wear cool, loose sleepwear.
- Heavy bedding. Lighten up on the blankets.
- An overly hot room. When one partner wants the room cooler (guess which one), and the other wants it warmer, lower the thermostat at bedtime and offer your “cold” partner the extra blanket you don’t need.
- Obesity. Just knowing that obesity can be a hot flash trigger might help you stick to a healthy food plan and exercise more. (Maybe the silver lining of nighttime hot flashes is that they could motivate you to lose excess pounds!)
- Smoking. According to the North American Menopause Society, smoking makes women likely to have hot flashes more often and more severely. You know that smoking puts you at risk for cancer and a number of other diseases. Since quitting could ease your hot flashes, you’ve got another great reason to quit.
2. Keep a journal to track the frequency and intensity of your nighttime hot flashes so you can tell your doctor. It helps doctors help you if they know the details, including their frequency, intensity and what might have triggered them. If you don’t write them down, you won’t remember the details.
3. Exercise during the day to make you tired. It won’t cut down on the hot flashes but it may help you sleep through them.
4. If it’s hard to get back to sleep after a hot flash, try slow, deep rhythmic breathing. Concentrate on the breathing rather than thinking.
5. Try having a calming, de-stressing routine before bedtime, such as yoga.
6. Some women swear by diet supplements and herbal products. Here are a few to know about, with their pros and cons:
- Black cohosh. Native Americans used this plant for ages for medicinal purposes, and introduced it to European settlers. According to Healthline.com, black cohosh can cause stomach distress and shouldn’t be used if you have a liver problem. Some studies have shown it helps with hot flashes, but others show no effect. Too much can result in side effects such as vertigo, upset stomach, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and possibly liver damage (not enough studies have been done to rule that out).
- Flaxseeds or flaxseed supplements or oil (called linseed oil). Anecdotal evidence and some research years ago by the Mayo Clinic showed promise in using this supplement to ease hot flash symptoms. Researchers thought that flaxseed’s phytoestrogens (plant compound that imitates the effect of estrogen) could perhaps replace estrogen. But flaxseed supplements were tested against a placebo (also known as a sugar pill) a few years ago at Mayo Clinic. They were found to be no more helpful than the placebo, according to an article in Time magazine.
- Soy. According to National Institutes for Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health, it’s not clear whether using soy as a supplement helps with menopause symptoms. Some research has shown it helps, other research has shown it doesn’t. Eating food with soy products is different from taking soy supplements (isoflavone supplements), which are not recommended, according to WebMD.
All three of the above supplements may have the same effect on the body as taking estrogen (prescription hormone replacement therapy). Therefore, women who want to stay away from estrogen may want to avoid them.
- Relizen. An herbal supplement that’s recently come to the United States, Relizen has been used by women in Europe for more than 15 years under a different brand name, and does not contain hormones. The product’s secret ingredient is an extract made from the pollen of a Swedish flower. Clinical trials that have compared the effect of this product against a placebo have shown very good results for Relizen. The research studies have been published in professional medical journals, including an article in May 2016.
Hot flashes at night are something many women suffer through, and if you’re one of them you don’t want to be told, “They’ll go away eventually.” You just want them gone. But try these suggestions – one or more may make you feel much better.