How to Deal with Soaking Wet Pajamas and Sheets at 2 A.M.

Hot flashes while sleeping are one of the worst menopause plagues for many women. It’s not hard to see why. Waking up in the middle of the night sweating heavily, heart racing, with soaking wet pajamas and sheets that then leave you shivering from the cold when the hot flash is over, can easily ruin a good night’s sleep.

According to the Johns Hopkins Health Library, hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause, and are experienced by 75 percent of women around the time of menopause. They’re caused by a decrease in estrogen which can lead the body thermostat to go a little wild. They usually last from five to ten minutes. Hot flashes while sleeping are no different from other hot flashes, except that they result in lost sleep and can lead to feeling exhausted.

The good news is you don’t have to just lie there and suffer. Johns Hopkins says that menopause hot flashes stop within two years for 80 percent of the women who experience them. In the meantime, there are some actions you can take that may help reduce the severity of hot flashes, result in fewer hot flashes while sleeping, or at least make you feel better when they do occur:

  • Certain foods are triggers. Your diet can play a role in managing hot flashes by avoiding some things. Spicy foods, very hot foods, chocolate, caffeinated coffee and alcohol are among them.  Keeping what you’re eating top of mind will help you to avoid more hot flashes.
  • A room that’s too hot can be a catalyst. Turn down the thermostat or open a window.
  • Too many or too heavy blankets are like turning the heat up. Using lighter-weight bedding may provide some relief.
  • Buy lower thread-count sheets. While sheets with a very high thread count are considered luxurious, they don’t breathe as well as sheets with a low thread count.
  • Tight clothing can also spark a hot flash. Wear night clothes that are loose and thin.
  • Too much stress can also bring about hot flashes. Menopause often occurs when women have teenagers who are going through hormonal changes themselves, or aging parents, or worse, both. Not getting enough sleep due to hot flashes at night only makes matters worse! There are many ways to help yourself feel calmer and lessen the effects of stress, including deep breathing exercises; more physical exercise; meditation; eating healthy foods; and sharing your feelings with a friend, healthcare professional or a counselor.

If these suggestions don’t totally conquer hot flashes while sleeping, here are a few tips for getting back to sleep after you wake up:

  • Concentrate on your breathing, and take long, deep breaths. Prevention calls this paced breathing, and it involves breathing from your diaphragm. First breathe in slowly through your nose for at least five seconds and then breathe out through your mouth for at least five seconds. You’ll know you’re doing this correctly if, each time you breathe in, your abdomen rises and you can feel the air filling your lungs. This type of breathing has a calming effect and can help you go back to sleep.
  • Meditation can help. Repeating the same phrase or chant (such as “ommmm”) while doing rhythmic breathing can help clear your mind and get you back to sleep.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation is another helpful technique. You start with tensing and then relaxing the muscles in your toes, and then do the same for all of your other muscles, working your way up to the top of your body, and then beginning again at your feet.
  • Go into another room to listen to soothing music or read something you’ve read before. According to WebMD, even though it may sound strange to deliberately do something other than trying to sleep, doing so can sometimes help make you sleepy.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark. Investing in blackout blinds or shades, or a sleep mask can work wonders when trying to catch your zzz’s. Cutting out all light sources while you sleep can help eliminate interruption to your body clock and allow for the peaceful night’s rest you have been yearning for.  
  • Talk to your doctor if you’ve tried these methods for getting to sleep and they don’t work for you. He or she may prescribe some medication temporarily to help you sleep better. Or, the physician may feel it’s a good idea to treat the underlying cause – hot flashes – as a way of preventing sleep problems. Some treatments for hot flashes use hormones. However, there are also herbal supplements that don’t contain hormones (or cause the body to produce hormones). Some herbal supplements are recommended by physicians, such as Relizen, which has been recommended by over 2,300 gynecologists. Clinical trials have shown it to be effective in reducing hot flashes, both during the day and at night.
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