If you are approaching menopause (perimenopause) or going through menopause then there is a good chance you are experiencing night sweats and hot flashes.
These annoying reactions to your body’s hormonal changes can impact your energy level and sleep patterns. Some women barely experience symptoms while others experience severe debilitating symptoms.
Understanding the triggers and causes of night sweats and hot flashes can help you prevent their onset and minimize their severity.
That sudden surge of a flushed face, hot skin, and drenching sweat that seems to creep up out of nowhere is the definition of a hot flash. Your neck, face, and ears may turn red and you may feel your heart rate increase. A feeling of chills often follows the hot flash as your body tries to adjust.
Understanding what causes hot flashes can help you lessen their duration and get back to normal faster.
Causes of Hot Flashes
Hormonal changes or imbalances are the primary cause for hot flashes. Obesity, diabetes, and metabolism issues are also contributors. Knowing what triggers hot flash symptoms can help. The following are common triggers:
Drinking alcohol or beverages with caffeine
Stress and anxiety
Eating spicy foods
Hot weather, hot baths, and hot beverages
Red wine is a frequent culprit of hot flashes. Like other alcoholic beverages it causes your blood vessels to expand which makes you feel warmer, your skin flush and then build to a hot flash. Caffeine and cigarettes have the opposite effect because they cause your blood vessels to constrict. But this experience is also a trigger for hot flashes in some women. Basically, anything that causes your body to heat up can trigger a hot flash. Simple things such as bending over, blow drying your hair with heat, or even wearing tight clothing can cause hot flashes. Many women find it helpful to keep a journal of their hot flashes so they can more accurately isolate the triggers.
Treating Hot Flashes
Hot flashes can go on for many years so there’s no reason to avoid talking to your doctor about them. Hot flashes will not “hurt” you but if they are severe and affecting your daily life it’s worth exploring treatments.
Responding to a hot flash can be as simple as turning up the air conditioner, using cold packs or cool wash rags on the back of your neck, and dressing in layers so you can remove clothing if you feel a hot flash coming on. For many women, bioidentical hormone therapy is the only way to experience relief. As women’s ovaries begin to work less during menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone declines. Bringing this hormonal imbalance back to normal levels can decrease your hot flashes.
Night sweats are basically a hot flash you have at night while sleeping. They are different from overheating. Overheating is when you wake up hot because you are covered by a heavy blanket or because the room is too hot. If you wake up drenched in sweat and feel as though your clothes or the sheets need changing, then you are experiencing night sweats. Because night sweats affect your sleep, they can be tougher to handle than hot flashes.
Causes of Night Sweats
Night sweats can be caused by hormonal imbalances, but they can also be caused by other serious conditions. Certain types of cancers or cancer treatments can trigger night sweats as can Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and bacterial and viral infections. Common triggers of night sweats are:
Drinking alcohol before bedtime
Anxiety and panic attacks
Like hot flashes, red wine is a cause of night sweats. Drinking alcohol before bedtime increases your body temperature which can lead to night sweats. Stress and anxiety lead to an overactive mind that can disrupt sleep and cause sweating. Medications such as antidepressants, hypertension medication, hypoglycemia medication, fever reducers such as aspirin, and medications that affect the parts of your brain that control your body temperature can all lead to night sweats.
Treating Night Sweats
Night sweats can have more obvious repercussions because of the many side effects that result from lack of sleep. Decreased alertness, impaired memory, moodiness, and reduced energy to engage in normal daily activities are just a few side effects of sleep deprivation.
Additionally, there are hormones that directly affect your sleep performance. Your thyroid gland helps regulate your body temperature. If your thyroid gland is producing too much thyroxin it can increase your body temperature and lead to night sweats. It can also make it hard for your body to get into a relaxed state of mind so that you can fall asleep.
Melatonin and cortisol are other hormones that affect quality of sleep. Melatonin is more active at night because it helps to regulate your body’s internal clock and make your body aware that it’s time for sleep. Cortisol is more active during the day and tells your body when it should be awake. An imbalance in either of these two can also affect your sleep patterns. Balancing your estrogen and progesterone levels will also decrease your potential for night sweats.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
With the use of hormone replacement therapy, you can balance out your hormone levels and start to notice a reduction in hot flashes and night sweats. Because there are so many hormones that play key roles in hot flashes and night sweats, it is important to know the root of the issue. At The Riegel Center, we will first do an initial consultation with you to determine all of your concerns. Then we will schedule blood work for you so that we can find out just which hormones are imbalanced. From there, Dr. Riegel will create a personalized plan of care for you based on hormone levels. We will regularly monitor your hormones and make changes as needed. For more information on bioidentical hormone therapy, please visit our website or give us a call today.