Dealing with Menopausal Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD on October 10, 2017Written by Erica Cirino

If you get hot flashes and night sweats, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 75 percent of women in the perimenopause or menopause stages of life in the United States report experiencing them.

Menopausal hot flashes are sudden feelings of intense body heat that can occur during the day or night. Night sweats are periods of heavy sweating, or hyperhidrosis, associated with hot flashes that occur at night. They can often wake women up from sleep.

While they’re naturally occurring, menopausal hot flashes and night sweats can be uncomfortable, even causing sleep disruption and discomfort. They’re your body’s reactions to the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause and menopause. While it’s not guaranteed that following a specific lifestyle will prevent these symptoms, there are some easy things you can try.

Avoid triggers

Stay away from these triggers, which are known in some people to elicit hot flashes and night sweats:

  • smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke
  • wearing tight, restrictive clothing
  • using heavy blankets or sheets on your bed
  • drinking alcohol and caffeine
  • eating spicy foods
  • being in warm rooms
  • experiencing excess stress

Establish helpful habits

There are other everyday habits that can help prevent hot flashes and night sweats. These include:

  • establishing a calming routine before bedtime to reduce stress
  • exercising during the day to decrease stress and help you get restful sleep at night
  • wearing loose, light clothing while sleeping to stay cool
  • dressing in layers so you can remove them and add them according to your body temperature
  • using a bedside fan
  • turning the thermostat down before you go to bed
  • turning your pillow often
  • maintaining a healthy weight

Find relief when you’re trying to sleep

If hot flashes and night sweats strike when you’re trying to sleep, knowing how to find relief quickly can spare you a night of discomfort. Some things to try include:

  • establishing a calming routine before bedtime to reduce stress
  • exercising during the day to decrease stress and help you get restful sleep at night
  • wearing loose, light clothing while sleeping to stay cool
  • dressing in layers so you can remove them and add them according to your body temperature
  • using a bedside fan
  • turning the thermostat down before you go to bed
  • turning your pillow often
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • turning down the temperature in your bedroom
  • turning on a fan
  • removing sheets and blankets
  • removing layers of clothing or changing into cool clothes
  • using cooling sprays, gels, or pillows
  • sipping cool water
  • slowing and deepening your breathing to help your body relax

Add natural foods and supplements to your diet

Adding natural foods and supplements to your diet on a long-term basis may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Research has been mixed about how effective these supplements are for treating hot flashes and night sweats, but some women have found relief using them.

Because these products may have significant side effects or interact with other medications, you should consult your doctor before taking them.

Here are a few you might want to try:

  • eating one or two servings of soy per day, which has been shown to decrease how often hot flashes occur and how intense they are in some studies
  • consuming black cohosh supplement capsules or food-grade oil, which can be used for short-term treatment of hot flashes and night sweats (however, it can cause digestive distress, abnormal bleeding, blood clots, and shouldn’t be used if you have a liver problem)
  • taking evening primrose supplement capsules or food-grade oil, which is used to treat hot flashes (but can cause nausea and diarrhea and shouldn’t be used by those taking certain medications, such as blood thinners)
  • eating flax seeds or taking flaxseed supplement capsules or oil, which is also called linseed oil, to help reduce hot flashes

You can also talk to your doctor about prescription therapies or over-the-counter supplements that can help you find relief. They may suggest:

  • hormone replacement therapy using the lowest dose necessary for the shortest period
  • gabapentin (Neurontin), which is an anti-seizure drug used to treat epilepsy, migraines, and nerve pain but can also lessen hot flashes
  • clonidine, which is a blood pressure drug that can reduce hot flashes
  • antidepressants like paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR) can help hot flashes
  • sleeping medications, which don’t stop hot flashes but can help prevent you from being woken up by them
  • vitamin B
  • vitamin E
  • ibuprofen (Advil)
  • acupuncture, which requires multiple visits

The takeaway

What works for one woman to relieve hot flashes and night sweats might not work for another. If you’re trying different treatments, it can be useful to keep a sleep diary so you can determine what helps you most. It may take time to find a treatment that works well for you. Make sure to talk to your doctor before trying any herbal medications or supplements.

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