Night Sweats

Symptoms of Night Sweats

  • Intense feelings of heat in the face
  • Irregular and rapid heartbeat
  • Reddness and flushing in the face
  • Regular sleep distrubances
  • Perspiration
  • Cool chills
  • Being hot and sweaty from the knees up, yet having cold feet
Night Sweats, also known as “sleep hyperhidrosos,” are nocturnal hot flashes, experienced by around 75% of women. Of these 75% of women, 15-20 percent will have symptoms severe enough to warrant medication. Caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, night sweats are the night time equivalent to menopausal hot flashes. Night sweats are similar to hot flashes and can range from mild, moderate to profuse. It is more likely to experience night sweats three to eight years before menopause. Younger women are more likely than older women to experience night sweats, as well as African-American women are more likely to have night sweats than white or Hispanic women.

What are Night Sweats?

Caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, night sweats are the night time equivalent to menopausal hot flashes. Commonly disrupting a woman’s sleep cycle, hot flashes occur due to the mixed signals sent from the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature and sex hormones. Since the hypothalamus acts as a thermostat, it tries to cool your body down by dilating blood vessels in order to give off heat. This hot flash triggers the sweat glands, which turns into a night sweat. Drenched sheets, sticky clothes, anxiety and increased heart rates are some of the symptoms that come along with night sweats.

Causes of Night Sweats

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Hormonal Whether due to surgical, chemical or natural age-related changes, the majority of night sweats are caused by decreased estrogen levels, causing a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of body temperature. Due to this drop, the hypothalamus sends mixed signals and stimulates various physiological reactions, such as hot flashes. Other Causes Certain medical conditions, diseases and medications can cause night sweats due to secreting chemicals into the blood stream that stimulate the nerves and blood vessels of the brain. Idiopathic hyperhidrosis, a condition in which the body chronically produces excess sweat without any underlying causes; Tuberculosis, an infection most associated with night sweats; Lymphoma, the most common type of cancer associated with night sweats; and Hypoglycemia, low blood glucose can cause night time sweating. Thyroid disease, panic disorders, diabetes, infection, obesity and spinal chord injuries are some of the conditions that can also accelerate blood flow and increase internal heat. Medications that lower estrogen levels, such as Tamoxifen (a breast cancer drug) can make for more intense hot flashes, as well as Raloxifene (an osteoporosis drug) and Gonadotropin analogues (Lupron).

Managing Your Night Sweats

Because the symptoms can be so severe, many women who experience night sweats experience insomnia, trouble concentrating, sleep disorders, irritability, fatigue and high levels of stress if not managed. If night sweats are disrupting your sleeping patterns and affecting your daily lives, there are a number of daily changes, self-care and medical treatments that you can use to help manage your hot flashes. Most importantly, there are certain triggers that can bring hot flashes on more frequently or cause them to be more severe.

Common Triggers

menopause-symptoms
  • Hot and spicy food before bedtime
  • Excess bedding
  • Close proximity to partner in bed
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Heavy tobacco use
  • Consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar
  • Hot drinks
  • Hot weather
  • Saunas
  • Hair dryers
  • Disturbing dreams

Self-care

  • Keep an air conditioning unit, ceiling or floor fan or a hand-held battery-operated fan close in proximity to bed
  • Cold showers before bed
  • Always have a water bottle full of ice water at hand throughout the day
  • Use cotton sheets only, not synthetics.
  • Wear cotton pajamas or a nightgown to sleep.
  • Use your freezer at home or in the supermarket and stick your head in when you feel a hot flash coming on.
  • Adopt an abdominal breathing routine. Practice deep and slow breathing techniques to use when a hot flash arises.

Dietary Change

night-sweats-treatment
  • Stay hydrated – One of the most important diet changes to minimize night sweats is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Phytoestrogens – Adopt a dietary plan that includes foods that contain phytoestrogens. These plant estrogens bind to estrogen receptors in your body and can alleviate night sweats. Soy, tofu, beans, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, apples and carrots are all wonderful sources of phytoestrogens.
  • Replenishing Your Diet – Eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help replenish necessary electrolytes lost through perspiration.
  • Avoid Dairy and Excessive Meat – These can cause night sweats and excrete calcium.
  • Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – Eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Daily Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercise – Any activity that will increase your physical exertion can make a difference in how often your night sweats occur. Adopting an exercise regime doesn’t have to be difficult, nor boring. Some ideas: Opting for the stairs at work, walking to the local grocery store, taking a yoga or dance class with friends or chair workouts in your own home. Exercise increases endorphin levels, which increases your threshold for pain.
  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help deal with stress and minimize the effects of stress on your body during menopause.
  • Diet Changes – One of the most important diet changes to minimize night sweats is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Including foods that contain phytoestrogens, plant estrogens that can bind to estrogen receptors in your body, can alleviate night sweats. Soy, tofu, beans, legumes, seaweed, potatoes, apples and carrots are all wonderful sources of phytoestrogens. Eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help replenish necessary electrolytes lost through perspiration.

Treatment

treatment-night-sweats-symptoms
  • Vitamins – Increase your Vitamin E intake to 800mg/day and increase Vitamin B6 to 200-250mg/day
  • Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbology) has been a long standing treatment for night sweats around the world. Acupuncture stimulates endorphins and neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which helps maintain a positive sense of well-being. Two commonly used points for hot flash treatment are Spleen 6, which is above the inside of the ankle and Kidney 6, which is below the bump on the interior side of the ankle. If you have underwent a surgical menopause or a medical menopause, Chinese herbs are not strong enough to eliminate your menopausal night sweats. According to Chinese medicine, night sweats are considered to be a result of a decline in the yin energy of the body. Yin, known as the feminine, nourishing fluidic, structural energy of the body is closely related to estrogen and progesterone. Herbs, such as Chine wild yam, cornus, mountain bark, poria and alisma, are known to moisten the body and nourish the yin with their phytoestrogenic properties. Other herbs, such as chasteberry and vitex adnus castus, are used to reduce discomfort.
    Black Cohosh
    One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
  • Herbal Remedies – Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
  • Prescription Treatments – Catapres and Aldomet (blood pressure medications); Birth control pills; Zoloft and Effexor(antidepressants); Provera and Megace (other hormones); and Neurontin (anti-seizure drug)
  • Hormone Therapy Treatments (HRT) – For more severe cases of menopause, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.