Night sweats are drenching sweats that are serious enough to soak through clothes and bedding and disturb one’s sleep.
Although sweating produces a healthy cooling effect response that helps regulate body temperature at a safe and comfortable level, night sweats, on the other hand, do not bring about this remarkable comfort at all. Instead, one may feel sudden waves of hotness that spread throughout the body, accompanied by sweating, reddening skin, and a rapid increase in heartbeat. You may wake in a cold sweat, wondering what’s causing your body to behave this way.
Night sweat is a common symptom accompanying menopause. Night sweats, alongside other symptoms, may signal a serious health condition that requires medical attention.
Women and night sweats
Night sweats can affect anyone, but it is most commonly associated with women, especially women going through menopausal transitions; this is often medically associated with hormonal changes in relatedness to reproductive hormones, like estrogen and progesterone – which can cause unpleasant changes in the body temperature regulation center – the hypothalamus; disrupting whole body’s heat regulation mechanism, releasing unregulated heat and making the body feel hot, especially at night. Thus body responds with a flash (hot flash) to initiate a cooling effect (to cool down) through excessive sweating.
Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common and serious symptoms of menopause as, according to studies, 7 out of 10 women more than two-thirds) of women going through menopausal transition experience mild to intense night sweats.
According to the report, hot flashes proceed from the face to the neck and chest, and suddenly a flush all over the body, making menopausal women feel overheated and sweaty, and sometimes shortness of breath with increased heart rate.
Hot Flashes beget night sweats as night sweats are hot flashes that happen while you’re trying to sleep, which can be mild or severe – sometimes, the severity serves as an indicator of other underlying health conditions.
Hormonal changes are often to blame for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. You can’t change the process your body goes through during menopause
- Premenopausal and menopausal women
As earlier stated, night sweats are common during pre-menopause and menopause; menopause, which officially sets in after 12 consecutive months of menstruation cessation in a healthy and premenopause, which is the period before actual menopause – a period characterized by menstruation irregularities and production of less estrogen by ovaries, all other things being equal.
This Changing hormone (estrogen) levels during premenopause and menopause cause the hypothalamus (the body’s heat center) to become dysfunctional in regulating the body temperature like a network glitch kind of; a hitch in the body’s internal thermostat resulting in the feeling of sudden warmth or a flush in the face, neck, and chest and response, the body, tries sweat to the alternative heat control mechanism by sweating too much in other to initiate cooling effect.
Research also suggests that people with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) may also experience night sweats for the same reasons as hormonal imbalance as the ovaries stop producing estrogen before age 40 in women with POI.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Estrogen and progesterone fluctuations during the menstruation cycle can also cause night sweats, as the female body follows the same mechanism of estrogen level decrease before the menstrual flow starts – with accompanying symptoms such as cramps and night sweats – all called premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Estrogen and progesterone level fluctuations during Pregnancy may also cause the experience of night sweats – usually more common during the first trimester (7 to about 98 days) and the third trimester (about 189 days to childbirth); which may also continue to a few weeks postnatal as the body gradually adjusts the hormones to default levels.
- Other conditions
Other underlying conditions and factors (drug reactions) can also cause night sweats in women aside from Pregnancy, PMS, PMDS, and menopause. These conditions can also affect men alike and produce the same symptom as night sweats; they include:
Viral infections like colds, influenza, and HIV
Substance abuse – overconsumption and abuse of substances like alcoholic beverages, heroin, meth, and cocaine.
Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.
Side effects of other medications – like steroids, NSAIDs (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.), high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and diabetes drugs.
Side effects of chemotherapeutic agents like opioids, aromatase inhibitors, steroids, and tamoxifen.
Neurodegenerative disorders like stroke, autonomic neuropathy, dyslexia, Parkison, syringomyelia (cyst in the spinal cord), etc.
Infectious diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and AIDs, etc.
Hormonal diseases like hyperthyroidism, diabetes (Mellitus and insipidus), and endocrine tumors.
Digestive disorders example is gastroesophageal reflux disease
Cancers like blood, bone marrow, breast, and cervical cancers.
Psychological health disorders like panic alertness, brain fog, anxiety disorder, etc.
Bacterial infections include endocarditis, bone marrow inflammation (osteomyelitis), and abscisic liver.
Why Menopausal Women Sweat More?
Although the main cause of night sweating for women going through menopausal transition has been identified as changes in hormones levels – hormonal imbalance with regards to the continuous decline in estrogen level which invariably affects the level of progesterone as discussed above; other factors also contribute to worsening the night sweat symptom experienced by menopausal women causing them to sweat more.
These factors include most lifestyle factors like choice of diet, stress and anxiety, medications, mood swings, and lack of exercise.
- Choice of Diet
Diet choices and consumption of less-than-healthy foods through menopause worsen common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleeplessness; thus, being certain about what to avoid or consume could aid the smooth transition in menopause, where the symptoms could become bearable and manageable.
Reaching for a healthy, well-balanced, and appropriate diet is one sure way to reduce the effect of most bothersome symptoms accompanying menopause – as good nutrition can make a big difference in how most women feel concerning menopausal symptoms like weight gain, bloating, mental and physical exhaustion, mood swings, anxiety and depression, and hot flashes. Therefore, women going through menopausal transition are advised to imbibe whole grains, cruciferous and leafy green veggies, legumes and peas, fruits, lean proteins, and food rich in omega 3, and maintain good hydration through drinking enough water.
And in the same vein, there are foods that their consumption should be greatly reduced in the case where it is not possible to avoid them entirely, as their consumption does more harm than good, and they are closely linked with increased severity of most menopausal symptoms. These foods include processed carbohydrates and foods, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, etc.
The following Foods May Worsen Menopausal Symptoms like hot flashes in women and cause them to sweat more:-
- Processed Foods
As much as cookies, bread dough, sweetened yogurt, potato chips, etc. taste good, they contain high in sodium and added sugars (artificial sugar, sweetener), which cause water retention in the body as they tend to increase the blood solute concentration causing symptoms such as bloating and metabolic disorder to worsen. There are many healthier alternatives to this processed snack, and they include – e string cheese, carrots dipped in hummus, whole-grain crackers, peanut butter, unsweetened yogurt, etc.; which will satisfy cravings without predisposing women in menopause transition to arrays of bothersome symptoms with heightened effects.
- Spicy Foods
Spicy foods like chili, black pepper, salsa, hanebero pepper, etc., are known for their characteristic feature of hotness, which according to research, has been confirmed to worsen menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. So women going through menopause are advised to rethink before extra salsa to their tacos, and when looking to add some flavoring to a bland dish, they should go for cooler and yet flavored spices like basil, oregano, cumin, curry, turmeric, etc. as against jalapeños and the likes that are considered as heat trigger, especially for menopausal women.
- Fast Food
True as it may be about drive-through restaurants always being a life-saver and can be convenient when one is short on time and in a rush, but their meals are often fatty and spicy, laced with loads of sodium and other additives which often serve as a trigger for heightened and severity of menopausal symptoms – cardiovascular dysfunctions, type II diabetes, obesity, metabolic disorder, and hot flashes; to manage this situation, menopausal women are advised to have quick, healthy foods on hand by packing a lunch or make plans with leftovers by freezing them; or if it becomes pertinent to eat out, go for healthier meals like air fried or grilled chicken and whole-grain bun sandwich with suttee lettuce, and tomatoes.
As much as it may not be a serious necessity to swear off all alcoholics and wine, there are many good reasons to keep alcohol consumption at the bear, especially for menopausal women, as studies have shown that women who consume a lot of alcohol are at greater risk of developing breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases compared to those who don’t drink at all.
Also, the biochemical analysis of alcohol has shown it to contain empty calories (the type of energy that is not useful to the body) and, as such, is always quickly metabolized, and the heat accompanying its metabolism causes hot flashes, which will invariably increase the night sweating symptoms in the case of menopausal women; and can also cause fatty liver and worsen weight gain, especially in the abdominal region due to fat depositions.
It has been suggested that menopausal women for a white wine spritzer with fruit has a very alcoholic percentage compared to other conventional wines and alcoholic beverages if it becomes a necessity for them to take alcohol.
Caffeine is known to be active in most tea and coffee, and from research, it has been found that it worsens and that women who consume caffeinated drinks, be it tea, coffee, or energy drinks, are more likely to experience hot flashes than those who do not.
A warm cup of ginger or peppermint drink is a perfect replacement for caffeinated drinks, while a quick walk as an exercise can always release the body with extra energy than the reliance on energy drinks.
- Fatty Meats
Fatty meats are high in saturated fats, which can further aggravate menopausal symptoms like cardiovascular dysfunctions and reduce serotonin – a hormone notable for relaxing the brain and body, helping to manage insomnia and anxiety, and depression.
Lean meats like chicken, turkey, and beef are great alternatives to fatty meats; and as well help to manage the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats, heart rate irregularities, and shortness of breath.
- Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety disorder and stress are common in menopausal women and have been closely associated with night sweats as they make the sweat gland more responsive.
Stress and anxiety are also closely associated with insomnia as most women with anxiety disorder tend to think so much of the night sweats, which further aggravates the menopausal symptoms like heartbeat irregularities, hot flashes, and shortness of breath.
Most menopausal women report excessive night sweats as counter-indication after taking some medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, e.g., ibuprofen, painkillers, e.g. aspirin, antidepressant, cortisones, hypoglycemic drugs, some antibiotics, etc.
Women undergoing menopausal transition are advised to always report to their doctors any counter-indications/side effects of medications; to know if they are to continue or withdraw from using the medication. Also, women going through menopause are strictly advised against self-medication as it predisposes them to more dangers.
- Sleep issues
Sleep disorder has always been associated with menopause, and this makes night sweats more severe for menopausal women as the liver’s metabolic activities are heightened in the early hours of the morning, around 2 a.m.; and these sleep issues make the bodies of menopausal women more responsive to the heat by-product of metabolism by the liver resulting in more night sweats. And this reaction and accompanying heat-product further worsens the sleeping disorder and can result in stress and anxiety due to lack of sleep.
- Mood swings
To research, mood swing is closely linked to liver function; that is, how overworked or over-stressed the liver is, resulting in fatigue and excessive sweating, which are notable symptoms of menopause.
- Toxic Overloading and Mineral Imbalance
Athlete anemia has always been a condition associated with female athletes and iron deficiency during menstruation, but recent research has it that menopausal women also suffer from this condition and thus requires constant blood check to avert this condition and its accompanying effect like general body mineral imbalance and shortness of breath as iron (heme) in blood tissue is the major transporter of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
It is also important for menopausal women to note that minerals like iron are best kept at equilibrium because when iron levels are on the too high or too low side, then hot flashes with associated night sweats and continuous weight gain may become a very arduous task to manage regardless of the level of supplementation, so the best bait is always maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regards to diet choices and exercise.
When the body’s iron stores become too low, iron-deficient induced anemia may be developed, which can then disturb sleep causing the heart rate to increase, resulting in palpitations, anxiety, and the feeling of hot flashes; presenting the body with general fatigue and exhaustion; thus, the need to always check you’re the circulating iron and stored iron levels, especially for women transitioning through menopause.
This iron-balance mechanism is in line with the fact that iron is the body’s oxygen transporter; therefore, when red blood cells are deficient in iron, there isn’t a good amount of oxygen molecules attached to them as the ones present have been overtly saturated and in turns forcing the heart to overwork trying to pump enough oxygenated to delicate organs of the body – hence, the palpitations and increased heartbeat.
The overwork of the heart during iron imbalance occurs especially overnight, probably because the body rests and restores the immune system when there is less activeness, usually at night – the reason why the sweating is always severe at night.
Increased or too much iron (iron/ferritin overloading) is also associated with hot flashes and night sweats as one of the many post-menopausal symptoms, confirming the close link between iron and estrogen. Estrogen and iron are two essential growth nutrients in a woman’s general body development, including her reproductive life.While estrogen plays vital roles in cell growth, differentiation, and functions in tissues such as bone, skin, and breasts, iron is a key mineral for oxygen transport, energy production, and DNA synthesis.
Whereas estrogen decreases with the gradual cessation of ovarian functions, iron increases with decreasing menstrual periods – that is, the onset of menopause; explaining the close relationship between decreasing estrogen level and the possible ferritin (iron)overload.
The serum ferritin level is increased to about 2 – 3 times the normal serum iron during the menopausal transition. This overtly increases serum iron concentration and induces stress on the heart and heart functions and the heat/temperature control center. High serum ferritin stresses the cardiovascular system and temperature regulation mechanisms.
Do menopause-related night sweats ever go away?
Yes, menopause-related night sweats and hot flashes do stop for some women after a few years into menopause, and for others, it does not. This discrepancy could be attributed to premenopausal lifestyles in terms of food and diet choices and exercise; so it is advised that one (women) starts earlier to prepare for old age (menopause stage of life) as it bears a lot of benefits towards the severity and management of symptoms accompanying menopause.
How, then, do menopausal women manage or possibly eradicate night sweats?
The management or possible eradication of night sweat in menopausal women depends on the general health condition and the main factor causing the triggering of more night sweat aside from the normal estrogen decline, notable as the main characteristics of menopause onset and the normally associated symptoms.
If all other things are equal, then night sweats can be managed (as it is associated with a natural aging process – menopause that man has no control over and practically impossible to impede) with medications, hormone therapy, and naturally through diet and lifestyle changes.
The hormone therapy usually involves the artificial intake of estrogen alone or the combination form with progesterone and is usually helpful with managing hot flashes and night sweats and other menopausal symptoms like bone loss and low sex drive associated with vagina dryness.
Note: It is strongly advised against hormone therapy, especially estrogen hormone replacement, with a record of breast cancer.
The second is the use of non-hormonal medications is also very effective in managing hot flashes and excessive night sweats; some of these medications include:
Anticonvulsants – like pregabalin and gabapentin help manage hot flashes and night sweats and are also effective in managing and preventing seizures.
Antidepressants – like harness, one of the forms of paroxetine, are approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in managing hot flashes.
Clonidine – is effective in treating hot flashes and night sweats and also very effective in managing high blood pressure.
Megestrol is another effective medication for managing night sweats; it is also used as a chemotherapeutic agent for uterine and breasts cancers treatment.
Oxybutynin – is also effective in managing hot flushes and urinary tract infections.
The third and probably the most effective way of managing and possibly eradicating night sweats is through natural remedies like changing diet and lifestyles. Natural remedies are usually the best option as there are minimal side effects.
Although there is not 100% guaranteed that strictly following specific lifestyles will prevent these symptoms as the body’s response to biological changes differs, at least results from past research have shown a great degree of effectiveness in imbibing healthy lifestyle changes by women going through the menopausal transition. These lifestyles are easy to imbibe and will not have a serious financial implication, too; more like living the simple everyday life but a call for caution effort to do it right onwards.
Below are a handful of natural remedies for managing night sweats during the menopausal transition
- Avoid triggers
Triggers are food items and consumables that are known to cause hot flashes and night sweats upon metabolism, and menopausal women are strongly advised to avoid or drastically reduce when not their intake. These triggers include cigarettes and smoking, alcohol intake, caffeine consumption, use of heavy blankets and duvets, wearing too tight and restrictive clothing, use of lots of spicy and consuming spicy foods, staying in warm rooms, and excessive stress.
- Imbibe Healthy and helpful habits toward daily activities
Imbibing healthy lifestyle habits that are calming and, soothing, void of stress is also a natural way to drastically reduce the occurrence of night sweats. These habits include:-
Maintaining a calm routine void of stress during bedtime.
Exercising during the day as it is a great muscle relaxant and greatly decreases stress resulting in a restful sleep at night free of sweats
Wear light and loose-fitting clothes during bedtime, and keep other thick clothing handy in case of temperature fluctuations.
Make a bedside fan a necessity.
Reduce the thermostat before bedtime
Turning the sleeping pillow often to avoid soaking in too much sweat on one side becomes very discomforting.
Maintain a healthy weight
- Getting relief amidst sleep
When already experiencing hot flashes and night sweats, it is always difficult to get back to sleep as the body’s temperature is already elevated, below are natural ways to get calmed down and get back to sleep again:-
Turn down the bedroom thermostat (heater).
Turn on the bedside fan.
Remove bed sheets, duvet, and blankets.
Remove layers of extra clothing and change into looser and lighter clothes
use coolants like sprays, gels, and special cooling pillows
sip cool water
Practice slow and deep breathing to relax the body.
- Consume natural foods and supplements in diet choices
Inculcating natural foods and supplements to diet on a long-term basis has proven efficient in managing and reducing hot flashes and night sweats. Although research has not been able to clearly explain the effectiveness of some natural supplements in treating hot flashes and night sweats fully, reports from some women have it that they experienced relief using them.
Some of these naturals might have significant side effects and interact with other medications. There is a need for proper advice from doctors, and these supplements must be upon prescription by the doctors.
Below are a few of these natural foods and supplements:
Consuming one or two servings of soy per day.
Eating black cohosh food-grade oil or consuming black cohosh supplement capsules (however, it is associated with digestive distress, blood clots, and abnormal bleeding, and not to be consumed by people with the impaired liver.
Evening primrose food-grade oil and evening primrose supplement capsules – are very effective for managing hot flashes but has side effect like diarrhea and stomach upset. It interacts with blood thinners and should not be taken when on thinning blood medication.
Consuming flax seeds and taking flaxseed supplement capsules or flaxseed oil (linseed oil).
Black cohosh is derivative of buttercup, very effective in managing mild and short-term night sweats and hot flashes. Black cohosh, as a seed or supplement, has been reported to lower blood pressure and sometimes induce hepatitis, especially in people with an impaired liver.
Soy is a phytoestrogen that contains isoflavones and is very effective in managing menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweating. It is medically advised that only the food form of soy (e.g., Tofu and soy milk) be consumed, not the supplements.
Flaxseed, ground or oil
Flaxseed in both ground and oil form is a plant estrogen-containing omega-3 fatty acid ( heart-friendly cholesterol) and lignans; and is very effective in treating hot flashes, especially the one that is stress-induced. Reports have it that flaxseed is not readily digestible, and thus, it is advised to avoid the consumption of whole flaxseed; the oil form is better.
Over-the-counter (OTC) supplements:
Some over-the-counter (OTC) supplements are also effective in the management and treatment of hot flashes and night sweats and have also been discussed earlier; they include:-
paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
Sleeping pills (although does not stop hot flashes but help to induce deeper sleep such that the sweat hardly disturbs sleep. Note: this is not advisable)
vitamin B complex
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil.
Vitamin is effective in managing low libido due to vaginal dryness and hot flashes because of its lubricating properties, especially when used topically as vagina gel.
- Yoga, Aerobic Exercise, and Breathing Exercises
Exercises like aerobics and yoga effectively manage mood swings, anxiety, and night sweats-induced sleep disruption. They clear the mind, fight brain fog, usually the onset of anxiety and restlessness, and boost sleep.
- Cold Drinks
Cool drinks like water and natural unsweetened fruit juices loaded with anti-oxidants are so helpful in managing night sweats and hot flashes. Cold drinks do not include alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and soda, as these are diuretics with dehydrating properties and thus rather induce hot flashes and night sweats rather than reduce them.
- Lifestyle Changes
A necessary lifestyle change may further help ease managing the general symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes and night sweats. Menopausal women often report life when they:-
Quit cigarettes and smoking, which usually induce hot flashes.
Stop entirely or drastically reduce the intake of alcoholic beverages to not more than a bottle per day.
Maintain healthy body weight through diet choices and exercise.
Consuming heart-friendly diets
Get enough calcium (1,200-1,500 mg) and vitamin D (400 IU) from food or supplementation daily.
Getting relieved of hot flashes and night sweats is always personal to every woman as what works for one might not work for another; and can cause one to keep trying different remedies and lifestyle changes, both medical and natural, to get any level of relief from mild to general especially partaking night sweats.
As much as it is no bad thing to keep trying until a balance is struck in getting relief, it is as important too for menopausal women to keep a tab on both progress and possible side effects of each remedy explored in other to know when to continue or stop if there is noticeable danger lurking with the use of such remedies; and be patient until they find what works for them – dietary supplements, natural diet choices, exercise, hormone therapy, non-hormonal medication, etc.
It is also noteworthy for women going through menopause transition and seeking relief of some menopausal symptoms like night sweats to first seek for medical diagnosis and be sure that there is no underlying health condition(s) causing the symptoms to be severe; and subsequently follow doctors advise and importantly prescription if need be, as self-medication is more dangerous and can be deleterious.