Menopause is a fact of life for many women. If you’ve not gone through it yourself, you’ve probably heard from friends and family members how awful the symptoms can be while you’re in it, but how freeing the feeling afterwards is.
Mood swings, weight gain and hot flushes are just some of the symptoms of the menopause, although the severity differs with each woman.
However, 60% of women experience sleep disturbance at some point during the menopausal transition, including the perimenopausal stage (the period of time before the menopause kicks in). These sleep problems can stick around, with one of the most common symptoms of the menopause being hot flashes and night sweats.
What causes night sweats during the menopause?
In the period before and during the menopause, your body’s levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone change. These hormones help your body regulate its temperature, but with them changing, your body struggles to do so.
This causes sudden hot flashes - where you suddenly feel overwhelmingly warm - and excessive sweating, particularly at night.
Hormone levels can change drastically during the night, leaving you waking up in a pool of sweat.
While these symptoms can be overbearing, doctors recommend making some lifestyle changes for at least three months before trying medication.
What triggers hot flushes and night sweats?
Although everyone is different, the National Institute of Aging suggests that some factors can increase your chances of experiencing hot flushes and night sweats, such as:
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating spicy food
- Consuming caffeine
How can you avoid hot flashes and night sweats?
Around 75%-85% of women will suffer from night sweats during perimenopause and the menopause, so you’re not alone.
To help, Martin Seeley, the CEO and sleep expert at MattressNextDay, has shared his top tops for getting a better night’s sleep during the menopause:
1. Get your room temperature right
Naturally, if your room is too warm, your night sweats will be worse. The recommended bedroom temperature for the best sleep is 18.3°C. A cool bedroom temperature is beneficial for a good night’s sleep for everyone, but especially if you experience hot flushes in the night.
With energy bills rising you might not want to keep a fan on all night, but if you do, put some ice in front of it to disperse a cool breeze.
A low cost way of keeping your bedroom cool is to keep your blinds and curtains shut throughout the day. This will stop the sun coming in and heating the room, so it’ll be cooler for you come nighttime.
Layer your bedding so you can remove sheets when you feel warm. A heavy duvet won’t do you any good, but something like the Emma® Cloud Duvet has temperature regulating properties, which can help keep you cool.
2. Run cold water over your wrists and keep a glass of water nearby
Having a cold glass of water before bed will help to cool down your body temperature before you drift off. Keep some cold water on your bedside table that you can easily reach for if you wake up warm in the night.
You can also try taking a cool shower just before bed to lower your body temperature ahead of time.
If you wake up and find yourself really overheated, you can try running cold water over your wrists, where there are lots of blood vessels. This should help you cool down quickly.
3. Drink more water throughout the day
Another useful way of utilising water to help with hot flushes is to drink at least two litres of water during the day.
This will keep you hydrated and boost your metabolism, putting you in a better mood and helping you sleep deeper, so you’re less likely to wake up during the night.
Drinking enough water during menopause will also help with dryness, including dry skin and vaginal dryness. Drinking plenty of water can also help reduce weight gain associated with menopause.
4. Try mindfulness and meditation
Research has revealed that meditation can help prevent hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. By calming your nervous system, you lower cortisol (stress) levels in your body, which can help to regulate your temperature and sweat production during the night.
A calmer state of mind will also help you deal with the symptoms of menopause more smoothly. You’ll find that you’re less distressed by night sweats and hot flushes by having a more relaxed mindset.
Our blog post on the best places to meditate in the UK can help you with tips on getting into meditation. Meditating before bed can be a lifesaver if you struggle to drift off anyway, and a deeper sleep will make you less likely to wake up during the night to any disturbances, including overheating.
5. Change your duvet cover to a lighter coloured one
A lighter coloured bed sheet will reflect light coming into your room, preventing you from overheating. Dark coloured sheets will absorb heat, adding extra warmth that will make you even more uncomfortable during a hot flush.
Silk or satin bed sheets are incredibly breathable and can help stop you sweating during the night. Silk sheets can be a luxurious cooling commodity when you’re suffering from hot flushes.
Our article on choosing the right type of bed sheets can give you more tips on what bed sheet material is best for you.
6. Eat more soy products to reduce hot flushes by 79%
Soy contains isoflavones - part of a group of plant-based chemicals called phytoestrogen, that work similarly to estrogen. As your estrogen levels drop and you stop ovulating during menopause, consuming more soy can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes.
Studies found that women who incorporated just ½ a cup of cooked soybeans to their diet daily, found that their hot flashes reduced by 79%.
Some foods that contain soy include:
- Edamame (soybeans) - delicious sprinkled with salt!
- Meat alternatives - often made with tofu or soy protein
- Soya milk - can be added to your tea or coffee in place of dairy (try decaffeinated options, though, to cut down on caffeine as this can trigger hot flashes)
Soy-based products are also low in saturated fats and calories. High in fibre, protein and antioxidants, they can also lower your risk of heart disease.
If you’re not a fan of soy products, there are other foods that contain phytoestrogen, such as flax seeds and even red wine.
7. Ditch your PJs and sleep naked
Loose, layered pyjamas are beneficial during menopause as you can remove layers during the night if you get too warm. Sleeping naked, however, will help you regulate your temperature even more so. Just use a breathable, light duvet that you can easily whip off if you start to overheat.
Sleeping naked next to your partner can also release the chemical oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love hormone’. This will increase your bond and have you both enjoying a deeper night’s sleep.
How to overcome sex problems during menopause
Another problem you might face in the bedroom when experiencing the menopause is vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive.
Testosterone is responsible for your libido, and your levels of testosterone decline with age, making it harder for you to feel aroused.
Your doctor can prescribe you a testosterone gel or cream after the menopause if they think it will help to increase your sex drive. However, if you’ve had hormone sensitive breast cancer in the past, or have active liver disease, testosterone might not be offered to you.
To help with vaginal dryness, your doctor might suggest oestrogen treatments such as a ring, tablet or cream, all of which you can insert into your vagina.
There are plenty of options out there for lessening the symptoms of the menopause. Medications such as HRT can be something to chat to your doctor about if you’re really struggling. There are also lots of menopause supplements out there that can help your body regulate its temperature, but we’d recommend speaking to your doctor first.
Talking to other women about the menopause can also benefit you massively, and help you feel less alone and anxious. Lots of charities and local groups organise menopause groups where women can meet up to chat about their symptoms and advise one another, so look out for these or ask your doctor for information local to you.