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Effective Strategies for Stopping Hot Flashes and Enhancing Sleep Quality

Ana Marie Schick Mar 19, 2024

How to reduce hot flashes at night

Sleeping hot and waking up sweaty are two common complaints often heard during perimenopause, menopause, and beyond, that can make getting quality sleep difficult. And if you’re like so many women experiencing these life changes, sleeping cool can be incredibly challenging.

Most women entering this stage of life are painfully aware of it every day (and night). In fact, one of the first indicators of perimenopause is sleep loss; hormones start to fluctuate during this time, disrupting nighttime rest for most.

Hot flashes during the day, night sweats during the night. Life can start to feel a little unbearable for some with severe symptoms.

On average, these symptoms begin when a woman is around 45 years old and could last for many years, well past the time when menopause is reached in full.

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What is a Hot Flash?

Hot flashes are characterized by a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper body, intense heat, sweating, and reddened skin during these episodes are common symptoms during menopause.

These flashes can start during perimenopause, continue through menopause and postmenopause, and even persist indefinitely. Hot flashes result from an imbalance in the hormones that regulate body temperature. They can bring on perspiration, also known as night sweats.

Thankfully, there are treatments to relieve these symptoms that can involve medications, non-hormonal therapies, or life alterations.

Hot Flash Statistic: More than 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. [1]

What Causes Hot Flashes?

Let's explore the various factors that lead to hot flashes, understanding their root causes and triggers:

Menopause

The most common cause of hot flashes is due to menopause, the natural cessation of menstruation that typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. It marks the end of a woman’s reproductive period and is a normal part of aging for women.

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Some women (estimated 15%) glide through this time with no typical menopausal symptoms at all. For the other 85%, the transition can bring on unbearable hot flashes and night sweats, sleep disturbances, brain fog, and many other symptoms.

Read More: Research indicates that women who experience hot flashes may have an increased risk of heart disease and greater bone loss compared to those who do not have hot flashes.

The most infamous symptom associated with menopause quite often has the most damaging effects. Hot Flashes! It affects so much of a person’s day-to-day life. Hot flashes cause women to suffer from insomnia and wake up in a pool of sweat. This is uncomfortable and can lead to problems throughout the day caused by a lack of quality rest.

To understand how cooler temperatures can benefit your sleep, especially during menopause when hot flashes are common, read The Benefits of Sleeping at Cooler Temperatures.

Sleepme Menopause Study Results

Sleepme was recently involved in a new Wake Forest University menopause study [2] which investigated the role between colder sleep and the worst symptoms of menopause: hot flashes and night sweats.

Additionally, hot flashes can be triggered by several other factors, including:

Stress & Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can significantly impact the body, often triggering physiological responses like hot flashes. When an individual is stressed or anxious, the body's natural reaction can disrupt its normal temperature regulation, leading to sudden warmth or sweating.

This reaction is due to the release of certain hormones during stressful situations, which can inadvertently trigger the same mechanisms that cause hot flashes. Understanding and managing stress through relaxation techniques or lifestyle changes is an effective way to help reduce the occurrence of these symptoms.

The Impact of Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine are known to affect the body's temperature regulation, which can trigger hot flashes in some individuals. Alcohol, for instance, can cause the blood vessels to dilate, leading to an increased sensation of warmth.

Similarly, caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can disrupt hormonal balance, both of which can contribute to the onset of hot flashes. Being mindful of alcohol and caffeine consumption, especially in the evening hours, can help manage these sudden warmth episodes and contribute to overall better temperature regulation in the body.

The Role of Spicy Foods

For some, consuming spicy foods can act as a trigger. This is because spicy ingredients can stimulate the body's heat receptors, causing an increase in body temperature. When these heat receptors are activated, it can mimic the thermal sensations associated with hot flashes, including a sudden feeling of warmth and sweating.

This reaction can vary significantly among individuals; some may be more sensitive than others. Being aware of this potential trigger can help manage and reduce the occurrence of hot flashes at night.

Smoking

Smoking can be a significant contributor to hot flashes. The chemicals in cigarettes, particularly nicotine, affect the body's temperature control mechanisms. Nicotine can cause blood vessels to constrict and then suddenly dilate, leading to a rapid increase in skin temperature—a sensation similar to what occurs during a hot flash.

Bedroom Environment

Sleeping in a hotbed or bedroom can result in hot flashes and night sweats. If you are experiencing either one of them, a good way to begin recognizing your triggers would be to start a journal to help understand the occurrence and severity.

You'll be able to track how hot flashes vary more, including what you were doing, drinking, eating, wearing, or feeling when they occur. After several weeks, you may see a pattern that can help you to avoid specific triggers.

More: If you're interested in learning more about women's health and wellness or want to stay up-to-date with the latest news, we have compiled a list of our favorite podcasts that you can add to your playlist. These are the top 9 podcasts for women's health and wellness.

Why are hot flashes worse at night

Why Are Hot Flashes Worse At Night?

If you or a loved one are dealing with menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, you probably want to know why it seems that those awful hot flashes are worse at night.

A hot flash tends to be worse at night due to hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause. During the night, the body's temperature regulation system can become more sensitive and reactive to these hormonal changes.

This heightened sensitivity can lead to an increase in hot flashes while sleeping. Additionally, the stillness of the night and the use of warm bedding can amplify the sensation of heat, making hot flashes feel more intense.

This combination of hormonal changes and the sleeping environment contributes to why hot flashes are often more severe at night. If you experience hot flashes more intensely at night than during the day, it could be related to the timing of your estrogen levels peaking.

Hormonal fluctuations, particularly estrogen, have a significant impact on the frequency and severity of hot flashes, and these can often be more pronounced during the night.

Hormone Levels Spike

It’s almost impossible to notice an episode coming on at night while you are sleeping, which sometimes results in much more severe hot flashes. The severity of nighttime hot flashes can leave clothes and bedding soaked.

This is mostly due to the main female hormone, estrogen. Estrogen, as a woman ages, rises and falls more unevenly during sleep, becoming more erratic in levels during perimenopause.

Warmer Body

Hot flashes can occur when your body is warmer, such as when you're sleeping under warm sheets or blankets or when the room temperature is warmer than normal.

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How to Treat Night Sweats and Hot Flashes

In short, because menopause causes hot flashes, the symptoms cause a lack of sleep! Creating a plan of action by treating hot flashes can decrease their impact and the impact of other menopause symptoms.

To assist in managing hot flashes during menopause, we've compiled a range of strategies aimed at reducing their severity and frequency. These methods are designed to help you navigate and ease the discomfort associated with hot flashes, tailoring your approach to better suit your individual needs during this transitional period.

Cooler Sleepwear

Try to stay in a cool environment and wear loose, lightweight clothing that can help manage hot flashes. Additionally, select the right clothing for the bed. That giveaway-free polyester T-shirt isn’t the best option when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. Cotton is one of the best breathable options for staying cool.

This can also include bedding. Similar to cooler clothing, having the right bedding materials will ensure you’re comfortable and cool while asleep. Wear layers that you can easily remove when a hot flash starts.

Did You Know: Cotton, bamboo or eucalyptus sheets provide breathability.

Create a Cool Sleep Environment

Make sure your room is ready for sleep; creating the ideal sleeping environment is essential. This means adjusting the temperature to a comfortable level, ensuring the room is dark enough to signal your brain it's time to rest, and making it as quiet as possible or drowning out disruptive noises with white noise.

Sleeping Tip: For ideas on improving your bedroom to improve your sleep quality, check out our blog, Designing the Ideal Bedroom for Enhanced Sleep Quality, where we share top tips on creating the ideal sleeping environment.

Minimizing exposure to bright lights and electronic screens before bedtime is also helpful, as these can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle. A few adjustments to your sleeping space, including cooler sleep temperature, can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.

Bed Cooling System & Mattress Pad for Hot Flashes

Explore purchasing the Chilipad Dock Pro, a bed cooling system to treat hot flashes and night sweats. This ultimate cooling mattress provides a perfect sleep climate, no matter your body’s heat load or room temperature.

You can easily select a temperature as low as 55ºF to help cool your body. Sleeping in a cooler bed will reduce hot flashes and night sweats, improving your overall sleep.

Did You Know: The key to combating severe hot flashes that accompany these three menopausal stages and keep women from getting great sleep is controlling your body's temperature.

Read More: Greater Than 50% Reduction in Hot Flash Severity and Frequency

My Bride suffered from extreme hot flashes due to Menopause. Once we installed this product, she has not experienced one during the night. An awesome product.

Lane S.

Sleepme Customer

Avoid Triggers

When managing hot flashes at night, it's important to be aware of and gradually avoid certain triggers. These triggers can include substances like alcohol and caffeine, which are known to affect your body's temperature regulation. Certain foods can also induce heat sensations in the body, potentially triggering hot flashes.

Additionally, tobacco use has been linked to increased hot flash frequency. By being mindful of these triggers and reducing your exposure to them, you can help minimize the occurrence and severity of hot flashes. This approach allows you to better control these symptoms through lifestyle adjustments.

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. In a recent study, women who regularly worked out five times a week for 45 minutes experienced a 60% reduction in the frequency of hot flashes. [3]

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga may reduce the severity and instances of hot flashes.

At Sleepme, we offer a variety of mindfulness and wellness exercises to help you relax. Below are just a handful of exercises to help your body find and maintain relaxation more easily.

Eat a Healthy Diet:

Which is the best diet for menopause? A whole-food diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help reduce hot flashes. Popular food choices include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, apples, pineapples, proteins, fatty fish (salmon), nuts, and seeds.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is key to managing your body's temperature and can be particularly beneficial. Water helps to cool the body internally, which can mitigate the intensity and frequency of hot flashes.

Adequate hydration also aids in overall bodily functions and can contribute to feeling more comfortable and less prone to sudden temperature spikes. It's important to integrate regular water intake throughout the day to maintain a consistent level of hydration, which can be crucial in helping to regulate body temperature during menopausal changes.

When to See Your Doctor

Hot flashes can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter remedies. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor if they disrupt your daily life, if you have other unexplained symptoms, or if you are experiencing symptoms and have not, to your knowledge, entered perimenopause yet.

The North American Menopause Society website provides a search feature for women in the United States or Canada who are looking for healthcare providers interested in helping them manage their health during and after menopause. This feature can help women manage their health through menopause and beyond. Get started here.

Final Thought

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower the amount and intensity of hot flashes. Since no two women are alike, the methods used to treat hot flashes may vary. Also, it's important to understand that hot flashes may only last a few months, while others experience symptoms of menopause for several years or longer.

Remember, trying different treatment options may be beneficial if one isn't successful, and this uncomfortable experience will eventually end.

Frequently Asked Questions

At What Age Do Hot Flashes Start?

The onset of perimenopause and its associated symptoms, like hot flashes, vary from person to person. Typically, most people begin experiencing perimenopause and potentially hot flashes in their late 40s to early 50s. However, it's important to remember that every individual's experience can differ, and these ages are general estimates rather than fixed rules. View Resource

What Does a Hot Flash Feel Like?

A sudden feeling of intense internal heat, excessive sweating, and flushing characterizes a hot flash. The skin, especially on the face, neck, and chest, becomes hot and red, and chills may follow due to the rapid loss of body heat. It can cause an increased heart rate (typically around 7-15 beats per minute) and anxiety in some individuals. The severity of hot flashes varies from person to person. View Resource

How Long Do Hot Flashes Usually Last?

They typically last for 1-5 minutes, though some occurrences may last for an hour. Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause that usually lasts for about four years. You may experience them only during perimenopause or continue to have them after your period stops. Some people may even have them for the rest of their lives, but generally, they become less frequent or less intense over time. View Resource

Can Men Experience Hot Flashes?

Although hot flashes are more commonly associated with women during menopause, men can also experience them. Hot flashes in men usually occur due to a significant decrease in testosterone levels, especially in those who are undergoing androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer treatment. However, other factors like lifestyle, stress, and certain medical conditions can also contribute to hot flashes in men. View Resource

Read More: Uncovering the Causes of Night Sweats in Men

Citations / Resources

[1] Bansal, R., & Aggarwal, N. (2019). Menopausal Hot Flashes a: A Concise Review. Journal of mid-life health, 10(1), 6–13. View Study

[2] Avis, N. E., Levine, B. J., & Coeytaux, R. (2022). Results of a pilot study of a cooling mattress pad to reduce vasomotor symptoms and improve sleep. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 29(8), 973–978. View Study

[3] Bailey, T. G., Cable, N. T., Aziz, N., Dobson, R., Sprung, V. S., Low, D. A., & Jones, H. (2016). Exercise training reduces the frequency of menopausal hot flashes by improving thermoregulatory control. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 23(7), 708–718. View Study

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