Most women experience these symptoms during perimenopause, however, some women experience them many years into their postmenopause. You have reached actual menopause when you have not had a period for 12 months. The time beyond that is defined as post menopause.
It is generally believed that these symptoms can last between 2-5 years postmenopause, however, on average women are still experiencing them for up to 10 years and in some cases for longer.
What is the difference between hot flushes/flashes and night sweats? Night sweats are those that occur at night.
Hot flushes and night sweats are the result of estrogen fluctuating and gradually declining which disturbs the Hypothalamus – this is your body’s thermostat. The brain informs the body that it is too hot and needs to cool down.
What Can You Expect?
You will have a sudden feeling of heat in the upper body, starting in the face, neck or chest which will spread throughout the body.
You may also “flush” become red and sweat profusely
Sometimes you may also experience heart palpitations (skipped or erratic heart beats) along with the hot flush or night sweat. This can happen before, at the beginning or during the flush
They can raise your skin temperature by 6 degrees
They can last anywhere between 1 minute up to 1 hour
Your heart rate and blood flow increase, although your internal temperature can drop as much as 3/4 degrees. As your body toils to correct the imbalance the body can become chilled whilst it fights to regain its normal temperature
Depending on the severity of the hot flush or night sweat you may get tired or lose sleep, get a headache or feel weak or dizzy
Their frequency can be anything from every hour to a couple of times as week
Sleep disturbance is common with night sweats and symptoms of depression and adverse effects on your mood are not unusual
Poor memory and lack of concentration are commonly associated
They are more common in evening and during hot weather
They have a tendency to be more severe in women of low bodyweight, those who take little or no exercise and those who smoke cigarettes
They appear to be more common in black women and less in Chinese women
An early or abrupt menopause causes severe symptoms to occur i.e. surgical oophorectomy (surgical removal of one or two ovaries), chemotherapy, radiation
Studies have shown that younger women are more likely to experience night sweats than older women
Update August 2014 – new evidence suggests that slimming down may help ease they symptoms of hot flushes. The studies found that obese and overweight women generally have more severe and frequent hot flush symptoms.
Whilst hormonal imbalance is the most common cause of night sweats and hot flushes in menopause, there are certain medical conditions and medications that can cause these symptoms:
Hot flushes: panic disorder, cancer, infections, diabetes, thyroid disorder, obesity, hyperhidrosis (abnormal perspiration).
Medications: Raloxifene (osteoporosis drug), Tamoxifen (cancer drug), Gonadotropine analogues.
Hot flushes and night sweats can be categorised as mild, moderate or severe
Mild – duration less than 1 minute. You will have a feeling of warmth with very little or no perspiration.
Moderate – duration 2/3 minutes, warmer and produces noticeable perspiration.
Severe – duration – up to 1 hour. You will feel intense heat and it may interfere with your daytime activities or your sleep.
How to Relieve Hot Flushes and Night Sweats
- Wear lightweight clothes made of natural fibres (cotton, wool, silk). Wear layers to add and remove as needed.
- Changing to organic temperature regulating bedding may be beneficial
- Reduce your stress levels
- If you are carrying extra weight, slimming down may ease hot flushes
- Avoid or at least moderate possible triggers i.e. caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, spicy foods, hot drinks, white sugar, hot weather, hot baths, unexpressed anger and saunas/spa treatments.
- Exercise helps to decrease hot flushes and night sweats by lowering the amount of FSH and LH (hormones which stimulate your ovary to produce steroids) and by raising your endorphin levels which will drop during a hot flush or night sweat
- Slow abdominal breathing, six to eight breaths per minute will help to decrease frequency
- Natural menopause relief products may help to readdress your hormone levels.
- Speak to your healthcare professional about Hormone Replacement Therapy.
- Hot flushes and night sweats deplete your body of B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. It may be beneficial for you to increase your consumption of these. Vitamin E and Bioflavanoid (antioxidant) may also help.
Update March 2016
A team at Imperial College, London, have developed a new treatment for hot flushes without raising the risk of breast cancer. The new drug called AZD4901 works by blocking a brain signal that triggers hot flushes. Women are currently being recruited to trial the drug. Dr Julia Prague of Imperial College, stated “if all goes well, we would be very hopeful it could be in routine clinical practice within five years, with GPs able to prescribe it instead of HRT”.
If you become concerned about your symptoms and feel that they may not necessarily be associated with menopause please consult your healthcare professional.
Related Article: Is there a connection between hot flushes and heart disease? (NAMS Study 2017)
Hot flushes: how to cope. Retrieved on 14 March 2014. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
Hot flushes. Retrieved from http://patient.info/doctor/hot-flushes#ref-2
Archer, D.F. Menopausal hot flushes and night sweats: where are we now? (Oct 2011) Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21848495
Managing Menopause. Retrieved from https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/menopause-information/managing-menopause/
Older women still suffer from hot flushes and night sweats years after the menopause. (Oct 2011) Retrieved from http://www.bjog.org/details/news/1375983/Older_women_still_suffer_from_hot_flushes_and_night_sweats_years_after_the_menop.html
Hot flush menopause misery could be over due to a new wonder pill. (Retrieved on 14 March 2016) Retrieved from http://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1365223?tsid=1#axzz42tD6Gpl5