One of the most bemoaned symptoms of menopause are the infamous night sweats. With your hormones already changing, it’s unlikely you want to add a hormonal treatment to the mix, and fortunately, there are a number of non-hormonal options for treating menopausal night sweats. Some say watching your weight can help to control body temperature. Others say daily exercise keeps the night sweats in check, but many also believe that hormone replacement therapy is the only way forward. What works for one woman may not work for another, and whatever works for you may not even be a proven therapy—and yet some of the most effective remedies aren’t. Take the non-traditional approach to discover the best way to keep your cool with these natural remedies for night sweats.
What Causes Night Sweats During Menopause?
Night sweats are caused by a complex interaction between fluctuating estrogen levels and the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls body temperature. As estrogen levels take a dip during menopause, this can actually render the hypothalamus hypersensitive, which is why the slightest change in room temperature can cause you to overheat. In turn, this triggers a cascade of reactions in the body, such as spontaneous hot flashes and night sweats.
When the hypothalamus senses you’re too hot, it sends signals to the sweat glands to help cool you off, since sweat removes heat from the body as it evaporates. The blood vessels supplying the capillaries in the skin also begin to dilate. This allows more warm blood to flow nearer the surface of the skin where the heat can be released, hence the red flush that comes with a hot flash.
Eat Your Way Out of Night Sweats
Night sweats can be caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels as well as fluctuating hormones, so avoid foods that are high on the glycemic index, such as refined sugar (cookies) and refined carbohydrates (white bread). Go for grains, legumes and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes) instead.
Some herbs and supplements can provide short-term relief from night sweats. Foods rich in natural plant estrogens, known as phytoestrogens, can help regulate your body’s estrogen levels as they drop during menopause. The highest form of phytoestrogen is found in flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil).
Herbalists have long used black cohosh to treat menstrual and menopausal irregularities, and recent studies have also shown black cohosh to be effective in reducing night sweats for up to one year. Whether you take capsules or food-grade oil, be mindful that this supplement can cause digestive distress or damage to the liver if taken longer term, so be sure to discuss your intake with your doctor. Evening primrose oil is also said to reduce night sweats, but is less effective.
Cut Out the Nightcap to Cut Night Sweats
Common triggers that cause a spike in both heart rate and body temperature include caffeine, spicy food, and alcohol. This doesn’t mean cut them out completely, but certainly avoid them in the evening. Alcohol, in particular, also sends your blood sugar levels into a spin and stays in your system for up to two hours. After a drink or three, blood vessels near the skin’s surface will open up and prompt the body to perspire, which is why a glass of wine gives you that glow. So maybe swap the nightcap for a soothing herbal tea.
Keep Calm to Cool Down
A Yoga Nidra meditation can aid the onset of sleep. Once asleep, however, can you mitigate the shock of waking up suddenly in a hot sweat? The fight or flight response is likely in full swing, but the breath can help to lower both anxiety levels and body temperature. A cooling pranayama (or yogic breathing technique) will beat the heat. Curl the sides of your tongue up and inhale through it like a straw for a count of five. Then close your mouth and exhale through your nose for the same count. If you can’t curl your tongue, simply inhale through closed teeth to make a hissing sound. Then exhale through your nose.
Put a Pin in It: Acupuncture for Night Sweats
Acupuncture can reduce menopausal night sweats according to a study published in Menopause Journal. Out of 209 women, 80 percent received acupuncture treatment in addition to the usual care from their doctor. After eight weeks, 47 percent reported a reduction in hot flashes and 12 percent reported a major reduction in symptoms. Acupuncture can actually help to regulate a hypersensitive hypothalamus. It also activates the release of pain-killing endorphins and stress-regulating hormones, which may enhance the regulation of body temperature.
Talk About Your Night Sweats
You can open your bedroom window in the middle of winter, or you can talk to the person you share a bed with. The more you try to hide the night sweats, the more intense they will become. Open communication is critical to a healthy menopause, and sharing how you feel about the changes taking place in your body alleviates any shame or embarrassment. Let the person closest to you share this major life transition with you.