Hot flashes and night sweats are literally the hottest of symptoms experienced by pre, peri, and postmenopausal women. If you've ever woken up in a puddle of sweat or experienced sudden, intense feelings of heat, then you understand how disruptive these symptoms can be.
But for those who are new to this symptom set, or were just interested in learning more about it, we hosted our first Instagram Live on the topic with Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck. During our live informational session, Dr. Dweck provided a comprehensive look at the causes and treatments for hot flashes and night sweats, providing useful information that every woman should know. If you missed it, no worries! We’re bringing you the top five takeaways from our conversation below. You can also access the full interview recording and transcription, here.
Identifying Vasomotor Symptoms During Menopause
As women approach the perimenopause years, Dr. Dweck revealed that an estimated 80% of women during perimenopause and menopause will experience hot flashes and night sweats (commonly referred to as vasomotor symptoms in the medical community), which can also last well into the postmenopausal years. These intense feelings of heat usually start in the chest and move upward to the neck and face. They may be accompanied by a flushing of the face, and intense perspiration that can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. Hot flashes can occur anytime, anywhere, and with little to no warning, making them extremely disruptive to a woman’s life depending on their frequency and intensity. Some women may experience them only occasionally, while others will deal with them constantly and incessantly both day and night.
More than simply an inconvenience, hot flashes and night sweats can cause a multitude of problems ranging from interruptions in daily activities to poor sleep quality. Women tend to struggle with these symptoms in silence because they’re either embarrassed to speak to their healthcare providers about it, or they assume it’s just part of the process and there’s nothing that can be done. As we discussed in the full session, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Tailoring Treatments for Menopause Symptoms, Like Hot Flashes
According to Dr. Dweck, another reason women may hesitate to speak to their healthcare provider about treatment is that they fear side effects, specifically with hormone replacement therapy or HRT. And while she says that HRT can work very well for some women, there are plenty of alternatives that can be tailored to a woman’s specific needs, medical background, current medications, and personal concerns.
One of the easiest ways to address vasomotor symptoms, according to Dr. Dweck, is through multiple lifestyle changes. Limiting known dietary triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and very sugary or spicy foods or eliminating them from your diet altogether is one place to start. She recommends following the low-glycemic, heart-healthy Mediterranean diet for its overall health benefits. Coupling a healthy diet with regular exercise packs a one-two punch. Not only does exercise dissipate heat from the body, but it also alleviates stress, another known vasomotor trigger. Additionally, Dr. Dweck recommends incorporating yoga and meditation practices into your wellness routine to reduce stress levels and improve focus and clarity.
In addition to lifestyle changes, over-the-counter herbal remedies are often a popular choice for women looking for a natural alternative to relieve vasomotor symptoms. Dr. Dweck recommends Bonafide’s Relizen® clinically studied to safely reduce the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats without the use of harmful ingredients or unwanted side effects. Additional pharmacologic solutions, including antidepressants that have been FDA approved for hot flashes, are another option that has been shown to be effective for some women, but many do have side effects including decreased libido.
The Connection Between Vasomotor Symptoms and Sleep
Night sweats are essentially hot flashes that happen while you sleep, and often negatively impact your body’s ability to get a good night’s rest. This can exacerbate other menopausal symptoms like mental fogginess, mood swings, headaches, and even, decreased libido, creating a vicious cycle.
To get a better night’s sleep, Dr. Dweck suggests keeping the bedroom at an ambient temperature and keeping a fan near the bed. Sleep in layers that can be easily removed in the night, or moisture-wicking night clothes. Avoid alcohol before bed as it can not only trigger the hot flash, but it can also be a sleep disrupter on its own.
Beating Mental Fog During Menopause
Forgetting where you put your car keys, or not being able to stay focused on a task can be inconvenient at best and frightening at worst. Many menopausal women experience this mental fogginess as the result of decreasing hormones or interrupted sleep. So, what can you do about it? As mentioned above, a good night’s rest can help alleviate that foggy feeling. And, just like exercise can help the body function more effectively, exercising the brain can help keep it sharp, too. Dr. Dweck recommends things like reading, working on puzzles, or listening to music to keep the brain engaged and clear out that foggy feeling.
Surgical Menopause and How They Relate to Vasomotor Symptoms
Some women are thrown into menopause due to the surgical removal of the ovaries. Unlike the gradual decline in hormones that occurs naturally in women during menopause, surgical menopause has no buffer – one day your ovaries are producing estrogen, the next day that ceases. That sudden change and immediate onset of vasomotor symptoms can be debilitating. That's why it is important to take control of your symptoms with the help of your healthcare provider, using any of the above-mentioned methods from lifestyle changes to good sleep hygiene, to herbal supplements, or HRT, if that is something that you and your provider feel good about.
With more than 34 recognized symptoms of menopause, we will be hosting additional Instagram Live sessions in the future to address may of the concerns women have as they go through this stage of life. Follow us on Instagram @hellobonafide to stay connected and learn about upcoming chats.