As with many health woes, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way towards managing the problem. Here are some of the most common questions women have about night sweats, including why they happen, when they'll end, and what you can do to rein them in. Plus, the answers you need to start feeling better.
What Are Menopause Night Sweats?
Night sweats are hot flashes that happen at night which can often wake you up, disrupting your sleep. These night sweats, which are occasionally heavy enough to soak through your sleep clothes and bedding, are commonly accompanied by a sudden feeling of uncomfortable warmth, flushing, and a racing heart. After the hot flash eases up, you might feel cold or clammy.1, 2
For many women, night sweats and hot flashes are a typical part of the menopause transition. But they often feel unpleasant. And because they're disrupting your sleep, they can leave you feeling fatigued, stressed, or irritable the next day.
What Causes Menopause Night Sweats?
Night sweats that occur during perimenopause or menopause happen due to shifting levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
These hormone changes can affect the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature – also known as the thermoregulatory zone. This can lead to suddenly feeling warm or flushed (even when the ambient temperature is comfortable), which can happen when you're asleep or awake. The intense sweat that follows is your body's attempt to cool itself back down.3
Is There Anything Besides Menopause That Can Cause Night Sweats?
Menopause isn't the only thing that can give you night sweats. Hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy (and shortly after giving birth) or before a woman's period can also cause sweaty, disruptive nighttime episodes.
Not all night sweats are hormone related, though. They can also be a symptom of bacterial or viral infections, overactive thyroid, uncontrolled diabetes, some neurological disorders, anxiety or panic disorder, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and some cancers. Medications including antidepressants, steroids, acetaminophen, aspirin, some blood pressure drugs, and some cancer treatments can cause night sweats too.4
Sometimes night sweats can strike for no reason, with no other symptoms. When this happens, a person may have hyperhidrosis, a condition involving overactive sweat glands, that's simply marked by excessive sweating.5
How Long Do Menopause Night Sweats Last?
Night sweats tend to come on suddenly and dissipate just as quickly, with the warmth and flushing ending in less than five minutes. That said, the cold, clammy sensation that comes from being drenched in sweat can stick around for longer, especially if your clothes and sheets are wet.
As for how long a woman in perimenopause or menopause will typically experience night sweats? On average, the symptom tends to stick around for a median duration of 7.4 years and may last more than 15 years.6 Many women start to experience hot flashes and night sweats in their 40s, as they enter perimenopause. The symptom tends to peak in the two years after menopause – however it’s important to note that hot flashes and night sweats can continue sporadically for four to 10 years after menopause, gradually becoming less frequent and less intense.7 Each woman’s experience with this symptom, however, is unique – meaning hot flashes and night sweats may be a symptom you experience; conversely, they may last for longer than 10 years into postmenopause.
What Can I Do to Manage Night Sweats During Menopause?
Night sweats can be unpleasant, but there are ways to cope with this symptom. Lifestyle changes are a good place to start. Consider:8
- Adjusting your bedroom environment. Lower the temperature in your bedroom and consider running a fan.
- Incorporating layers. Layer your bedding and dress in layers that are easy to remove when you start to sweat. Also consider sleep clothes which are moisture wicking.
- Sipping cold water. Stick with small amounts before bed for a quick cool down.
- Limiting your intake of alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine, especially before bed. All three can make hot flashes and night sweats worse.
- Working towards or maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight might make hot flashes and night sweats more frequent and more intense.
If you’d like to give natural or holistic remedies a try, there are some options that might be helpful, including:
- Acupuncture: In one study, eighty percent of women who attended acupuncture sessions for three weeks reported having fewer night sweats and sleep disturbances.9
- Relaxation techniques: Many women find that practices like meditation and deep breathing can ease stress, and in turn help tame hot flashes and night sweats.10
- Consider Supplements: Specific vitamins and supplements are designed to help ease the frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flashes and night sweats and work through non-hormonal pathways to provide relief.
Medications can help, too, if lifestyle changes or other natural remedies aren't doing enough to ease your symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen alone or with progestin can be employed to manage a range of perimenopause and menopause symptoms, including night sweats. In some cases certain antidepressants, anticonvulsants like gabapentin, or other medications, like oxybutynin may also help.11 A newly FDA approved medication called fezolinetant, which works on specific receptors in the brain, may also be considered. Your healthcare provider can help you weigh the pros and cons of taking prescription medications and help you find the right treatment option for you.
Hear more from Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, on thigs you can do to calm disruptive night sweats, below.
Should I Be Worried About Menopausal Night Sweats?
Night sweats that occur during perimenopause or menopause aren't usually cause for concern. But you should let your healthcare provider know if they're happening alongside any unusual or concerning symptoms, or if they're affecting your quality of life. They can check to see if there are any underlying causes that might be contributing to the night sweats and recommend treatments that can help you feel better.