You wake up in a pool of sweat, feeling like the heat somehow got
cranked up to 100 degrees. Alas, the problem isn’t the furnace but your
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“Not everyone experiences hot flashes during perimenopause, but they are very common,” says Women’s Health Specialist Holly Thacker, MD. As many as 3 in 4 women have hot flashes in the years leading up to their last period.
Hot flashes are
uncomfortable any time of day, but they can be especially annoying at night
when they mess with your sleep. “And disrupted sleep causes so many problems
for women’s functioning,” Dr. Thacker adds.
Here’s how to survive
these nocturnal trips to the tropics.
Understanding hot flashes
Surely you’re too young for hot flashes, right? (RIGHT?) Maybe not. Most women start having symptoms of perimenopause in their 40s. Those symptoms include irregular periods, vaginal dryness and yes, hot flashes.
Hot flashes feel like
you’ve been swallowed by a wave of heat. You might sweat, turn red and feel
your heart start to race. When they come at night, it’s common to wake up
drenched in sweat. And when flashes finally subside, they’re often followed by
Hot flashes might last
only 5 minutes or so. But by then, you’re wide awake and super annoyed. For
many women, hot flashes are a part of their lives for months or even years.
That all adds up to a lot of lost sleep.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hot flashes and night
sweats aren’t dangerous, and they don’t technically need to be treated. But if
they’re interfering with your slumber or otherwise making you miserable, help
“For many women, the best treatment is hormone replacement therapy,” says Dr. Thacker.
Hormone therapy can even out the hormonal ups and downs that are common during perimenopause, relieving hot flashes and other symptoms.
Many women are wary of hormone replacement, but it’s a safe and effective treatment, Dr. Thacker says, and its bad reputation is undeserved.
replacement therapy isn’t recommended for some women, including those with
certain kinds of cancers or those who have had blood clots, stroke or heart
But for most healthy
women, the treatment is a safe way to deal with the uncomfortable side effects
of perimenopause, she says. “For most midlife women, hormone therapy will help
them feel and function better.”
Remedies for hot flashes
If you can’t (or don’t
want to) take hormone replacement, Dr. Thacker recommends these tricks to keep
hot flashes to a minimum:
- Certain foods or environmental triggers can spark a hot flash. Some common triggers include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and hot baths.
- Spend a few days tracking your hot flashes and what you did in the hours leading up to them. You might find that spicy meals or flannel pajamas are a recipe for night sweats.
- Turn your bedroom temperature down at night. Wear lightweight pajamas in breathable fabrics like linen and cotton.
- Invest in pillows and mattress covers filled with cooling gel to turn your bed into a no-sweat zone.
Many women turn to herbs
and supplements to fight hot flashes. However, studies have so far found little
evidence that they’re effective, Dr. Thacker says.
Scientists are also
testing a new type of drug that acts at the brain level to stop hot flashes, she
adds. It’s a potentially exciting development, but one that’s not available
In the meantime, you
don’t have to suffer in silence. Treat yourself to some cool new pajamas, and
talk to a knowledgeable doctor about how best to deal with this steamy stage of
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