Hot Flushes, Flashes and Night Sweats – Tell the Difference and Ease all Three

One of the most common, and least pleasant of all the delights menopause brings is the notorious hot flush.

Statistically, three out of four menopausal women will have one, or possibly more of these uncomfortable treats every day, and it’s very often the first sign for peri-menopausal women that their best child-bearing years are behind them.

How can you tell you’re having them?  Most women just know, but in case you’re not sure, they’re usually characterized by an intense feeling of heat, not triggered by being somewhere warm, that seem to engulf your whole body.

You may sweat, go very red in the face and can last anything from 30 seconds to ten minutes or more.  You may only have one or two, you may have them daily and some poor women have them up to 20 times a day.

This might last for a month or so and for some women, it doesn’t stop until they’re well and truly over menopause.

One of the most unpleasant types of hot flush is the night sweat. Like the daytime equivalent, this phenomenon is caused by the reduced level of Oestradiol.  Even in a cool room, your body can heat up, leading to sweating that can easily soak nightwear.  This can be followed by rapidly chilling – like that you experience after exercise.

NOTE:  Be aware that no matter how hot you are, if you try to cool down too quickly at night you can end up feeling very unwell and passing out.  Don’t go into the night air for example – take your time and use cool water sprays and a fan, and keep the room a moderate temperature.

Night sweats can lead to insomnia and sleep disturbances which don’t help the daytime mood swings at all so it’s key to try and manage your symptoms as much as possible.

Finally, the hot flash – this is basically just a very quick, extreme hot flush, leading to redness and perspiration in the head and neck area. It’s quick but rather horrible for those experiencing it.

What Helps?

HRT: Firstly, despite its negative press in the early years, unless you’ve had cancer or are going through enforced menopause following cancer treatment, HRT is considered the best, fastest way to ease all symptoms of the menopause.

In fact, it lessens the risk of Osteoporosis (soft bones) and the NHS advocates it as a generally well-tolerated, safe way to manage menopause.

DIET:  Doesn’t it always?  Alcohol, no matter how much you may enjoy it, is usually a sure-fire route to the hot flush hell, particularly from wine (sorry).   Same with curry – we know it sounds obvious but spicy food can be a real problem. Tobacco, caffeine and basically anything fun will also trigger them so it might be time to kickstart that health overhaul you’ve been promising yourself for years.

BLACK COHOSH:  Also known as snakeroot, Black Cohosh is one of the few natural supplements respected even by modern medicine practitioners as being effective at helping to ease hot flushes, due to phytochemicals that work on the endocrine system.

It does have the risk of liver damage if taken in too high a dose though, so speak to a naturopath and your doctor first.

VITAMIN E: Stress is a giant trigger for hot flushes, and Vitamin E is a great treatment for stress, working to support the adrenal glands.

BIOIDENTICAL HORMONES: Made from human identical hormones sourced from plants, some practitioners swear by this treatment to replace lost levels, but it doesn’t come without risk.  It’s not a regulated treatment and the jury is out on how safe they are.

FABRIC: It stands to reason that artificial fabrics or heavy knits will be a problem. Stick to cotton and silk at night, don’t get naked, it doesn’t help and in the day use light layers so you can take garments on and off according to what you need.

SOY:  This contains compounds called isoflavones which join with oestrogen receptors in the body, decreasing a flush by increasing oestrogen.

Research suggests consuming 54 milligrams of isoflavones per day for six weeks has a positive effect on decreasing the intensity of hot flushes. This equates to 250mg of tofu, 125mg cooked soya beans, or 75g of edamame beans.

PEPPERMINT OIL: We don’t know why but a dab of this on the collarbones and wrists really helps – dilute it first.  Trust us, it works.

ANTIDEPRESSANTS:  Some women have found this hugely beneficial in treating the anxiety and insomnia of menopause, which in turn helps lessen stress and sweats however again, they’re not without side effects so have a good chat with your doctor before going down this route.

LEARN TO LOVE SAGE:  Studies have proven that sage has a beneficial effect on memory and flushes.  Bring on the stuffing!

ACUPUNCTURE:  The British Medical Journal recently reported on the effectiveness of this in treating hot flushes and stress. It did say more research was needed but the initial signs were very positive.


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