Do You Get Hot Flashes Upon Waking Up?
It’s 6:19 a.m.
I’m lying in bed, snuggled up and cosy, gradually waking up to the sounds of birds greeting the morning.
At precisely 6:20 a.m., our alarm goes off. I roll over to silence it, turn to greet my husband, and suddenly, it feels like I’m in a sauna. In nanoseconds, the heat radiates from my insides to my skin, and I’m sweating hard enough to fill buckets.
“Ugh”, is my husband’s response as he pulls his hand away from the sticky sweat covering every inch of me.
I don’t blame him. It’s disgusting.
But he should be used to this routine by now.
I’ve been having hot flashes upon waking for a while now.
When I wake up, my skin is lovely and soft.
As soon as I move, I’m covered in buckets of sweat.
We both hate this morning routine, but we’ve learned to live with it.
Hot flashes in the morning are one symptom that has refused to go away, and I’m supposed to be post-menopausal.
I’m positive I’m not the only woman on the planet who suffers from hot flashes when I wake up.
Who would have thought that “hot flashes upon waking” was a thing … but it is.
For those more technically inclined, hot flashes or flushes are also known as “vasomotor symptoms,” where my trusty online dictionary tells me, “vasomotor” denotes …
“a region in the medulla of the brain (the vasomotor centre) that regulates blood pressure by controlling reflex alterations in the heart rate and the diameter of the blood vessels, in response to stimuli from receptors in the circulatory system or from other parts of the brain.”
In other words, when I wake up, a signal from my brain triggers an unwelcome reaction.
What even causes these hot flashes upon waking?
Like all the other fun menopausal symptoms (think everything from body odour to weight gain and declining libido), hormone levels have much to answer for when it comes to hot flashes, night sweats, or morning sweats, as they present for some.
A drop in estrogen levels reportedly causes the body’s thermostat to become more sensitive. So even the slightest change in body temperature can trigger a hot flash, a chain of events designed to cool the body.
It’s nice to know that when I wake up as a hot, sweaty mess, my body is trying to help me, even though it feels like I’ve stepped into a surprise pre-breakfast sauna!
There’s so much sweat I might as well have been at the gym.
It wouldn’t be so bad, except that I erroneously thought that my hot flashes would disappear for good when I hit a certain age.
Unfortunately, according to the Harvard Medical School’s health blog, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that hot flashes and night sweats can often last seven years and may go on for 11 years or more.
So yep, some perimenopausal women will experience hot flashes, and some will still get them post-menopause. Sigh.
This depressing bit of info came from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a long-term study of women of different races and ethnicities in the menopausal transition. If you’re interested in finding out more about this somewhat depressing discovery, you can check out the findings here in the JAMA Internal Medicine.
When I first began experiencing menopause symptoms, I hunted high and low for ways to get rid of them.
I mean, who actually enjoys feeling like they’re being roasted like a turkey from the inside out? Or loves being at work at a critical, career-impacting meeting, and suddenly you’re producing so much sweat, you need to go home and change clothes.
Nup. Didn’t think so.
It turns out there are plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to reducing those sudden feelings of stepping into a tropical climate.
Hormone replacement therapies can offer an effective avenue for improving symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, but they come with risks. However, for many women, the benefits will outweigh the risks.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial results in 2002 claimed that Estrogen + Progestin treatment increased the risks of coronary heart disease, invasive breast cancer, stroke, and venous thromboembolism. These conclusions instilled widespread fear among the public, and the subsequent uptake of HRT declined dramatically.
Critical reviews have since shown the WHI trial was inadequately designed, evaluated, and reported. More recent studies suggest HRT is beneficial for those within 10 years since the onset of menopause and those under 60 years of age. The Book “Estrogen Matters” examines the exaggerated claims of the WHI and shares some of the science that supports HRT.
You’ll find many recent studies highlighting the benefits of HRT and many sharing the risks.
Do your research and discuss your questions and concerns with your primary health professional to make an informed decision that’s right for you.
Some health professionals will recommend prescription medications for managing hot flashes. With these, you can be up against medication side effects.
Those who choose to skip the hormone therapies and medication will be happy to know there are plenty of alternative options worth trying, from self-care practices to incorporate into daily life to dietary changes and natural supplements.
Natural approaches to reducing hot flashes during menopause
Since that intense feeling of heat is such a common symptom and sign of menopause, I know there are probably plenty of you looking for ways to tone down those hot flashes at night, upon waking, or at any time of day they decide to hit!
Of course, some approaches work for some menopausal women but not for others. If you’re unsure what is suitable or safe for you, talk to your primary healthcare professional for a treatment plan to help you through the menopause transition.
Some of the holistic approaches that may help you improve your quality of life through better temperature regulation during menopause:
- Hot flashes can easily disrupt your circadian rhythms and cause sleep disturbances, so focus on anything you can do to improve your sleep quality. Examples include maintaining a cool sleep environment, a consistent bedtime, and being mindful of caffeine intake (because it can increase body temperature AND affect sleep).
- Explore natural supplements that may help improve hot flashes, night sweats, and waking sweats, such as shatavari, black cohosh, and ashwagandha (but check with a health professional if you’re unsure whether they’re right for you).
- Dietary adjustments to reduce or eliminate foods that could trigger hot flashes, such as caffeine and spicy foods. (If you’re wondering where chocolate fits into the mix, you can find out here).
- Other lifestyle approaches include keeping your house cool and reducing cigarette smoke exposure (because smoking is linked to hot flash severity and frequency).
- Mind-body techniques such as meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may not relieve hot flashes but could reduce how much they bother you.
The Ayurvedic medicine philosophy offers several natural approaches for managing menopause-related symptoms, encompassing many of the above suggestions.
These days, I am far more interested in learning how to control my mental reactions to my symptoms.
These days, I think that if I had it to do all over again (go through menopause in all its painful glory), I would NOT try to control the symptoms. Instead, I would take back control of the trajectory of my menopause journey.
I would take the time to sit down and decide who I wanted to be once I hit the other side of menopause.
Then, I would do whatever it took to enable my body to be the healthiest it could be so that my mind and relationships could be healthy.
There is no escaping the impact menopause will have on us women… we will come out changed.
However, it’s up to us exactly how much we let that impact shape us.
If you’d like to start taking back control of your menopause journey, join our The Menopause Effect email list, and we’ll send you tips, techniques, research findings and other helpful info.
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