World Menopause Day: How to cope with hot flushes and night sweats – advice from the menopausal
Today is World Menopause Day – a day aimed at raising awareness of menopause and of options available for improving health and wellbeing.
The symptoms of menopause (when periods naturally stop, and you can no longer get pregnant naturally) and perimenopause (when your menstrual cycle starts to wind down) can feel pretty foul at times.
Heather, who is 52 and perimenopausal, tells us: ‘When I was working in Boots, I would have to go in the chiller, lean with my hands on the cold metal wall, and stay there until I broke out in goosebumps.
‘If I came out too soon, the hot flush would start over again.’
Unfortunately, hot flushes are something that don’t disappear with time for everyone, so many will have to learn to live with them for the long haul.
Dr Deborah Lee, of the Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Many of my friends still have them.
‘Although hot flushes are most common around the age of 50 – the most common time for menopause – and usually eventually stop, this is not always the case. 5% of women have hot flushes for life.
‘My neighbour in her 80s and still has them. She calls them Caribbean experiences.’
In the event that you don’t have a huge freezer that you can safely stand in, here are some tips from experts and people going through the menopause themselves on how you can feel better when hot flushes and night sweats strike.
First things first – try and keep your body cool
We know that isn’t always easy depending on the weather or the circumstances, but prevention is still the ideal defence.
Dr Deborah, who also runs a menopause clinic, tells us: ‘I would say the mainstay to prevent them is to generally keep your body as cool as possible and avoid getting agitated or stressed.’
As for coping with stress, we’ll get to that later…
Learn healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety
While anxiety isn’t solely to blame for night sweats and hot flushes, Dr Deborah says high stress levels can ‘make hot flushes worse at the best of times.’
‘Many women find cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is very helpful to reduce hot flushes and night sweats’, she says.
‘You can purchase CBT self-help books online, for example. Alternatively, ask your GP.’
She adds: ‘Exercise helps so don’t stop walking just because of the heat.
‘Try walking however early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.
‘Any exercise is good exercise – jogging, cycling or swimming. Activities such as yoga, or Pilates, can also help with relaxation.’
Grab a cold compress
Heather recommends putting a cold compress on your wrists, inner elbows and/or behind your knees.
‘Any places where the blood flow is close to the surface,’ she adds.
Similarly, Kelly, (50 and menopausal) reaches for a cold compress at night.
She tells us: ‘I have this shammy-like towel that I soak in cold water before bed.
‘I wrap it around my neck, and it really helps me with my night sweats.’
Dr Deborah says: ‘If you feel [a hot flush] coming on, remove yourself to a private place.
‘Remember to breathe, deeply and slowly. Don’t let this become a panic attack.
‘Sip cold water. Apply a cool compress to your face, forehead, neck and chest. Run your wrists under cold water. Wash your feet in cold water too if you can.
‘Try sucking an ice cube. A portable fan can help.’
Opt for natural fibres in clothes and sheets
Author Meg Mathews, (55 and menopausal), tells us: ‘Try and stick to natural fibres where possible and avoid strong fabric detergent that can aggravate your skin.
‘Something else to think about during the menopause is your underwear. Avoid
anything tight and uncomfortable and again opt for natural fibres to help your body breathe.
‘Buying bamboo sheets really helped.’
She adds: ‘If bamboo isn’t for you, try cotton sheets with a 400 thread count. I found wearing bamboo, cotton or linen nightwear helped too.’
Dr Deborah suggests getting cotton sheets, adding: ‘Try a cold gel pillow. You can also put one under your feet.
‘Fill a hot water bottle with cold water and freeze it. Take this to bed with you.’
Get your hands on a fan
Michelle (perimenopausal), invested in a neck fan and loved it so much she got three more (of a different brand) for her friends.
Dr. Deborah suggests the tried and tested method of putting a bowl of ice under a fan, thus making your own makeshift air conditioning.
The fan will blow the cold air from the ice right at you – dreamy.
Meg also says it’s important to keep yourself well hydrated whether it’s hot flushes, night sweats or both that are bothering you, and Michelle, 51, says drinking lots of water ‘helps hugely.’
Dr Deborah, who is herself postmenopausal (commonly defined as when your periods have stopped for at least a year), says staying hydrated is ‘essential’, telling us: ‘Drink plenty of cold water.
‘Avoid hot drinks containing caffeine. Avoid alcohol and don’t smoke.’
Ask your doctor about HRT
Dr. Deborah, who’s 59 and has been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for seven years, says it is ‘the best way to stop hot flushes and night sweats.’
She adds: ‘Nothing else has the same effect. Maybe now is the time to speak to your doctor.
‘The pendulum has swung firmly in favour of HRT after all the negative publicity in recent years. If you are suffering – see your doctor and find out more.
‘If you don’t want or can’t take HRT, there are a number of alternatives such as clonidine, SSRI’s or gabapentin.’
Heather says HRT was a game changer for her as, not only did it help her hot flushes and lessen the frequency of her night sweats, but it also helped when she noticed she was losing her hair.
Tania Adib, consultant gynaecologist and head of The Menopause Clinic at The Lister Hospital, agrees it’s the most effective treatment for general menopausal symptoms, telling us: ‘It can be started whilst women are still having periods if the symptoms are affecting the quality of their life.
‘HRT reduces the risk of these conditions and can be taken lifelong. It improves symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats, low energy, mood, memory and concentration, as well as sleep.’
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