Menopause is defined as having no menstrual period for one year, and most women enter menopause in their late 40s or early 50s. The average age for the onset of menopause is 51. The symptoms you experience as a menopausal woman, which include hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain and vaginal dryness, are the result of a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone in your ovaries.
Women in their early to late 40s might already be familiar with a couple of these symptoms. Perimenopause refers to the period of time right before menopause begins. Perimenopausal women are still having a menstrual cycle, though it may become irregular. This is a time of transition, when you may experience your first hot flash and have night sweats.
Menopausal hot flashes are sudden feelings of intense body heat that can happen at any time of day or night. Night sweats only happen at night and involve periods of heavy sweating that can be intense and uncomfortable enough to wake you up from sleep.
Up to 75% of American women in the perimenopause or menopause stages of life report experiencing one or both of these conditions. Though naturally occurring, there is nothing natural about trying to ignore or sleep through them.
Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to prevent and relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Here are 12 things you can try:
- Avoid triggers, including smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine, and eating spicy foods
- Establish a calming bedtime routine
- Exercise during the day
- Wear light clothing while sleeping
- Use a bedside or overhead fan
- Turn the thermostat down at night
- Use a pillow with cooling gel or turn your pillow often
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Sip cold water
- Use thinner blankets or sheets
- Try relaxation techniques
If the options above aren’t enough to help you through this phase of life, you can also talk with your gynecologist or primary care physician about prescription therapies or over-the-counter (OTC) supplements and pain relievers, including:
- Natural supplements such as black cohosh, evening primrose and flaxseed
- Vitamins such as B and E or OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen
- Low-dose hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
While the symptoms of menopause vary from one woman to another, your mother might provide some insight on what age she experienced it and what worked for her as your symptoms will likely be similar. But be prepared to meet this challenge head-on and find methods to manage it that work for you.
Remember, your gynecologist or primary care physician will be able to answer your questions and help you navigate the symptoms of menopause. Don’t hesitate to seek their help.