How frustrating is it to be woken from your slumbers drenched in sweat with little hope of returning to sleep for the rest of the night? Throw in the embarrassment during the day when you feel those little beads of sweats beginning to form on your forehead and cleavage, worrying if anyone has noticed and subtly trying in vain to fan yourself and stem the flow.
Yes, night sweats and hot flushes can be one of the more distressing signs of ‘the change’, and whilst frustrating, they are your body keeping you alive and are your friend!
A bit of physiology
Sweating is a sign our bodies are in distress. We have a small window of an optimum internal temperature. If we become too cold, we shiver to generate heat; if too hot we sweat to lose heat. Therefore, night sweats and hot flushes are your body’s way of getting rid of excess heat.
So why now?
Our temperature is regulated and controlled by hormones; in fact our body is continually trying to balance our hormones to keep us alive and functioning. A bit like a see-saw, if one hormone increases its opposite hormone is produced to re-balance the see-saw.
As we go through perimenopause and menopause, our hormones become a bit chaotic and fluctuate day to day, hour to hour. Our bodies have to work overtime to balance and re-balance.
One of the main fluctuating hormones is oestrogen. Reduction in oestrogen affects the temperature regulating hormones in our pituitary gland and thyroid. Sugar, alcohol, processed foods; too much protein stresses our thyroid, liver and gut. Stress raises cortisol, a stress hormone, which in turn raises our heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Viola, we sweat to get rid of the internal heat building up, thereby keeping us alive.
So if it’s my hormones I can’t change it, can I?
Well, we can influence hormone production either negatively or positively. What we eat and drink how we move as well as how we deal with the demands of family, life, jobs etc. can add or remove additional stress and the production of cortisol. Consciously or unconsciously, we could be helping or hindering our delicate hormonal balance, influencing the severity and frequency of those pesky flushes.
So, the next time you become aware of that little bead of moisture developing on your forehead or wake up throwing the bed covers off in a hot sweaty heap; stop, breathe and thank your body for looking after you.