Night sweats

A night sweat is essentially a hot flash you have during sleep. Night sweats can be mild (waking up with slight perspiration) or severe (waking up with drenched sheets, pillow, pajamas and hair).

Menopause and night sweats

Night sweats are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause (the first stage of menopause) and often appear even before periods become irregular. You may experience night sweats before or after your first hot flash. They may happen more often at a certain point in your menstrual cycle, or they can come and go with no obvious trigger. 

How long you have them depends on how much time your body takes to transition through perimenopause and menopause. The menopausal transition usually lasts about seven years but can last as long as 14 years.

Impact of night sweats

On their own, night sweats are not damaging. They’re a natural response to an increase in body temperature. However, severe night sweats can rob you of sleep, which impacts your relationships, mood, work and even thinking.

Lifestyle tips

Manage night sweats with simple lifestyle changes.

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  • Try going to bed a little cold, but not so much that you shiver. Reduce the temperature in your bedroom, use low thread count sheets and go to bed barefoot. Layer your bedding so you can remove layers once you’ve gotten cozy under the covers.
  • Consider taking a cold shower right before bed to help lower your core temperature.
Stress management
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Strategies to reduce stress include:

  • Deep breathing - Taking five slow, deep breaths before going to bed has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, giving your body a chance to rest and recalibrate.
  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Tai chi and yoga
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Don’t smoke. Smoking makes it harder for your body to cool itself. Women who smoke are more likely to get both night sweats and hot flashes.

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  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Drink 60 to 80 ounces of water per day to prevent dehydration, which can trigger a night sweat. If you do wake up with a night sweat, sipping some cold water can help cool your body’s core and calm your nervous system, making it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
  • Increase your soy intake. Bean paste, edamame, soy milk, soy sauce, tempeh and tofu all contain plant estrogens.
  • Reduce sugar intake, especially after dinner. Sugar in all forms is a major trigger for hot flashes and night sweats.
Weight management
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Maintain a healthy weight. Fat adds insulation, making it harder for your body to adjust to temperature swings. Every woman’s body is different, but for some, losing even as little as five pounds can help reduce the frequency and severity of night sweats.

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Regular exercise also helps maintain healthy sleep cycles and improve quality and quantity of sleep.

Treatment options

If night sweats affect your quality of life, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from one or more of these treatments.

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  • Hormone therapy (HT), including patches, pills, gels and vaginal rings – Stabilizes estrogen levels in your body; symptoms usually improve within 10 days of starting therapy
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – Are used to treat depression and anxiety, but also been shown to relieve menopause symptoms
  • Gabapentin – Approved by the FDA treat epilepsy and nerve pain; can also help with hot flashes and has a sedative effect
  • Clonidine – Lowers blood pressure by modifying how blood vessels respond to the body’s instructions to release heat quickly; can help alleviate hot flashes
Alternative therapies
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Many studies have shown that acupuncture and yoga can reduce hot flashes and night sweats.

Frequently asked questions

What causes night sweats?
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Night sweats are caused by changing levels of estrogen and, to a lesser extent, progesterone. These changes affect the part of the brain that regulates body temperature, appetite, sex hormones and sleep.

I don’t have hot flashes, but I do have night sweats. Is this normal?
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This is perfectly normal. Many women experience night sweats before ever experiencing a hot flash, and some women with night sweats never experience hot flashes at all.

How long will I have night sweats?
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That will depend, in part, on how long your body takes to transition through perimenopause and menopause. The menopausal transition usually lasts about seven years but can last as long as 14 years.

Can night sweats damage my long-term health?
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On their own, night sweats are not damaging—they are just instances of the body’s natural response to an increase in internal temperature. However, severe and recurring night sweats can impact relationships, sleep, mood, work and even cognition.

Contact us

Talk to a care navigator or schedule an appointment at the Women’s Health & Wellness Center.