Hot Flushes and Menopause

Hot flushes, sometimes known as hot flashes, are one of the most common symptoms of the menopause. They affect approximately 80% of women at menopause.

Hot flushes are one of the primary symptoms of menopause.

Hot flushes are one of the primary symptoms of menopause.

Hot flushes and night sweats

Along with irregular periods, hot flushes are one of the primary signs of the onset of the menopause. For most women, hot flushes occur occasionally and do not cause much distress. However, for a smaller percentage of us, around 20%, hot flushes can be severe and interfere with quality of life and sleep. Women tend to experience hot flushes for about two years on average, but for a small percentage, approximately 10%, hot flushes can continue for up to 15 years!

What does it feel like to have a hot flush/flash?

A hot flush is a vasomotor or blood vessel symptom that can vary in intensity and duration. A typically hot flush will last for between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.  You may experience an unannounced brief feeling of intense heat that makes our face and neck feel red and hot and possibly look blotchy.  Some women report what feels like a sudden rush of blood from their toes to the top of their head others say they feel like they might combust.  You may feel very hot and then chilly. The hot flush can sometimes cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse, including heart palpitations. The skin may feel sweaty and you may also feel dizzy.

Can you get cold flushes or chills at menopause?

Some women report sudden chilly feelings which sound very similar to hot flushes in the opposite direction on the thermostat.

During and after a hot flush some women experience headaches, shaking and dizziness. These physical symptoms can compound psychological symptoms such as feelings of anxiety, depression and lack of confidence. If you'd like to read more about anxiety, panic attacks and social anxiety click here.

Why do hot flushes occur?

Hot flushes are caused by fluctuating hormone levels especially oestrogen and to a lesser extent progesterone. These fluctuations impact the functioning of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling body temperature, appetite, sex hormones and sleep.

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What are Hot Flashes a sign of? Triggers for hot flushes - what causes hot flushes?

Hot flushes are caused by falling oestrogen levels at menopause. You may notice that they are being triggered by caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and external heat sources like a hot bath or an overheated room. If so avoid these triggers. For some women, stress and tension cause more frequent hot flushes. And indeed stressing during a hot flush and fanning yourself/taking off layers can make it worse - have you noticed?! Women who smoke are more than twice as likely to experience severe hot flushes than women who have never smoked.

What are Night Sweats?

During the night you might experience symptoms similar to hot flushes. You might wake up to find you are drenched and need to change your bedclothes - no fun at all! If this is happening regularly you might find it practical to sleep on a towel and just switch the towel during the night rather than removing all your sheets. Night sweats can disrupt your sleep, possibly adding to other symptoms of the menopause, such as insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, depression and memory lapses. 

You're likely to have more frequent hot flushes after monthly periods have stopped altogether, and they may last for several years. They do however tend to stop once oestrogen levels stabilise. 

Some women only experience hot flushes during the day, others only experience night sweats.

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Hot flushes and Night Sweats - solutions

Hot flushes and night sweats affect each of us differently and most often no treatment will be required.

The following is a range of self-help remedies that may help you cope with these common symptoms of menopause:

  1. Keep a journal to record the frequency, duration, and possible triggers for hot flushes and night sweats.
  2. Reduce or avoid consumption of spicy food or alcohol if they are triggers.
  3. Wear cotton clothing. Wear loose thin layers and a layer that can be taken on and off like a cardigan or jacket, to take the heat out of a hot flush.
  4. Use bedclothes that you can throw off easily. Consider lying on a towel, which can be changed easily if night sweats are intense.
  5. Sleep on silk, it has the wonderful property of being a thermoregulator which means it will keep you cool or warm depending on your body temperature. Silk absorbs moisture/sweat without becoming damp. Consider investing in silk sheets or a silk pillowcase. Silk pillows have the added benefits of helping to avoid wrinkles and preventing 'bed-head' as they are non-static. They are also hypoallergenic.
  6. If stress is a factor consider including yoga or mindfulness in your daily plan.
  7. Wipes or a water spray can help lower skin temperature. 
  8. Cucumber drink – liquidise a cucumber and add to a pint of water, store in the fridge and take a glassful before going to bed.
  9. Take regular moderate physical exercise to help circulation and make your body more adaptable to temperature changes. Weight management is key to ensuring a positive menopause and reducing many symptoms of menopause.
  10. Turn down the thermostat on your heating and make sure to drink plenty of cold water.
  11. Consider the addition of herbal remedies in consultation with a herbalist.
  12. Siberian Ginseng, in capsule form, is good for hot flushes, night sweats, headaches and palpitations; it also gives you more energy.
  13. Sage tea or tincture taken as an infusion has tonic and hormonal properties. It helps with inflammation and excessive perspiration and it also has oestrogenic properties.
  14. Vitamin E in supplement form can help reduce hot flushes.
  15. Homoeopathic remedies could be helpful. Have a look at Lachesis, Graphites, Pulsatilla and Sulphuric acid to see if they match your pattern. Consult a professional homoeopath. In the meantime, this article on homoeopathy might help you.

We canvassed readers for their tried and tested remedies for hot flashes and got the following feedback - some of these might help you. Here's what they recommend:








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Thanks Girls another great book ! Well done My Second Spring, the advice is practical, down to earth and I’m already working on my toolkit. Thank you so much

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Try this simple home remedy for Hot Flushes as proposed by yoga teacher Estelle Birdy

Yoga Tip For Hot Flushes:

You feel the flush starting. Stop. Pause. What’s your predominating sensation in this moment? And now? And now? And now? How about now?  Flush over? Congratulations you have just been fully present over the course of several present moments.

The hot flush can be your friend because, if you stop seeing it as something you need to control, something you are suffering, something you want to end, and simply experience it as a sensation arising in each present moment, well hey, you’ve just seen reality for those few moments and that’s kinda cool. I’m mindful here also, of studies of menopausal symptoms in various cultures and across various socio-economic groups. Worldwide, it appears, poorer, busier, more rural women experience less agitating symptoms than richer, less occupied, city-dwelling women. Could be the diet, could be the not getting real ladies. No one’s saying that night sweats are a whole pile of fun. Believe me, I know. Equally, no one can say that a huge change to a new and empowering way of life, is going to be a bed of roses.

If you'd like to hear more from Estelle I highly recommend this blog called Embrace The Change!

What other menopause symptoms will I get along with Hot Flushes?

As mentioned earlier, a fall in oestrogen is the main cause of hot flushes. Falling oestrogen can also cause irregular periods, fatigue, insomnia, early waking and mood swings. These are some of the most common first signs of menopause or perimenopause - please have a read of our article on Perimenopause and 8 Useful Steps to find out what you can do to glide smoothly through perimenopause and menopause!

You may also be interested in

Top tips for good sleep habits at menopause
Ayurveda - living in harmony with nature
Make sure to have a good supply of B Vitamins at perimenopause
Sleep is an investment to enable us to live well and enjoy ourselves
Confused about menopause? You are not alone.


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