How to sleep in hot weather when you’re menopausal
- Hormone changes during the menopause can affect the quality and duration of sleep
- Hot flushes and night sweats can also impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep
- Practical advice on how to have a more comfortable night when temperatures rise
Hot summer days can mean long, warm nights that make sleep difficult, particularly if you are already coping with menopausal symptoms such as hot night sweats and fatigue.
Here, balance takes you through some top tips on keeping cool when the mercury rises.
Why do I find it hard to sleep during the perimenopause and menopause?
Sleep issues can be common during the menopause due to hormone changes. The hormones estrogen and testosterone both have important effects on your brain, including helping with the quality and duration of sleep. Low estrogen levels can also lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, weight gain, and mood changes, all symptoms that can be exacerbated by a lack of sleep.
The hormones progesterone is also beneficial for sleep: it increases the production of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a chemical in your brain that works to help sleep. Progesterone can also improve relaxation and mood, and a drop in progesterone levels can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness and trouble sleeping, including a tendency to wake up frequently.
Add to that you may be getting up in the night to use the toilet, and the fact disturbed sleep pushes up production of the hormone cortisol, which can make you feel anxious and on edge and increase the number of hot flushes.
A bad night’s sleep can also disrupt the production of the hormone melatonin, which is believed to have a role in regulating the body’s temperature and may impact the number of hot flushes you have.
How can I keep cool on a hot night?
It’s much easier to get to sleep and stay asleep if you are on the cool side of comfortable rather than warm, especially if you have hot flushes and night sweats. However that can be easier said than done on a sticky summer’s evening.
Try having a fan on a low setting to help cool your room without being noisy enough to keep you awake.
You could also try bed coverings made from natural fabrics will help wick away any sweat. And while stripping off when you are feeling hot might sound appealing, if you are having night sweats the sweat will remain on your skin and take you longer to cool down.
And some people also swear by a lukewarm rather than cold shower shortly before bed.
Why you need to practice good sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the routines and practices that promote good sleep. It’s about getting your mind and body into a favourable state for sleep, and making your bedroom the best possible environment to fall asleep in.
- avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. Both are stimulants that can disrupt your sleep cycle, so if you have menopause-related sleep issues this could exacerbate them. The evidence on whether caffeinated or alcoholic drinks contribute to hot flushes is mixed, anecdotally many women will say they find these beverages to be triggers [1,2].
- try and curb time spent on mobiles and tablets at the end of the day. Blue light in the evening disrupts your brain’s natural sleepwake cycles. There are several ways to block blue light in the evening, including dimming or turning off the lights in your home and amber tinted reading glasses
- keep your room as dark as possible as it helps your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Try blackout blinds or curtains.
Speak to a healthcare professional about treatment
While it won’t be able to do anything about the temperature outside, HRT replaces hormones and eases symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and urinary symptoms that can contribute to keeping you awake a night. Speak to a healthcare professional for an individualised conversation.
And remember to keep hydrated
If the weather is hot, and you are having regular night sweats and hot flushes, you are going to be losing water through sweat.
This leaves you at higher risk of dehydration, which is particularly important when you are menopausal as it can lead to a surge of adrenaline.
Adrenaline, the so-called fight-or-flight hormone, further pushes up the number and intensity of your hot flushes.
So drink plenty of cool water to keep yourself hydrated and ward off spikes of adrenaline. You can use the balance menopause support app to track water and food intake.
Sievert, L. L., Obermeyer, C. M., Price, K. (2006). ‘Determinants of hot flashes and night sweats’, Annals of Human Biology, 33(1), pp.4–16. doi.org/10.1080/03014460500421338
Schilling C., Gallicchio L., Miller S.R., Langenberg P., Zacur H., Flaws J.A. (2007), ‘Current alcohol use, hormone levels, and hot flashes in midlife women’, Fertility and Sterility, 87 (6), pp.1483-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2006.11.033