There’s a lot to love about late summer – sun-filled days, alfresco dining and light, floaty dresses. But, there are other things – particularly for menopausal women – that aren’t so good, namely hot, sticky nights compounded by changing hormones.
Approximately 80 per cent of women experience night sweats and hot flushes as they go through the menopause as a side-effect of the drop in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
Of course, hormone-related overheating can happen at any time of year, but when your hypothalamus gland – the part of your brain that controls temperature – is already challenged by warmer weather, staying sweat-free while you sleep can get tricky in the summer heat.
There are some fundamental ways to reduce overheating at night, such as keeping the room cool, and avoiding caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol. But as well as this, you could try some lesser-known natural solutions so you can stop getting all hot and bothered in the bedroom – unless you want to, of course!
The relaxation response
Oestrogen has a calming effect and if it’s in short supply, the stress hormone, cortisol, can dominate. This can lead to sleep-spoiling niggles such as headaches, pains and anxiety.
But you can tackle this with a meditative technique called the ‘relaxation response’, pioneered in the 1970s by Dr Herbert Benson. It’s designed to instil a deep sense of relaxation resulting in enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, and stress relief – all of which will help to ease night sweats and other menopausal symptoms.
- Find a quiet space and sit with your eyes closed.
- Breathe deeply though your nose in a steady way.
- Choose a word, sound, or phrase that has meaning to you and repeat silently.
- Still repeating your chant, and focusing on this rather than any thoughts that may enter your mind, consciously relax your muscles, starting with your feet, through your legs, stomach, chest, arms and all the way to your face.
- Continue your silent chant and steady breathing for 10 to 20 minutes until you feel soothed.
Your bed linen is one of the easiest factors that can be altered for comfortable sleep. What you want to be aiming for is temperature regulation rather than just cooling, because otherwise you can end up feeling too cold, or even cause your body to sweat more, as it tries to find a balance.
The solution? Surprisingly it’s wool – particularly that from the adorable alpaca. ‘The natural thermo-regulating properties of alpaca wool make it ideal duvet material,’ says Paul Whittey, founder of soft furnishing and bedding manufacturer Penrose Products. Try a 100 per cent alpaca duvet (from £144, penroseproducts.com). French flax linen can absorb up to 40 times more moisture than cotton, so it’s also worth trying this fabric (from £50, pigletinbed.com).
Feel good with exercise
Exercise reduces hot flushes according to a survey of menopausal women at the University of Granada. Try a mix of cardio and strength four or five times a week and do some yoga before bed. Women who did weekly 90-minute yoga sessions, with 11-13 poses and Yoga Nidra – a 20-30 minute meditative practice experienced significantly fewer night sweats, according to the journal Menopause.
- To practise Yoga Nidra, lay with support under your knees and head to follow the natural curve of your body.
- Focus your attention inward to how you’re feeling.
- Stay aware of your breath.
- Scan your body looking for areas of tension, or simply seeing what sensations you find.
- Welcome any feelings without dwelling on them.
- At the end, reflect on the experience, without judgement.
Natural menopause relief
There are a variety of natural remedies many women swear by for reducing night sweats, such as sage and shatavari root, so seek out teas containing these ingredients to sip in the evening.
‘Sage is thought to work via the hypothalamus, to rebalance sweat regulation without interfering with the activity of sex hormones,’ says Alison Cullen, A.Vogel nutritional therapist and education manager. ‘This makes the herb suitable for those who cannot take oestrogenic remedies.’ Menoforce Sage tablets (£12.99, boots.com) contain an extract of fresh sage, organically grown on A.Vogel’s farm in Switzerland. If your flushes are mainly during the day, take the one-a-day dose with breakfast. If night sweats are the key problem take it with dinner.
‘Its effects can be swift, and it can be taken long-term to keep flushes at bay if necessary, because some women experience flushes returning on and off over several years,’ says Alison.
Instant cooling spray
For an instant cooling remedy, tuck a frozen bottle of water behind your knees. Or, get a mini-fridge, keep it by your bed and make sure it’s stocked with a spray bottle containing water to spritz your face and body for instant relief. Better yet, make it an aromatherapy spray by combining 6tbsp water and four drops each of peppermint oil (cooling on the skin), clary sage oil (hormone regulating), and lavender (soothing).
Heat up to cool down
It may seem counterintuitive to take a hot bath before bed, but it’s a very effective way to control your temperature.
Usually your body maintains a fairly stable core temperature. Your skin acts as a sensor, telling your brain whether you are hot, cold or comfortable. Then your circulatory system moves blood around the body, bringing it to the surface to release some of that heat if your brain tells it to.
In the cold your body retains heat, so a cool shower before bed actually increases your temperature and makes you sweat more. But in a hot environment, such as a warm bath, blood flow to your skin increases in an attempt to expel as much heat from the skin as possible.
Menopause rebalance retreat
If disturbed sleep is getting you down, it might be worth taking some time out for a full reset. Women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville and her team host retreats to help rebalance menopausal women, emotionally and physically. The four-day escape includes healing yoga and other sports, seminars on natural solutions, and advice on the best nutrition, plus food demos.