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Hot flushes

Hot flushes

Wondering why your feeling a bit hotter - needing to wear layers just to keep cool? We explain exactly what causes the dreaded hot flush. It's the most common symptom associated with menopause, and there's a few tips on how to deal with them.
Hot Flushes

What is a hot flush?

A hot flush is the feeling of intense heat in the upper body, face and arms. Because of this intense and firey heat, the face will flush and the body will sweat a lot to try and cool itself down.

After a hot flush a woman may feel a chill - in response to all the sweating. This is because the body is trying to cool down so intensely. Unexplained Anxiety is another common companion of the hot flush - as they can be embarrassing to cope with.

Hot flushes can occur at any time and the triggers are not well understood at the moment. It's a real shame there's not more out there on what triggers these unnerving waves of heat. Some women keep track of their hot flushes, with their own personal triggers. This helps women understand their own personal triggers so they can try to avoid them. It doesn't work for everyone, but may be worth a try if you're really suffering. Have a look at our article on 'Tracking your symptoms' if you think this may help you manage your hot flushes.

And what's a night sweat?

A night sweat is a hot flush that happens at night. For some women they are mild - whilst others report waking soaked in sweat. Night sweats can cause big disturbances to your normal sleep patterns, which can have knock on effects on your mood, concentration, energy levels and overall wellbeing.

What causes hot flushes?

Unfortunately we do not yet know exactly what causes hot flushes and night sweats. The current medical view is that hot flushes happen because the area of the brain which controls our temperature narrows with age. This area of the brain is called the hypothalamus.

How can you manage them?

About 75% of postmenopausal women report some form of hot flush, with 29% saying they are severe. Hot flushes and night sweats may happen for many years (often between 5 and 7) - so we thought it would be nice to share a few strategies to manage them.

There's a number of hot flush triggers which are commonly cited, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Spicy food
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking. So it might be sensible to try cutting these down if one of them is your personal vice. Sadly, these are all things we love - so no judgement here.

Some other things to try are:

  • Having a fan beside the bed
  • Keeping your bedroom cool
  • Taking a cool shower before bed
  • Running cold water over your wrists
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy to manage your response to flushes [3]
  • Trying to reduce stress levels with mindfulness or meditation.

In summary - hot flushes and night sweats are very common symptoms of hormone levels changing. This doesn't make them easy, and sadly there's aren't loads of easy things you can do to stop them. If you are really suffering, we suggest keeping a log of your flushes and triggers. Then see if you start to see patterns you can try cutting things down/out. You may also want to get invest in a thinner duvet...

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  1. Hillard, T., Abernathy, K., Hamoda, H., Shaw, I., Everett, M., Ayres, J. and Currie, H., 2017. Management Of The Menopause. 6th ed. British Menopause Society.

  2. nhs.uk. n.d. Hot Flushes. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/hot-flushes/ [Accessed 10 October 2019].

  3. British Menopause Society. 2017. New Factsheets On Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) For Menopausal Symptoms | British Menopause Society. [online] Available at: https://thebms.org.uk/2017/02/new-factsheets-cognitive-behaviour-therapy-cbt-menopausal-symptoms/.

  4. Nice.org.uk. 2015. Overview | Menopause: Diagnosis And Management | Guidance | NICE. [online] Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23.