Published on Feb 28, 2020
Authored by Charanjeet Singh, MBBS
Do you often wake in the middle of the night feeling hot and drenched in sweat? As if someone has thrown a bucket of water over the bed?
Night sweats are a common symptom in menopause that can have a significant effect on your sleep quality – not to mention adding to your laundry pile. We explain more about night sweats, their possible causes, and share some practical tips to help you manage them.
Night sweats are the nocturnal sister of hot flushes. Women often describe feeling heat, flushing and intense sweating that result in waking at night and bedsheets soaked in sweat, almost as if they’ve run a marathon in their sleep.
One Australian study found that women report night sweats more often during late perimenopause – the years before the final period – and up to three years after menopause.2
Along with profuse sweating, many women experience reddening of their skin, nausea, a racing or pounding heartbeat, and heavy breathing. Unsurprisingly, night sweats can alter sleep patterns and lead to feelings of tiredness, fatigue and stress, which increases the risk of insomnia and mood disorders.
Scientists are puzzled by the causes of night sweats, but it’s believed that they occur because of changes to the hypothalamus – the part of our brain that controls temperature – during menopause.
Normally the hypothalamus tells the body to cool-down by sweating when it reaches certain temperature thresholds, and warm-up by shivering when drops to certain temperature thresholds. But during menopause, these thresholds grow closer together.
Thankfully, there is plenty you can do to lessen the chance of night sweats and ease their effects:
Last reviewed: 26/02/2020
- Jean Hailes Foundation: Menopause
- Australasian Menopause Society