Overcome Hot Flashes at Night — And Those Cold Chill
Discover the reasons behind nightly hot flashes and cold chills, and try these tips for keeping them in check.
You wake up suddenly, drenched in sweat and feeling as though a heat wave has blown through the room. Then you get chills from the sweat clinging to your skin. Now that you’re awake and uncomfortable, you have trouble falling asleep again.
Some sweating during sleep is normal and healthy. But sleep-disturbing night sweats occur when someone experiences a hot flash at night. A hot flash is a sudden sensation of intense heat that seems to hit your body all at once. Your face may flush, and sweat may prickle on your skin. Chills often follow hot flashes or night sweats because the sweat does its job—cooling off the body.
Hot flashes typically only last a few minutes, but they can feel deeply uncomfortable. While they are often annoying or frustrating during the day, the disruption they cause at night is often worse. Night sweats can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep or even cause insomnia. Not getting a good night’s sleep can then cause or exacerbate other health problems.
Why You May Experience Hot Flashes at Night
The most common reason for hot flashes in women is menopause. In fact, up to three in four women experience hot flashes that can last anywhere from a few years up to a decade, according to The North American Menopause Society. Decreasing estrogen levels are the primary culprit for hot flashes during menopause.
But menopause is not the only reason for hot flashes. Other hormonal changes can cause them as well, in women and men. People with thyroid dysfunction or people taking hormonal medications to treat cancer and other conditions may experience them.
Certain infections can cause hot flashes, even if someone doesn’t notice other symptoms.
Researchers are still learning how flashes develop, but they seem to happen because of changes in the part of the brain that regulates temperature, called the hypothalamus. If the hypothalamus incorrectly senses that a person’s body has gotten too hot, it enlarges the blood vessels near the skin’s surface. Blood flow rushes toward the skin as the body attempts to release the heat. Paradoxically, it’s that rush of blood flow that makes you feel hot.
Short of telling your brain to knock it off (which doesn’t seem to work), there are things you can do to lower the frequency or severity of night sweats and reduce your discomfort when they happen.
Notice Your Triggers for Hot Flashes
Start paying attention to what happens shortly before a hot flash. See if you can identify what your body’s common triggers are so you can try to avoid them. The following are common triggers for hot flashes and night sweats:
- Spicy food
- Smoking or secondhand smoke
- Hot baths
- Tight or heavy clothing
Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Making minor changes to your bedroom can help make night sweats less intense and help you feel comfortable faster, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Turn down the temperature in your bedroom
- Use a ceiling fan or portable fan in your bedroom
- Remove your blankets and sheets or use temperature balancing bedding
- Wear lightweight clothing to sleep and remove layers of clothing
- Keep ice water by your bed to sip when you wake up
- Use cooling sprays or gels
- Turn your pillow over when you wake up
Reduce Stress Through Healthy Habits
Research shows exercise improves quality of life in women experiencing hot flashes.
If stress is one of your triggers for hot flashes, using stress reduction techniques during the day may reduce the frequency of night sweats:
- Deep breathing techniques like this 4-7-8 technique from the Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number
- Mindfulness meditation
- Self-calming exercises, such as visualization
In the evening, develop a calming routine that helps you wind down before you climb between the sheets. This might include dimming the lights, avoiding screens and drinking a cup of herbal tea.
One way to bring most of these techniques together at once is trying the Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number. This free 30-day online wellness plan helps you develop better sleep habits so you have more energy and feel better during the day. The challenge teaches you how to set up a sleep schedule, and learn how sleep relates to eating, exercise and managing your mental health.
Results have shown that 82% of people who take it experience improved sleep quality, and 74% improve or change a poor sleep habit.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Some people try herbal remedies for hot flashes and night sweats, but there is little evidence that these are effective. If lifestyle changes and the tips above are not enough to manage your night sweats, speak with your healthcare provider.
How to Sleep Better — Even with Hot Flashes at Night
Check out these great articles with more information about sleep, temperature and the health benefits of getting quality sleep.
- Everything about Temperature and Sleep
- The Perfect Temperature for Sleeping
- What to Eat for an Energetic Day and Restful Sleep
- Why Do I… Sweat When I Sleep?
- 5 Surprising Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.