Hot flushes. Just thinking about the menopause is enough to bring many of us out in a full-blown sweat. But the menopause can be something to celebrate, not freak out about. After all, it puts an end to PMS and pregnancy fears, and may even give you a new lust for life!
Here’s how you can make hot flushes – one of the most common symptoms of the menopause transition - less challenging, so you can get a better night’s sleep.
Cut the caffeine
Caffeine and alcohol can both exacerbate hot flushes; reducing your intake may also help you sleep. Just 50 per cent of one cup of coffee can take 5-7 hours to leave your body, according to neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker in ‘Why We Sleep’. This means caffeine will still be having an effect when you go to bed. Tielle contributor, nutritionist Libby Limon, advises switching to decaf and avoiding drinking caffeinated beverages after midday in her article ‘Eat Your Way To a Good Night’s Sleep’. Sleep-stealing caffeine is also found in foods such as dark chocolate, flavoured ice-cream, headache remedies and even decaf beverages, but to a far lesser degree.
Wear cool clothes
Most people are aware of the risk of whiff when wearing synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon that trap sweat. For this reason, cooling fabrics such as loose-fitting cotton and silk that naturally wick away heat are far better if you’re getting hot flushes or night sweats. It will also help you avoid the embarrassment of wafting BO! Recent innovations in fabric has also led to a flurry of ‘anti-flush’ clothing from companies including Fifty One Apparel which uses ‘phase change’ technology developed by NASA, Become, Cucumber Clothing and Esteem - No Pause.
Layer the bed
If you’re prone to night sweats and tired of fighting with your bedclothes, swap your duvet for layers of easily removable cool, crisp sheets. Just make sure they’re 100% cotton as cotton blends such as poly-cotton will heat you up rather than cool you down. If bedtime isn’t the same without a cosy duvet to cocoon yourself in, sweat not, exchange your existing one for a lighter 4.5 tog summer weight duvet and add cotton layers you can easily remove. Read our guide on choosing the right duvet.
Turn Down the Heat
An ambient room temperature is important for switching on the body’s sleep mechanism and soothing you into a slumber-like state. “Keep a slightly cool temperature in the room between 66-72 F or 18-22 C” advises Libby Limon. If you feel a flush coming on, spray your face with cool water or use a cold gel pack, rather than standing in front of an open fridge door!
Embrace daily rituals
Stress can aggravate menopausal symptoms so meditation, exercise and other acts of self-care can have a positive effect on your daily life. Practising a daily calming breathing technique is perhaps one of the simplest ways to manage stress, and can be practised anywhere – on the tube, in bed or while having a relaxing bath (just keep it lukewarm, as overheating can cause hot flushes). Visit the NHS Moodzone: Breathing Exercise for Stress or meditation and mindfulness app headspace.com.
Other things you can do to improve your sleep:
- Consistency: Keep a relatively consistent bedtime and wake time. Staying up late and sleeping in on weekends can disrupt your routine during the week.
- Light: Keep the bedroom extremely dark to tell the body’s light-sensitive clock that it’s time to sleep.
- Noise: Keep the bedroom extremely quiet or use a white noise generator (such as a fan).
- Relaxation/routine: Develop a pre-bed routine that is relaxing and familiar. Television, work, computer use, movies and deep/stressful discussions late at night can disrupt sleep.
- Temperature: Keep a slightly cool temperature in the room, between 66-72 F or 18-22 C.
- Exercise: It’s not only good for a tight butt and big guns, it can help improve sleep.