Hot flashes differ from night sweats


You may think that a night sweat is just a hot flash that occurs at night. both vasomotor symptoms of menopause cause uncomfortable flushing and sweating. However, new research presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), held in Atlanta from October 12-15, finds that these are actually two different things. And while both increase the risk of depression, night sweats alone appear to be linked to more stress compared to hot flashes.

Experiencing vasomotor symptoms in midlife is very common

About 75% of perimenopausal women in the United States report having hot flashes and night sweats, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “The average duration of hot flashes and night sweats is seven to nine years, and about a third of women will flash for a decade or more. I’ve had women in their 80s in my office who still have them,” says Stephanie Faubion, MDNAMS Medical Director, and a NAMS-certified menopause practitioner.

How hot flashes differ from night sweats

Hot flashes can occur day or night, while night sweats usually only occur at night, explains the doctoral student Sofia Shreyer, lead author of the study from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Hot flashes cause intense feelings of heat but have shorter periods of sweating. There is a huge spike in sweating that happens very quickly. Night sweats produce profuse sweating, start gradually, last much longer, then slowly decrease.

Nighttime hot flashes are linked to an increased risk of depression

The University of Massachusetts study surveyed 200 postmenopausal women. The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (PDF) – as a measure of depression – and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) (PDF) were self-administered by the participants.

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After adjusting for menopausal status, financial stability, and marriage, the research team found that women who had both or one of the vasomotor symptoms were at higher risk for depression. Women who had more hot flashes at night than during the day had higher depression scores. “I think that makes perfect sense. If you wake up more often at night, you are bound to have mood swings and it will affect your daily life,” Shreyer said.

Do night sweats trigger stress?

Another interesting finding from the study was that women who suffered from night sweats had higher levels of stress than women who experienced hot flashes alone, whether day or night. “We know that sleep disturbances are one of the biggest harms for women going through menopause, but these results are unique because they show that women with night sweats, rather than just hot flashes, may be even more disadvantaged,” Shreyer said in a press release. In an interview, she added, “We are not yet sure about the relationship between night sweats and stress. Do night sweats cause stress, or do women with more stressful lifestyles end up having more night sweats? This requires further study.

More research is needed on the impact of vasomotor effects

“This study adds to growing evidence that menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can significantly impair a woman’s quality of life and should be taken seriously by healthcare professionals. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of these symptoms and their overall effect on a woman’s experience of menopause,” Dr. Faubion said in a press release.

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Shreyer added: “Going forward, we really need to consider night sweats as a separate part and a clearly more serious symptom of menopause; a symptom that, more than hot flashes, has the potential to disrupt women’s lives and wreak havoc on their daily routines.

Talk to your provider about menopausal symptoms

If you find that your life is being disrupted by hot flashes or night sweats, see your healthcare professional. Treatments for vasomotor symptoms are available; there are hormonal therapies, non-hormonal therapies, and lifestyle changes that can help you cope with these symptoms.


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