Sweat savvy

A peaceful night's sleep can do the world of good for your night sweats

Eileen Durward
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22 January 2013

Night numbers

Strangely enough, what you should be doing during the night is cycling. Not out there on the road but snug in your bed, travelling through the various stages of sleep in nice regular cycles.

There are five stages, the first two of which are preliminaries, allowing you to unwind in preparation for slipping into sleep. You don’t spend that long in these stages, but speed along into stage three, where your brainwaves change to a different rhythm and you’re really asleep. When a sweat (or anything else) wakens you out of this stage, you’ll be confused and probably quite grumpy, taking a while to figure out where you are and what’s going on.

Once you get to stage four, your body is busy doing repairs and restoration work. If you’re continually being woken up before you get to this stage, or during your time in this stage, your body won’t get the chance to fix everything properly.

Hence, you’re more likely to feel physically un-refreshed and more aware of aches and pains than when you sleep well. You’re tired because you haven’t had the hours of sleep you need, but specifically you are missing out on the repair time, and that hurts. People who sleep less are more aware of pain – their pain perception increases. How unfair is that?

Dream on

Getting to stage five necessitates staying asleep for about eighty to ninety minutes, something many women’s night sweats just don’t permit.

In this stage you dream, processing all the events of the day and organising your thoughts into coherent (ok, less incoherent) packages and filing everything neatly away ready for the next day. Missing out on this stage means mental fogginess, memory lapses, and lack of ability to concentrate and feel in control.

Given the chances of making it into this stage with any kind of regularity are pretty slim for those of us waking up every hour or so wet to the skin, mental coherence is merely a dry dream. No wonder you feel unravelled.

Oh, and sleep deprivation makes you more likely to put on weight. Kick a woman when she’s down.

Splendid snoozing

You can’t fast track through the menopause, but there are ways you can minimise the disruption to your nights.

  • No heavy meals in the evening – if you eat a big dinner your metabolism will be firing on all cylinders at night and adding to the conflagration you’re already experiencing
  • No tea or coffee – this may feel like another punishment, but caffeine really isn’t any help right now. It might get you up and running temporarily after a disastrous night but it drains your adrenal glands, which makes you jumpier and more agitated. Also, many women find that they flush more after drinking caffeine. Remember caffeine is in chocolate too…. Sorry….
  • Cotton nightclothes – ditch the slinky silk numbers and get with practical cotton, which is more ‘breathable’ and dries faster.
  • Quell anxiety with breathing exercises (Breath Better, Feel Better by Howard Kent is useful for simple, straightforward exercises), as waves of anxiety can trigger sweats. Hypericum, extra magnesium, Relaxation or Night Essence may all help, and don’t forget to take Sage before bed.
  • Drink heaps of water to compensate for fluid lost through sweats, to avoid waking up with a thumping headache.
  • If you are sleeping with someone not plagued with heat waves and therefore wishful of a warm duvet, try a mixed tog duvet with one side lighter than the other – they are available out there.
  • A wool mattress pad or topper may sound like madness – surely it is introducing yet more warmth into your own personal tropical zone? Well actually the natural fibres in wool soak up the sweat very efficiently, and thus keep you drier. They also go in the machine easily for a quick wash.

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