As if night sweats alone aren’t enough, the impact on sleep can be immense and lead to a whole host of other problems.
Believe it or not but, one of the main impacts that night sweats has on sleep is the worry about not getting enough sleep! This is natural given that when we’re tired, we often can’t perform as well at work or do the things we enjoy to have fun or support our wellbeing.
What can I do?
There are, thankfully, some things you can do to improve your sleep patterns and the impact that night sweats have on your general wellbeing.
It’s important to create good habits around your sleep patterns and where you sleep.
Keeping light to a minimum is really key in creating melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body. Its main purpose is to control your sleep patterns. The production and release of melatonin is liked to your sleep pattern in that it increases when it is dark and reduces when exposed to light. It also decreases naturally with age.
Keeping your bedroom dark will help with increasing production. This also includes limiting exposure to light emitted from televisions, mobile phones and tablets at night.
Caffeine & stimulants
It’s no big secret that caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and quality of sleep. Caffeine and alcohol also trigger hot flushes in lots of women so it’s a double whammy! Trying to avoid either of these in the few hours before bed will improve how you sleep.
Your body naturally cools as you sleep so keeping your environment cool is also helpful in reducing the impact of night sweats. This can be either turning radiators off or down, opening a window or using a fan.
Having a routine that helps you wind down and get ready for bed is important to help calm your mind and relax your body. Try to have a routine for the hour or 2 before you go to bed and practise it every night. Our brains respond well to routine and having one will mean you go to bed relaxed and ready for rest. The routine can be anything that fits with your lifestyle and interests. For example, you might want to have a bath, read, walk the dog, have a chamomile tea, do a paced breathing exercise etc. Basically you want to try and avoid anything too stimulating like watching action movies or scrolling social media.
Regular lie-ins and naps during the day can really disrupt sleep patterns. It can rob you of falling asleep easily at a regular time at night. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day to maintain a pattern. If you must nap, try to avoid it after 3pm.
When you’ve had a shitty nights sleep, it’s easy to compensate the next day and cancel plans or nap. Research shows though that it’s better to try and carry on with your usual routine and plans. Cancelling things and napping can establish unhelpful thinking and behaviour patterns and this can have a long term adverse effect.
What about the night sweats?
Making these changes won’t eliminate night sweats but will improve your sleep quality. When the inevitable night sweats do happen it’s important to build on the work you’ve done to continue to stay calm. Using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques can be really effective.
Instead of staying in bed and stressing about the sweats, get up when it comes on and do what you need to do to cool down. This might be having a cold glass of water, holding an ice pack on your body or putting your feet into cold water. Whatever it is you do.
Whilst you’re doing this, make sure to pay attention to your thoughts. For example, you’re likely feeling negatively about the night sweats but it’s important to take your focus off that and to shift it to your breathing instead.
Examples of “catastrophic” thinking include “I won’t be able to function tomorrow” or “I’ll never get back into a proper sleep routine”.
Once you’ve cooled off, get back into bed and focus on some paced breathing or a relaxation exercise.
If you lie in bed and worry about the negative thoughts it will just stop you from getting back to sleep. It’s so much better to allocate yourself time during the day to deal with them. If you find them creeping in whilst you’re in bed just say to yourself “I’ll deal with this tomorrow when I’m feeling more alert and thinking clearly”.
Instead of engaging with the catastrophic thinking, shift to a more positive thought such as “I’ve managed before so I know I can cope” or “I can prioritise what I need to do tomorrow and the distraction will be good to help me get on with my day”.
Practising this can help you feel more in control and can begin to limit the impact that night sweats have on you overall.
If you’re interested in hearing more about CBT and how it can help with night sweats and hot flushes, please contact me here.