Night sweats and disturbed sleep after the menopause

a profile photo of Dr Helen Hartley
Medical Director, Healthcare Management, Bupa Insurance
22 October 2020
Next review due October 2023

Before your periods stop and for some time after menopause, you might find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. For example, over three in ten people are woken by night sweats after the menopause. Many also find it hard to get to sleep and may wake often, even up to a dozen times a night.

If you’re already struggling with menopause symptoms in the day, especially if you have a busy life, then a bad night’s sleep isn’t going to help. You may find it harder to cope with work, and poor sleep can lead to depression and anxiety. However, treatment for night sweats is available and there are lots of self-help tips to try, as well.

Almost two-thirds of people going through the menopause say they suffer from insomnia, whether or not they have night sweats. This can mean tossing and turning while you struggle to fall asleep, waking often in the night, and repeatedly waking too early in the morning.

Even though they aren’t always connected, dealing with your night sweats can also help you deal with your insomnia, and vice versa. That’s why I’ve linked them here. It’s important to try and improve your sleep because it can help you stay healthier for longer.

What do night sweats feel like?

You might wake up when you’re about to have a night sweat caused by the menopause, also known as a ‘menopause sweat’ – this is actually a night-time hot flush. Or it might be the sensation of being sweaty that wakes you. Some people wake up drenched in sweat, on soaked sheets.

As for how long menopause sweats last, most people stop having them after a couple of years. However, for a small number of people they may continue for the long term.

Why does menopause affect your sleep?

Menopause means you eventually stop producing the hormone progesterone, which has a role in helping you sleep. Besides night sweats, during menopause you are also two to three times more likely to have sleep apnoea than before. Perhaps you have restless legs at night, or very hot feet. And if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, that can keep you awake, too.

Why does menopause cause night sweats?

Night sweats are caused for the most part because your body stops making oestrogen. Oestrogen helps you regulate your body temperature by getting rid of heat. Like hot flushes, low oestrogen levels affect how the brain regulates temperature, with the result that small changes in body temperature are more likely to cause sweating or shivering.

Is there a treatment for night sweats?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be a very effective treatment for menopause sweats. However, not everyone wants to take HRT, or their medical history might prevent them, so your GP might suggest other medications that can help with hot flushes.

Here are my self-help tips to help you achieve a bit more control over your menopause sweats.

  • Do wear something loose and light in bed, such as a nightie or pyjamas. Although this sounds like it would make you hotter, it can actually help to absorb the sweat.
  • Consider layering your bedding as you would your clothes, so you can peel them away as necessary if you get too hot. Natural fibres like cotton or silk may feel more comfortable to wear than synthetic nightwear or sheets.
  • Keep a glass of cold water by the bed to cool and rehydrate you in the night.
  • Keep a fresh change of sheets and nightwear close to or under your bed.
  • Have a window slightly open.
  • Try to eat a healthy diet. Being overweight can make menopause sweats worse.

How can you sleep better after the menopause?

When it comes to medication, it’s better to treat your menopause symptoms than to treat the sleeplessness. In other words, sleeping tablets aren’t the answer. HRT or other medications may help, but there are also things you can do yourself.

  • Don’t try to catch up by napping during the day.
  • Exercise can help with your mood and can tire you just enough to help you fall asleep more easily.
  • In the hours before bed, avoid looking at screens, smoking, heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Try to follow a bedtime routine, especially one that de-stresses you. A warm bath can be soothing.
  • If stress and anxiety are keeping you awake, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help.

If you’re really struggling, I recommend you talk to your GP. Getting enough sleep is important for both your physical and mental health.

If you’re struggling with menopause symptoms, or want to support someone who is, we’re here to help. There’s lots of information, expert advice and signposting on the menopause pages within our Women’s Health Hub, and you don’t need to be a Bupa customer to access any of it.

a profile photo of Dr Helen Hartley
Dr Helen Hartley
Medical Director, Healthcare Management, Bupa Insurance

    • Management of the Menopause, British Menopause Society, 6th edition. 2017. London
    • New survey highlights impact of the menopause on every aspect of women’s lives in the UK. Women’s Health Concern., published October 2017
    • Sleep and the menopause., last reviewed July 2018
    • Menopause and sleep. Sleep Foundation., accessed October 2020
    • How does menopause affect my sleep? John Hopkins Medicine., accessed October 2020
    • Dealing with menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Healthline., updated March 2019
    • Night sweats. NHS., last reviewed December 2017
    • Sleep problems and menopause: what can I do? National Institute on Aging., last reviewed May 2017

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