Managing Night Sweats:  Maybe it’s the Humidity

Peri-menopausal and menopausal hot flashes and night sweats are an underappreciated health problem for millions of women.  The symptoms can be both irritating and embarrassing, but the underlying health implications are far more profound than most realize. It’s safe to say that if you get overly warm during the day, the heat exchange problem doesn’t go away at night.   When warmer core blood is shunted to the skin during sleep, you can be pulled from deep to light sleep, and lose precious time in the mode where much of your daily regeneration and repair work occurs.

Heat induced loss of deep sleep will significantly erode the ability to restore your physical, mental and emotional energy reserves during that critical time frame.  You don’t even have to wake up and fling the covers off to suffer from this deficit.  Sleep studies show that many women who had excess body heat could still suffer considerable losses in deep sleep and its benefits, even if they were “unconscious for 8 straight hours”.

For many individuals, individualized bio-identical hormone support therapy can effectively manage much of the 24 hours a day heat exchange problem that is at the root of many, if not most menopausal symptoms.  But at times, whether you are on therapy or not, it’s the humidity as much as the heat that provokes night time awakenings.  As we in the South, as well as many others throughout the US experience for several months a year, the phrase “but it’s a dry heat” does not apply.  When humidity goes up, the ability to get rid of heat effectively goes down dramatically.  You may have heard of the heat index where for example, 80 degrees at 70% humidity will feel like 86 degrees would at 50% humidity.  Effectively, this means that you could feel 6 degrees cooler by reducing the humidity 20%.  We all intuitively know that even when humid air is cooled to 72 degrees, it still feels clammy and ‘heavy’.

One simple remedy that I have found to be helpful for the night sweat gifted who are also geographically and humidity challenged is to get a small space dehumidifier and run it 7/24 in your sleeping quarters.  Most bedrooms are in the 250-350 square foot range, and there are many small and quiet units that cover this room size efficiently.  My patients have  found several reliable brands that run in the $50-150 range.  You can easily find them at your local home center or online; try a browser search under “buy dehumidifier for small space”.  Look for something that can remove up to 600-800 cc of water per day, with an auto shutoff (so the reservoir won’t overflow), and quiet operation—less than 30-40 dB of noise.  For example, the iSiLER brand with a 2-liter tank that I found on Amazon is an example which fits these requirements and runs ~$85.  You could also try a smaller $50 model and add a second unit across the room if the one unit alone doesn’t quite do the job.

If you give this a go, remember to check and possibly empty the reservoir daily.  You may be surprised how much water can be wrung out of humid air.  And be sure to keep the bedroom door closed as much of time as possible.  By doing this, you don’t have to treat the whole house, which would require a much larger unit.

If you can remove 10-20 oz of water per day from your bedroom air, you may find that a 70-72 degree cool AND dry condition go a long way toward ensuring that you–and your bed partner… get sleep that is both deep and restful.

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