I am celebrating the decreasing episodes of hot flashes that come with the cooler fall weather! I generally run a bit warm anyway, so the summer heat really plays havoc with my thermostat, often sending me into hot flashes both day and night. This past week though we had a drastic drop in temps, getting down to 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) at night….and wouldn’t you know it, the timing exactly coincided with a problem with the electricity to our heat pump.
We’ve been without heat for almost a week. Apparently it is good to be an electrician. There’s so much work you don’t even have to return phone calls.
The up-side to the freezing temps is that I have been so cold most of the past week that I have only had very few hot flashes, mostly after warming up under the covers in bed. (Thank God for our pellet stove and space heaters, which kept parts of the house warm enough to live in while we waited days for the electricians to call back and eventually get booked into their schedules! Yes, that was plural. Once they started calling back, I got appointments with three and will cancel the others once one of them actually shows up!)
I have noticed in summers past that my hot flashes seem worse during the hot weather and then subside most of the fall through spring. I wasn’t sure if this was just me, but then I read an article from a women’s healthcare clinic that explained the phenomenon: “Hot flashes are caused by an instability in your hypothalamus, which controls your body’s temperature. As the weather gets warmer and you spend more time outside, an ordinary hypothalamus has trouble regulating body heat, let alone a menopausal one. This leads to more frequent and more severe hot flashes.”
The article goes on to provide helpful tips for dealing with the heat such as wearing loose clothing, using a fan at night, eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies and keeping cold water on hand both for hydration and cooling down. I have used all of these ideas and more and will say my favorite is the portable fan that runs on my nightstand all night long. It is fairly quiet and just small enough that I can aim it wherever I need it and the air rarely reaches my wife. Often, if I can cool down my face fast enough, I am able to avoid a full-blown hot flash.
Now that the cool weather is here, cooling down quickly is so much easier! Whereas during the summer turning my little fan towards me at night blew slightly cool air at me, now the air is actually cold! It is easy to cool down quickly, thus avoiding full hot flashes most of the time. Some nights, I don’t even need to direct the fan towards me at all. What a relief!
What isn’t a relief? Finding out the hot flashes could last 10–15 years. My sister is going on 13 years now…..though they are certainly less frequent and severe than they used to be. While researching how long hot flashes generally last, I found an article from Harvard Medical School reporting that the old idea of hot flashes only lasting 6–24 months was wrong. It seems 7 years or more is not uncommon.
Due to the fact that hot flashes, especially those that disrupt sleep, take a serious toll on women’s health, they recommend women really bothered by them seek treatment. Treatments include hormone therapy and non-hormonal options such as antidepressants and medications targeting nerve pain. All of these have some serious side-effects that have dissuaded me from choosing any such options. For folks like me, some of the self-remedies recommended include finding ways to stay cool, deep breathing, meditation and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods. (Personally, I take my chances with a glass of wine now and then, and spicy foods….uh…..almost always.)
So, if you are experiencing hot flashes, take heart as the cool weather heads your way. It just might be your chance to feel mostly normal again and get some good sleep!