If you didn’t know the harsh reality of what a hot flash is and what it does, the term can almost sound sexual. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. For the 75 percent of menopausal women who experience hot flashes, sex is often the last thing on their minds. Hot flashes involve sudden and recurring sensations of heat and sweating — a look that doesn’t exactly make a person feel sexy.
Even worse, hot flashes can trigger anxiety and depression since they can strike at any moment: at the office, on your commute, and, yes, even in bed. Sleeping next to your partner can generate a lot of body heat, resulting in night sweats. For some, it can mean an ongoing argument about the thermostat. For others, it leads to sleeping in separate bedrooms.
Hot flashes can put your relationship in peril. Here’s how to handle the everyday repercussions of hot flashes without sacrificing your sex life.
Night sweats are basically hot flashes that happen at night. They present their own set of problems: Waking up drenched in sweat regularly means disrupted sleep patterns and less energy during the day. If you and your partner sleep in the same bed, night sweats can be triggered by the other person’s body heat.
Not surprisingly, a bout of night sweats probably won’t put you in the mood for sex. To avoid night sweats, try these tips:
- Turn down the temperature, open a window, or turn on a fan in your room before going to sleep.
- Consider investing in cooling bed sheets made with breathable, moisture-wicked fabrics.
- Trying wicking sleepwear or cooling pajamas created to combat night sweats. Or, better yet, try sleeping in the nude.
- Make deep-breathing exercises part of your bedtime routine.
- See your doctor if your night sweats are severely impacting your sex life.
It’s true that menopause can cause changes in your sex drive. Some women experience a gradual decrease in sexual interest, while others have more sex as a result of becoming empty-nesters. But hot flashes can impact your sex life, too. If they’re bad enough that they keep you up at night, sleep becomes a much bigger priority than sex.
If hot flashes are directly impacting your sex life, there’s a good chance that they are severe and you should talk to your doctor, who can help you decide if hormone therapy is right for you. If it isn’t, he or she might prescribe a low-dose antidepressant, a blood pressure medication, an anti-seizure drug, or another remedy that’s right for you.
Sleeplessness during perimenopause can be brutal: 56 percent of menopausal women get less than seven hours of sleep every night. Since estrogen helps promote sleep, the falling estrogen can mean fewer zzz’s. Hot flashes and night sweats also prevent sleep, and they’re exhausting.
If you find yourself yawning 24/7, there’s a good chance that you’re too zonked to make time for sex. But this is when it’s more important than ever to prioritize sex. It may not sound sexy, but planning sex can go a long way in strengthening your relationship. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to.
Menopause mood swings are fairly common, thanks to fluctuating levels of hormones after 40. Some women experience anxiety and develop panic disorders, especially those who have been prone to anxiety in the past or had postpartum depression. But other symptoms can be the cause of anxiety.
Because anxiety can make it difficult to get close to a partner, it’s easy for your sex life to suffer. If your anxiety gets in the way of your everyday life or if you experience panic attacks regularly, speak with your doctor. You might opt to find a therapist who can help you with any anxiety related to sex.
Self-care is important for banishing both anxiety and hot flashes. Eating a balanced diet, making time for exercise, and getting enough sleep is essential for easing anxiety.
There’s no way around it: hot flashes can be debilitating, taking a toll on many aspects of your life -— including your sex life. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle and seeing your doctor regularly can make a big difference in the severity of your hot flashes. And don’t forget: They won’t last forever.
To learn more, read 7 Biggest Myths About Hot Flashes.