5 lifestyle strategies to minimise night sweats
Author: Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
Ever wondered how night sweats are triggered? In this article, Sleep and Energy Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan explains how to calm the nervous system and provides five simple lifestyle strategies to help minimise night sweats.
I’m sitting here listening to the rain thinking how cool it is. If you are approaching or going through the menopause and suffering from night sweats you will know the discomfort of this. I’m going to tell you a little bit about how the nervous system works and what can trigger night sweats, but more importantly I want to share with you some very practical ways to help minimise these discomforts and even avoid night sweats just by making some clever holistic lifestyle changes.
The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system runs virtually every single physiological system in the body which is divided into two branches – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.The sympathetic nervous system is to do with fight or flight, stress, adrenalin, cortisol – it helps you fight the challenges of life. The parasympathetic is to do with rest and repair, healing and recovery and getting a good night’s sleep. Ideally as we go through each day we want to find a good balance between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic – but as we go through the day we oscillate back and forth like a pendulum between the two roughly on a 90 minute cycle. If you paid attention to your energy you would find that every 90 minutes or so you would need to rest, you get tired, you need to get something to drink, to move, you need to eat something.
But often when we get caught up with trying to get everything done and especially at this time of life when we have so many more challenges, it’s hard to stop and rest and recover so what happens is the pendulum ends up swinging out so you find yourself constantly living in overdrive, constantly living in your sympathetic nervous system. When you get into bed at night, you will find you get massive swings back into the parasympathetic and night sweats occur.
The Five Non-Negotiables
I would like to share five simple lifestyle strategies with you to help minimise and reduce night sweats.
1. Eat breakfast every day within 30 minutes of waking
Often women find they can’t eat as soon as they have woken up as their stomach feels closed which is a sign in itself that the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. But it’s really important to eat within 30 minutes of getting up to stabilise your blood sugar levels which stops you running in sympathetic overdrive and it actually switches on the parasympathetic nervous system. Try to eat something however small.
Try to have no more than two cups of tea or coffee a day and ideally no caffeine after 3pm. This will cause the sympathetic nervous system to get even more revved up so the more caffeine you have the more you will accumulate heat in the body.
3. Drink at least 2 litres of water every day
In ayurveda or Indian medicine, water is thought to be very cooling. The human body is made up of over 70% water, so to minimise overheating we should be drinking at least two litres of water a day. You may want to alkalise the water to make it even more effective by squeezing a little lemon into it and a pinch of natural sea salt. Sip on this throughout the day.
4. Get at least four pre-midnight sleeps a week, preferably going to bed at 10pm
Four nights a week try to get into bed around 10 -10.30pm. This doesn’t mean you need to be asleep but be resting in bed. Getting this 90-minute phase before midnight is really important as it balances out the adrenal glands and the thyroid, and it controls the metabolism. When we don’t get this phase of sleep repeatedly over a period of time we build up heat in the nervous system which increases adrenalin and cortisol and leads to overheating.
5. Electronic sundown 1 hour before going to bed
This strategy is about developing a healthier relationship with technology – ideally an hour before you get into bed put your phone away, put your laptop away, if you are watching television – just watch television – try to make your bedroom a technology free zone. Why am I talking about technology in relationship to night sweats and overheating? Well every time we look at our devices we over stimulate the brain and produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is the wake-up chemical or the reward chemical and it adds to the sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity so every time you check your social media feed or look at several devices at the same time just think of yourself pressing the accelerator button on the sympathetic nervous system.
The aim is to start developing strategies that help to calm the nervous system and help to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system – all of this will minimise overheating.
Alongside these strategies, I would like to share with you a simple technique which will help you re-calibrate this pendulum swing as you go through your day. Five times a day check your breathing – first thing in the morning when you wake up, last thing at night as you are dropping off to sleep, then find three times during the day. Close your eyes, bring your attention into your body and notice your breathing. For a few minutes, draw your attention inwards and just notice your inhalation and exhalation as you breathe. What this does very powerfully and profoundly is recalibrates from sympathetic to parasympathetic and will help you feel more peaceful, more centred and more calm.
You can listen to a recording of this article below:
Further articles by Dr Nerina:
About the Author
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan PhD, is a physiologist who has specialised in maximising individual and organisational performance for over two decades. She is the author of Tired and Wired and her latest book – Fast Asleep, Wide Awake. Nerina has a strong belief that everyone can live a healthy and more fulfilling life by tapping into and nurturing their deepest inner resources. Her work, both with individuals and organisations, is dedicated to helping people to create greater balance, vitality, meaning and peace. Nerina works with the Nightingale Psychiatric Hospital in London on their sleep, energy & physical health programmes that are designed to support mental well-being. Her work has been featured in leading national press titles, she has appeared on GMTV, CNN and more recently, SKY NEWS talking about technology addiction. Nerina recently appeared on ITV’s This Morning show teaching the nation how to sleep peacefully. www.drnerina.com