If you are a woman in the middle of life, you may be waking up at night in a sweat, usually hot, but sometimes cold.
There is some good news for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes. Researchers in Sweden have discovered that women who were trained in relaxation therapy were actually able to reduce their menopausal symptoms, including their regular hot flashes. Hot flashes can be triggered by a wide variety of things. Diabetes, hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, cancer, infections, hormone disorders and neurological conditions can all be the cause of hot flashes and night sweats. They may also be brought on by stress, anxiety, alcohol, cigarettes, spicy foods or hot beverages.
You should also avoid tight, thick and restrictive clothing as well as hot baths, hot showers and saunas. You should also turn your thermostat down a few degrees and try to keep your bedroom as cool as possible at night when trying to sleep.
Hot flashes experienced by women around the time of menopause are usually described as a sudden onset of a warm feeling in the face, neck, and chest, which can last from a few seconds to several minutes. For some women, they are accompanied by nausea, headache, insomnia, fatigue, perspiration, and/or palpitations, all of which may increase discomfort and anxiety. Some women may feel cold afterward.
You may be accustomed to thinking of your body as a nonstop powerhouse that thrives on stress and performs best under pressure. Even if that belief held true when you were twenty, it doesn't hold true now. Your body and mind need adequate amounts of rest and enjoyment, especially during the years preceding menopause.
The Swedish researchers at Linkoping University Hospital observed healthy women who saw a doctor for moderate to severe menopausal symptoms that happened at least 50 times a week. The women were separated into two groups: one that had 10 sessions of group relaxation therapy and the other that received no treatment.
For the first week, the women observed and recorded what they felt before and during a hot flash or other menopausal symptom. Next, the women were encouraged to spend 15 minutes twice a day tensing and relaxing muscles from head to toe. Eventually, the women learned to decrease how much time was needed to relax by focusing on controlled breathing and not tensing the muscles. Toward the end of the study, the women were instructed to practice relaxation 20 times a day in 30-second sessions. The final assignment required the women to use these breathing and relaxation skills to quickly relax during a hot flash situation.
At the start of the study, all the participants suffered an average of 10 hot flashes a day. After three months, researchers report in the journal Menopause, the applied relaxation group had an average of four flashes a day while the comparison group averaged eight.
The researchers also found that the relaxation group experienced modest improvements in quality of life measures, including fewer sleep problems and other aches and pains, while the comparison group reported no changes. The goal of the process was for the women to learn to use the relaxation methods on their own and to be able to manage their own symptoms.
The participating women were asked to keep a daily journal of their hot flashes during the therapy and for the following three months. They were also told to fill out "quality of life" surveys as well as submit a saliva sample so that levels of cortisol , sometimes called stress hormone, could be analyzed.
Researchers said the results were dramatic. The women in the treatment group reduced the number of hot flashes per day from an average of 9.1 to 4.4 -- and the decrease remained for three months after the last therapy session. The numbers in the control group also decreased, but only from 9.7 to 7.8.
The women in the therapy group also reported improved quality of life as it pertains to memory and concentration, sleep and anxiety.
Deep breathing techniques can shorten hot flashes and make them milder. Teach yourself to start slow, deep breaths as soon as you feel a flash coming on. Take as deep a breath as you can, and hold it a moment before letting it out slowly. Expanding your rib cage can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and helps regulate temperature.
In addition to relaxation therapy, previous research has found that a low-fat diet also can reduce menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Other research published just last month found that clinical hypnosis helped women chill in the face of uncomfortable hot flashes.
Menopause and the symptoms associated with it can severely disrupt your quality of life.
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