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Ask the Expert: Night Sweats

Q: I'm in my 30s, and I sometimes wake up at night drenched in sweat. What's going on?

A:The first thing to consider
is whether your sleep
routine has been altered
in any way. Has it become unusually
warm in the evenings? Are you still
using your winter comforter? If the
answer to both is no, you may be
having hot flashes. Before you
assume it's early menopause, know
that the most common cause of hot
flashes in women under the age of
45 is stress. Some experts suspect
elevated levels of the stress
hormone adrenaline may trigger
those night sweats.
Relaxation techniques, such as
exercise or meditation, may help. If
they don't, make an appointment
with your doctor to rule out other
causes, such as a thyroid imbalance,
prescription medications, or postpregnancy
hormone fluctuations.
However, if you've experienced hot
flashes for two or more weeks or
also have mood swings, painful sex
(caused by vaginal dryness), and/or
insomnia, perimenopause may be
to blame. Although most women
go through this two- to 10-year
transitional phase in their 40s or
50s, it can start earlier in some
women. See your gynecologist; she
may prescribe hormones, such as
those in oral contraceptives, to
lessen symptoms.

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