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 consideris whether your sleeproutine has been alteredin any way. Has it become unusuallywarm in the evenings? Are you stillusing your winter comforter? If theanswer to both is no, you may behaving hot flashes. Before youassume it's early menopause, knowthat the most common cause of hotflashes in women under the age of45 is stress. Some experts suspectelevated levels of the stresshormone adrenaline may triggerthose night sweats.Relaxation techniques, such asexercise or meditation, may help. Ifthey don't, make an appointmentwith your doctor to rule out othercauses, such as a thyroid imbalance,prescription medications, or postpregnancyhormone fluctuations.However, if you've experienced hotflashes for two or more weeks oralso have mood swings, painful sex(caused by vaginal dryness), and/orinsomnia, perimenopause may beto blame. Although most womengo through this two- to 10-yeartransitional phase in their 40s or50s, it can start earlier in somewomen. See your gynecologist; shemay prescribe hormones, such asthose in oral contraceptives, tolessen symptoms.

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