You might think of being too hot as a classic symptom of menopause. But extremes in body temperature generally can be linked with shifting hormones, meaning some women also experience cold episodes. We explore why this happens and what you can do to manage it
What temperature changes are linked with menopause?
You’ve heard of hot flushes and night sweats, the symptoms that are among the most common – and troublesome - aspects of menopause. But for some women, these flushes are followed by cold chills. And a few experience the chills without being hot first. You may also find cold’s a problem after night sweats. If your clothing and bed sheets get soaked during a sweat, you may end up shivering. "My symptoms go in waves," says Live Better With Menopause community member SCS. "I have had night sweats, hot flushes and what I call cold flushes - times of shivering and feeling severely cold even in the summer."
Why does menopause make you go hot and cold?
Helter Skelter hormones affect your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that regulates body temperature. This can cause you to become suddenly and intensely very hot, usually with heat rising through your chest to your face. Or you may get very cold and shivery, or find the hot and cold episodes alternate.
Controlling your internal thermostat
Hot and cold episodes usually only last for a few minutes but they can get in the way of daily life, particularly if they disturb you at night and affect your sleep. And for some women, these symptoms can persist for some time after their final period. If temperature symptoms are really troubling you, speak to your doctor – HRT can help. If that’s not suitable for you, some types of antidepressant can be useful. It’s also worth checking out hot and cold episodes with your doctor if they seem severe or you have any concerns about them, to rule out other causes. Meanwhile, when it comes to menopausal temperature changes, there are lots of self-help steps you can take yourself.
Wear lots of loose layers
That way, you can easily adjust what you’re wearing according to how hot or cold you feel. Choose natural fabrics where possible, such as silk and cotton, as synthetic fabrics can aggravate sweating. "I wear layers so I can strip down to a vest top," says community member Julie20.
Have the right equipment
It’s all about being able to warm up or cool down easily. A lot of women swear by portable fans for the times they feel hot. Equally, you could keep a hot water bottle handy to warm you up when you get chilled.
Consider your bedding
Hot and cold episodes can be at their most disruptive during the night so be prepared. Some women find it helpful to have layers of sheets on the bed rather than blankets or duvets, so temperature can be adjusted. "I have an alpaca duvet, which helps to regulate the bed temperature and a fan and chilled gel pillow on standby for the hotter months, or the nights when the heat gets to me or I have a headache. There's nothing nicer than putting your head on a cool pillow when you're overheating," says community member Kaz. If chills are a problem at night, warm socks, gloves and a hot water bottle can make a difference. And if you tend to wake up sweating, change before you get cold – it may be helpful to keep a change of bed sheets and nightwear by your bed so you don’t have to get up and search for replacements.
Check your lifestyle
Alcohol and caffeinated drinks can aggravate temperature issues, as can spicy food. Try to cut down on all these, and if you smoke, try to quit. Stress can also make symptoms worse so put in some steps to manage it – try yoga or a meditation app.