This featured article was written by our dear friend, Dr. Anna Cabeca, author of The Hormone Fix. Not only is Dr. Anna a woman of deep faith in Christ, she is a triple-board certified OB/GYN and the creator of Julva® – an anti-aging feminine cream for women and MightyMaca™ Plus – a superfood hormone balancing health drink. One thing that all women will experience in their lives is menopause but it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. This article will give you excellent advice about natural remedies for hot flashes and insomnia. And hopefully, a mindset shift for living a free and abundant life as well! Be blessed ~ Dr. Z
Lying awake in bed, it was the middle of the night – again, and I was tossing and turning, you know, covers off then on, just like all other menopausal women… but I was only 38 years old! It was a devastating time in my life, diagnosed with early menopause, premature ovarian failure, and irreversible infertility. I lied awake for hours and wondered how I got here, and cried. Searching for answers ultimately took me around the world to find natural remedies for hot flashes and other premenopausal discomforts, and I did.
Now my mission with this post is to help you, and I can. No more midnight unrest and hot flashes, rather sleep soundly, and wake up rested and energized! These are the two of the frequent complaints women always have about their daily life, both during and after menopause: hot flashes and poor sleep. These two symptoms are life – and relationship – affecting!
As a gynecologist and women’s menopause expert over the past several decades I have found a number of natural solutions that can help resolve these issues as well as address other menopausal miseries such as vaginal dryness and loss of intimacy.
The good news? You can easily start to implement some of these yourself today!
Table of Contents
Why Hot Flashes & Sleep Problems Happen with Menopause
In this article I’ll talk about some of these natural therapies that have been shown to work. But first, let me talk briefly about what is going on in a woman’s body in the first place during this time of her life! Even though menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms may leave you feeling like an alien has taken over your body and mind (I know I did)…please know that this time and these symptoms are a very natural part of the aging process and most often will improve over time… but can last years so NO powering through. Time to take action – naturally.
Both hot flashes and insomnia can be experienced very differently depending on the individual. Who out there has that special friend who sailed through menopause without so much as a hiccup? Yet, here you may be sitting (likely in front of the fridge with a fan in your hand) in sheer misery. I have had clients who were suffering with hot flashes every hour for years. I can’t even imagine. I’ve had one bad one and it traumatized me!
And then there is sleep…or the lack thereof. Some women will tell me that they just never sleep, that is their normal. To be honest, I was one of them! I had an average of 3-5 hours per night of sleep with my PTSD and truthfully was never a good sleeper – it made me a great Obstetrician though LOL!
In other cases women can have brutal night sweats, waking up in a pool of sweat each night. Some women may just have trouble either falling to sleep or staying asleep; others may find that urinary urgency issues keep them from having that deep restorative sleep their body needs. And then yes, there are those who fall into a quality deep sleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. What makes these experiences and symptoms so different?
Well, truth be told, researchers still don’t know for sure why hot flashes affect some women so much more than others. Or why insomnia greatly affects some but not all. Researchers have some thoughts on why these differences occur, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Because of the great variability in women’s experiences with these symptoms it is generally agreed upon that the natural decline of hormones happening in a woman’s 40’s through 60’s is only part of the puzzle.
Research has shown that other factors must be involved (1) and appear to include things like a given woman’s ethnicity and culture, lifestyle factors (does she exercise? diet), pre-existing characteristics such as anxiety or depressive symptoms, obesity, smoking, and stress level.
Genetics may play a role (2) with a number of gene variations being studied. If a woman starts to have hot flashes while she is still having her period (called peri-menopause) research has shown she is more likely to continue having them for a much greater period of time.
Hot flashes do typically go away… but until they do you can usually improve upon the severity of your symptoms. The good news is that hot flashes,night sweats and insomnia have several natural solutions in common!
4 Ways to Chill Out Hot flashes, Night Sweats & Insomnia
The easiest thing you can start with is to reduce the known triggers for hot flashes and insomnia, which include: caffeine, food sensitivities (gluten and dairy are common culprits…ask your doctor about any digestive issues you may be having!), refined sugars and simple carbs (the white processed stuff, and this includes alcohol…sorry!), smoking and hot foods (temperature or spiciness). For sleep issues also consider whether allergens in your environment can be causing you your symptoms. Fluffy might have to sleep out of the room (or at least not on your pillow).
I often will recommend that participants in my hormone balance programs maintain a journal to help them identify their hot flash triggers. I find for many women that a common trigger is stress. Stress will make hot flashes and night sweats worse in most cases and will also play a role in insomnia.
1. Better stress management
I know you hear this all of the time…that you need to reduce your stress! Unfortunately removing whatever is stressing you sometimes just can’t be done. You might be a care provider for a loved one, a way-too-busy parent, have a high pressure job, etc. So if you can’t remove the stress, you do still need to minimize its impact on your mind and body (and everyone around you will thank you, too).
Essential Oils for Stress
There are 4 things I recommend to better manage your stress, and of course essential oils is one of them! I love peppermint oil (cooling!), clary sage oil (reduces stress and is cooling, too) and lavender oil (I put a few drop in a warm bath) to help me relax and destress.
2. Journaling As Part of Daily Stress Management
I am also a big proponent of journaling, it is probably one of the most beneficial and easiest techniques you can do each day that can dramatically impact your stress level and also just make you feel so much more positive about life. Swap out 15 minutes of the daily news and focus on some journaling instead… just write down a few thoughts on your day, “What am I grateful for? What have I done to nourish my body and mind today? Where did I see the face of God or love today?” I also like to incorporate a little meditated reflection in my journaling. “What could I have done better today? How could I have been more loving in my relationships?” and my new favorite: “What am I glad I did yesterday?”
Also thank others in your journal (although don’t forget to relay that thanks personally later) and you can also give yourself a big hug of appreciation for the care and love you provided to your family, partner, friends or even strangers that day. Journaling is also a great relaxer at bedtime, often off boarding thoughts, plus it gets you into a more peaceful vibe, perfect to doze off to.
3. Deep Breathing to Lower Stress
Number 3 on my stress management list is deep breathing coupled with more restorative movement (3)! How often do you really breathe deeply? Try it. Breathe deep inside your abdomen, using slow breaths at about 5-7 per minute. This can lower the stress hormone, cortisol, and can help as a natural remedy for hot flashes. Try deep breathing at the onset of hot flashes, too. I also like yoga or a long daily walk (Out in nature is best! And extra points if you are barefoot and connecting with the earth) as it is very restorative. Note that intense exercise can be a trigger for hot flashes, however.
4. Are There Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes?
Finally, there are supplements that can help support you in dealing with the everyday stress that you can’t really escape from. I like supplements that help balance your hormones, and that can improve your mood and support a better night’s sleep. I’ll talk about the ones that I recommend in a moment, but first…let’s make your bedroom hot flash and sleep friendly!
Plus – Making your environment more hot flash (and sleep!) friendly
At night, keep the temperature low (65 degrees F) and use a “chill pillow”. While not necessarily natural remedies for hot flashes, cooling blankets or even a cooling mattress pad or mattress (nowadays there are many great options to choose from) will help you stay comfortable. Bring a fan into work and into the kitchen while you cook. Wear lightweight clothes made with natural fibers and always wear layers that can be easily peeled off (and put back on!). Hydrate with healthy, clean water.
Darken up that room at night but ensure you get the early morning light on your retinas in the morning as that helps reset your daily circadian rhythm (your own internal biological clock that uses light to reset itself each day!). A healthy circadian clock is key to getting a better night’s sleep, and will also result in an improved mood when you are awake…the research has proved this out time and time again.
Use your bedroom for sleep and love-making…Leave the laptop and work stress in the briefcase, control what you watch on tv, etc. Love-making actually helps reduce cortisol (as it releases the counter to our stress hormone cortisol, oxytocin…our hormone of bonding). If you aren’t inclined due to discomforts with your “lady bits” you may benefit from trying my beautiful vulvar rejuvenation cream, Julva® (4).
Supplements that Can Help with Hot Flashes & Insomnia
Because our stress response (adrenals) is so linked to hot flash severity and insomnia I typically focus menopausal and postmenopausal women on natural foods and supplements that support adrenal health or that are adrenal adaptogens. What are those? Adrenal adaptogens counter stress’ harmful effects and have been shown to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes, and to improve libido and mood. They have also been found to reduce nervousness and interrupted sleep patterns.
My favorite adrenal adaptogen is maca. You can learn much more about how maca can improve menopausal symptoms here. Many of my clients use it as a natural and safe alternative to estrogen hormone replacement therapy for reducing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
For these reasons I’ve used maca as the foundational nutrient in my Mighty Maca® Plus superfoods drink.
My Mighty Maca® Plus Keto-Green superfoods drink contains maca and over 40 specifically chosen natural ingredients that nourish the adrenals, detoxify and help with alkalinity, too (an alkaline diet and lifestyle has been shown to be supportive of a reduction in menopausal symptoms). Getting alkaline also helps get cortisol back at healthy levels (6) and it resets our daily circadian rhythm (which helps us get a better night’s sleep and have an improved mood!).
I also typically recommend progesterone to help with stress response, sleep and a calmer mood. I have an over-the-counter progesterone cream, Pura Balance PPR (7), that is a beautiful formulation. Vitamin E has also been associated in at least one study with a reduction in the severity of hot flashes.
For a Better Night’s Sleep
Do you have low magnesium levels? That affects getting a quality night’s sleep. Most people can benefit from taking a quality magnesium supplement, here is one that I recommend: Better Brain & Sleep (8).
You can also ask your doctor to test you for some markers that can assess what might be an issue impacting your sleep (DHEAs, IGF-1, etc.).
While I have had great results with the above recommendations in my programs and with clients, always discuss new supplements you might want to try with your doctor.
Note about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Estrogen hormone replacement therapy does offer a proven hot flash solution, but one that involves risks for some women due to the added estrogen circulating throughout the bloodstream, so it is not recommended for women having breast cancer as well as other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Please discuss with your doctor. Also note that local estrogen therapies (prescription vaginal suppositories or creams) have not been found to be effective with hot flashes or insomnia.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes with Diet? Become More Insulin Sensitive
What you eat most certainly affects menopausal symptoms! As mentioned earlier we want to eat an alkaline diet to keep our stress hormone cortisol in check. But we also want to keep our insulin levels under control.
When you eat carbs your body’s blood glucose increases and spikes your blood sugar. Your body releases insulin as a reaction to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin is produced to get the glucose from your body and into the cells. There it gets converted to energy. Your body burns the glucose to make its energy and then insulin tells the cells to store their energy as carbs or fat.
In highly processed or carb-rich diets this means we have high spiking blood sugar, high insulin levels, low fat burning and stored fat. It isn’t healthy and after awhile your body starts to lose its sensitivity to insulin since it is producing so much all of the time.
This often leads to a health condition called insulin resistance, where the cells start to resist the insulin. When this happens, your blood sugar just continues to rise and you can become diabetic or suffer from other health issues as well as menopausal symptoms.
Insulin resistance is a comorbidity of menopause, with increased prevalence of insulin resistance seen in postmenopausal women (9).
In one study (SWAN) researchers found that glucose levels and the degree of insulin resistance actually rose as the frequency of hot flashes rose.
Unless we’re supporting our body’s ability to have insulin sensitivity and counter the spiking cortisol, we’re not going to get hormonal balance and we’ll likely continue to struggle with inflammatory symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, along with insomnia (and don’t forget the weight gain and mood swings!)…. A Keto-Green diet will help with this by optimizing blood sugar and insulin levels.
I hear from many ladies following my Keto-Green program who have specifically seen improvements in both hot flashes and improved sleep as a result of implementing both the alkalinity and insulin control of the program.
Look Through a Different Lens
I believe that how you experience something really depends on your attitude. If you think about menopause and the postmenopausal period of your life as a journey into misery, it likely will be. No matter how many natural remedies for hot flashes you find. Instead, try to look at this very natural period of your life through a different, more positive, lens.
And that is a lens of freedom.
It’s true, there are many freedoms that come during this time, including the end of your monthly periods!
At this time, we’re usually becoming empty-nesters (sad, I know…but again, freedom!) There is a freedom over returning to something old (perhaps a hobby you have long since abandoned due to the kids or a job), or the freedom to start something completely new.
Many women find that they are finally in a place in their life where they can focus on things that feed their spirit rather than tending to everyone else’s needs.
So try some of these natural remedies for hot flashes as steps to reduce premenopausal and insomnia symptoms. Talk with your doctor about other options should your symptoms be severe, and try to look past the heated and sweaty interrupts!
Focus instead on the new freedoms awaiting you.