Hot flashes and night sweats. Mind over matter?

Posted by on Jun 20, 2011 in hot flash, nightsweats | 2 comments


Hot flashes and night sweats, oh my! They hit like a ton of bricks when you’re least expecting them and then exit as quickly as they arrived. They affect up to 70% of women and tend to worsen in late perimenopause and in menopause. And while hormone replacement therapy may decrease how bothersome they are and good health diminish frequency and severity, it appears that how well women believe they are controlling their symptoms outplays all of these other factors, so much so that perceived control may actually beneficially affect emotional distress, prevalence and severity of symptoms and how often women engage in behaviors that benefit their health.

Findings of a  new study that’s just been published online in Maturitas run counter to many that came before it, studies that have shown that smoking and body mass index and alcohol consumption, as well as marital status, age, professional status, parity, educational status and income may significantly influence hot flash prevalence, frequency and severity. However, this time, researchers found that among 243 women between the ages of 42 and 60 years, the most important factor was control.

Participants were first asked to assess the intensity and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats on a five point scale (i.e. never to daily to almost every day and not intense to extremely intense). They were also asked to estimate perceived control over their symptoms using a validated rating scale. Finally, menopausal status, i.e. pre-, peri- and post- were assessed. Additionally, common sociodemographic and lifestyle factors shown to influence hot flashes and sweats were accounted for.

Importantly, women who used no medications or used soy and herbal products had higher perceived control over their symptoms than women who used hormone therapy. Moreover, this distinction had nothing to do with how severe their symptoms were as the researchers say that severity was similar among all three.  Additionally, women who drank greater amounts of coffee appeared to perceive their symptoms as less severe than those who drank less. While previous research has found the opposite, i.e. caffeine intake predicts the occurrence of hot flashes, it is possible that the stimulation associated with caffeine might have boosted coping mechanisms and strategies, thereby leading to fewer or less severe symptoms. Still, perceived control ruled the day, leading to a significant beneficial impact on severity of flashes and night sweats. The reason? It’s possible that feeling in control leads to other behavioral changes, such as dressing in many layers to allow for adjustments as the inner temperatures increase, avoiding spicy foods or effectively controlling stress. However, the results also imply that how much control we feel we have strongly influences how we ultimately feel.

Clearly, more research is needed. But when it comes to hot flashes and night sweats, mind over matter may play a strong role.


  1. 7-5-2011

    Hot flashes are definitely one of the harder parts of menopause. However, there are ways to overcome it! If you are interested in trying Amberen, we could offer you a free trail. Amberen helps restore estrogen levels, which will help with your libido. Amberen also helps with all other menopause symptoms.

  2. 2-18-2012

    Hot flashes are identical to TUMO, with no control over the triggering of it. TUMO is a yoga that can make you very hot when it’s very cold out – it is a regulation of internal body heat – and it can make you very very hot. The flashes even start out and initially spread to the 3 chakras involved in doing Tumo. Not sure if this helps, but try to learn to feel the chakras (heart chakra, then throat and navel chakras) – but do not DO the Tumo. When the flashes start, just STOP them.

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