My acupuncturist called it empty fire, but there was nothing empty about the fire that plagued me every night that week. As soon as I fell asleep, the heat would blaze, and I’d wake drenched in sweat only to throw the covers off, cool down, start shivering, cover up, and do it all over again. I was going through a particularly intense bout of night sweats.
Hot flashes and Night Sweats…Empty Fire Conditions
Traditional Chinese Medicine calls night sweats and hot flashes empty fire because there is little to no earth to support the blaze of those menopausal experiences. It’s kind of like the whole foundation has just fallen out of your world, but your belly is going to burn on anyway. Personally, I think that’s an apt description of the perimenopausal experience, don’t you?
Most often, hot flashes happen by day and night sweats by night. They can stagnate around your middle, collect in your head, or wash across your entire being. They can change, too. Mine were good, old-fashioned daytime waves of heat at first. Now, I get them at night more often than by day, and they feel more like someone left the oven on right around my upper abdomen.
Here are seven of my tried and tested tools for easing hot flashes and night sweats:
- Acupressure Points to Ease Hot flashes and night sweats
- Yoga to cool your core
- Sleep with an ice pack
- Layers Rule Perimenopause
- Herbs for Hot flashes and Night Sweats
- Diet reduces Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
- Meditation for Riding Out a Hot Flash or Night Sweat
Acupressure Points to Ease Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
One of the tricks my acupuncturist taught me for releasing the excess heat was to hold one of two acupressure points. The first is easiest to reach, especially when in the middle of recording a podcast or meeting with a client. Lay your right arm over your left so your thumb lands at the crease on the upper edge of your left elbow. Press that spot for about ten minutes, and you should feel the heat begin to subside. For me, it seems that one is best for the kind of heat that feels more on the surface, like my hot-flashes by day do.
For night sweats and stagnant heat that feels like it’s deeper, the toe spot seems more effective. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Hold your right foot where you can reach it with either thumb and press the web-like area between your first and middle toe. Hold that point for ten minutes or so and the heat should begin to die down.
Simple Yoga to cool your core
One of the tricks my yoga instructor taught me that works amazingly well, especially when I feel a hot flash coming on as a result of any core-heating activity like taekwondo or aerobic exercise, is tunnel tongue breathing. It’s simple. Fold your tongue so it looks like a straw or tunnel and breathe in through it. Then release your tongue and breathe out through your nose. Breathe this way a few minutes or until you feel cooler.
Sleep with an Ice Pack
While tunnel tongue breathing is a great strategy for daytime heat, at night it isn’t always enough. I couple it with a towel-wrapped ice pack hugged about my middle like a teddy bear or a hot pack on a cold night. If you sleep alone, the ice pack trick works wonders. It’s refreshing and relaxing like nothing else. If you sleep with a partner…well, at least give him or her fair warning before you try it.
Layers Rule Perimenopause
Dressing for the flash is another trick that helps manage my crazy heat swings. At night, I sleep under several thinner quilts and a sheet. I wear layers of pajamas to bed, and I often leave the window open a crack even in the middle of winter. I have layers I can shed or don depending on which way my internal thermometer has swung. By day, I like tank tops or shell tops under light weight blouses with knitted or crocheted cowls and wraps. They’re all easy to shed while the fire is flowing and fashionable when it’s not.
Herbs to cool Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Herbs like yarrow and elderberry are fever coolers. I’ve used them in teas to help ease the heat along with motherwort and chaste berry to give my hormonal system better support. Spearmint is my favorite first aid remedy for both night sweats and hot flashes. A sprig or two muddled in a glass of cool water is refreshing and a tasty treat. In the middle of the night, when I really don’t feel like trekking out to my garden for fresh mint or muddling it for that matter, a dropper of spearmint tincture or glycerite in a cup of cool water does the trick nicely.
Diet Reduces Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
If hot flashes or night sweats are really upsetting your cool and the easier tricks aren’t cutting it, you can consider some simple dietary changes to help your system balance and ease more gently into the new paradigm of menopause. Although I didn’t like it, giving up all alcohols has eased the night sweats and hot flashes considerably. Alcohols are heating for the liver, which is doing a lot of work filtering out the hormonal surges of perimenopause. If you find your hot flashes are centered on your liver or upper abdomen region in particular, try taking a two week break from all alcohol and see if it helps. For me, the sacrifice was worthwhile, although I look forward to enjoying a good beer on the other side of this passage.
You can also lighten your diet and cool your system by eating lighter, more cooling foods. Many fruits and vegetables are cooling according to the Auryvedic and traditional Chinese medicine systems. Cucumbers and lettuces, carrots and other root vegetables, apples and pears are good examples of foods to try if you want to cool the hot flashes and night sweats naturally. Meats, dairy, and sugars are all heating as are most grains. Prepared foods are generally heating, too. These are foods to avoid or at least reduce dramatically in your diet if you’re finding your hot flashes or night sweats are unbearable.
Meditation for Riding out A Hot Flash or Night Sweat
Despite all the layering and herbs and other natural techniques I’ve tried for managing night sweats and hot flashes, sometimes the fire is just going to burn. It’s dominion over my life in those moments can feel mighty oppressive. Time and time again, I’ve turned to The Volcano meditation to survive those intense empty heat experiences.
Imagine you can see the heat source as a pool of molten earth deep in you hips or lower body. Let the pressure build until you can feel it coursing up like a volcano. Watch and feel it burst out the top of your head and dissipate into the air around you. Let the heat in your body flow on that path until there’s nothing left, no heat, no lava, and no hot flash or night sweat. Give yourself a big hug for riding that one out, and get a glass of water to replenish your body. Surviving The Volcano isn’t easy!
Whether the fire of perimenopause is empty or not, hot flashes and night sweats are part of my experience. Sometimes they suck, sometimes I feel magnanimous about them. Whatever mood I’m in when one hits, at least I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to get me through the fire in mostly good humor. Now, you have a few, too.