Research suggests it’s likely there are physiological differences between the two, but specific physiological differences between menopausal hot flashes and night sweats are not really clear-cut. Some women experience one or the other, and others have both. In either case, the body and brain are not communicating effectively about temperature regulation.
We do know that night sweats (other than the fact that they occur during the night) can signify several medical concerns, while hot flashes are more often solely associated with the menopausal transition. There is ongoing research into the association between hot flashes and high blood pressure, but no clear causal relationship between the two has been established for women in menopause.
What does seem relevant is how they can each make you feel. You might find it helpful to look for patterns and identify what triggers your hot flashes and night sweats. Do you come completely undone, or feel relieved that they don’t happen by day, or vice versa? They may also be milder or more severe, or more or less frequent by night or by day.
It may not matter to you whether it happens at night or during the day — many women find their unpredictability most disturbing of all. If they wake you up or keep you from sleep, hot flashes can compromise all other aspects of your life, including how well you function during the day. And that can cause anxiety, one of the most well-delineated triggers of the hot flash. If you’re in the public eye and they tend to hit you in the midst of your day, hot flashes can have a mortifying effect.
Whether it’s hot flashes or night sweats, adopting measures such as herbal, dietary, and emotional support, along with regular exercise and practices that calm the nervous system can make a dramatic difference.
To learn more, read about our natural treatments for hot flashes and night sweats.