Many women who are in their early 40’s and beyond experience a roller coaster ride with their internal thermostats which is absolutely maddening. They can go from sitting comfortably one minute, to a sudden sweat and flush which makes them feel like they are standing next to a fiery blaze the next minute. Such a roast-fest can last from seconds to minutes, after which a woman may feel pretty comfortable. But the pendulum can swing the other way, and the woman may suddenly feel very cold once the air conditioning has kicked in, prompting her to put on a sweater. Guess what? Chances are that sweater will be peeled off in a matter of minutes when the woman has another hot flash. Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold. Fun times. Such fluctuations in a woman’s perception of temperature, coupled with her constant putting on and taking off layers of clothing, are often perceived as pretty nutty by people who don’t have a clue about the torture these women go through.
I can relate to the constant temperature fluctuations because I have been suffering from it for over a year now. I fully realize that my body doesn’t know what temperature it is. Thanks to hormonal imbalance and the decline associated with peri-menopause, I am very familiar with the sweating which is sudden and intense, and I know that feeling of desperation which has me peeling off clothes, fanning myself, and sticking my head in freezers and in front of blowing fans. However, I only recently began experiencing the feeling that I am suddenly freezing my butt off, and I truly can’t stand it. My perception of the ambient temperature can go from upper 70’s, to 120 degrees, to 60 degrees, within 5 minutes flat.
On my worst days I will have maybe five or six of these episodes, so the daytime hours aren’t too bad, but my evenings make up for the relative break I get during the day, because I am hot and sweaty for many hours and cannot cool down at all, even if I wear a cooling towel around my neck, lie on the floor under my ceiling fan (the darned thing is positioned right over the foot of the bed and doesn’t cool me off at all when I am in bed), and lie over the covers. My bedroom feels like it is 100 degrees and I cannot get away from the heat because, of course, the heat is emanating from ME. My hypothalamus is tricked every night into perceiving that my body needs to release excess heat. I know that this is the result of low estrogen levels, but my professional knowledge of estrogen therapy is enough to keep me from ever supplementing with estrogen, so I will continue to suffer as long as my hypothalamus triggers the way it does. At least I know I am not alone: about 85% of women who are peri-menopausal experience hot flashes. Hot flashes can last from several months up to 15 years, with an average of 2 years. I hope and pray that I fall into the average! Seriously, hot flashes and night sweats are absolutely miserable. I often get as little as two hours of sleep at night when my night sweats are in full effect!