My Menopause Brain Has Hi-Jacked My Body

Debbie Walker

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Night sweats: Hot flashes that occur while you are asleep, because catching fire during the daytime just isn’t sufficient. — The 2nd Talk

What is happening to me? I feel like I am losing my mind! I cry for no reason and cannot think straight. Why didn't someone tell me what to expect? If this is menopause, it would have been nice if I was forewarned about this stage of my life.

Help! Something is controlling me. I am on high alert because the hormones in my brain have taken over the plane — my body — and sat in the pilot's seat.

I've got to try to regain control of the plane. But how? I made a plan. Gathering intelligence about this hijacker was my first step. I researched information from the medical community and confirmed what my body and mind was experiencing.

The first sign of menopause on the horizon is irregular menstrual periods that eventually stop. This affects the ebb and flow of estrogen to the neurotransmitters in your brain. The resulting biochemical fluctuations in body temperature manifests as hot flashes and night sweats, taking your body hostage.

Hot — cold. Cold — hot. Shirt on, Shirt off. Waves of heat are steaming up my glasses. And the sweating! Sheesh. I could wring out my bedsheets.

Hot Flashes

My hot flashes are horrific. All of a sudden, a wave of heat floods me from the core. I can’t breathe, I pant like a puppy, and I start to sweat. Not only on my forehead, but my scalp, neck, and arms. Arms? My forearms, at that.

After the hot flash ends, I get chilled. I think my brain shivers also because in that moment I cannot focus. My only thought is taking clothes off then putting them back on.

In the summertime, I wear a wet washcloth around my neck. In the winter, I open a window and freeze everybody else. When they complain, I tell them to put on a sweater.

If all else fails, I stick my head in the freezer.

Night Sweats

One of the most troublesome symptoms of menopause is night sweats. Oh, how I hate night sweats. In fact, night sweats have become my night-mares. I get hot, sweat, toss, turn, and get twisted up in the covers. Last night, I couldn’t find my feet!

Actually, night sweats are hot flashes when you are asleep. Sometimes they can jolt you right out of bed. This happened to me many times. My brain gets hot, my body gets hot, and I jump up hot and drenched.

I can't take the linens off the bed when my husband is sleeping on them. I just laid down towels on my side of the bed after I showered in the middle of the night. Then I can't go back to sleep.

Other times I do get some rest but when I wake up, my hair is damp, my pillowcase is stinky, and the sheets are misting. I need relief!

Unusual Symptoms

Among the usual symptoms we read about, I found a few that surprised me. I listed them below.

  • Burning tongue. It feels like your tongue is on fire and occurs in forty percent of menopausal women. This is believed to be caused by a dip in estrogen. No wonder I feel like a fire-breathing dragon!
  • Vertigo. Fluctuations in hormones disrupt the inner ear’s ability to maintain balance. I recall my grandmother talking about her dizzy spells and how she had to lie down. I got dizzy the other day at the store and had to grab hold of the ledge of the vegetable aisle. I held on for dear life for at least five minutes.
  • Electric shocks. What? (I found this symptom very interesting.) They are mild to severe strikes of pain that can occur in areas of the head and the extremities. It is believed that hormone changes can affect the hypothalamus or the neurons that are misfiring in the nervous system.

Tips and Tricks

Thank goodness, I found a few tips and tricks that help me overcome the tragedy of overheating. They helped me get a cooler and relaxed sleep.

  • Sleep naked. (If you can get by with it.) Be sure to lock the door; you don’t want any surprise visitors. I learned this lesson the hard way.
  • Get a fan. I can’t sleep without mine.
  • Lay off the spicy foods. This is a tough one because I love the hotness!
  • Keep one leg out. If you do sleep underneath a comforter or bedspread, leave one leg uncovered. It works for me.
  • Drink a lot of water. I use water as a cure-all for everything.

Emotional Health

Hormonal changes in our brains also affect our emotions. This is where I thought I lost my mind but realized it was only the turbulence my instrument panel was experiencing. Even though menopause was in the pilot's seat, I can take over and disengage his controls with awareness and actionable tips.

  • Exercise. Your brain releases the feel-good hormones of endorphins. You can dance your way into happiness.
  • Sharing. Connect with other people and talk about your feelings.
  • Breathe deeply. Deep breathing exercises oxygenates your brain and helps you to think clearly.
  • Meditation. This can take many forms. You have to decide what works for you.

The best course of action, though, is to visit your doctor at the onset of any of these symptoms, especially if you are above forty years old. There is a test that will determine if you are in menopause; ask your doctor.

You can take back control of your plane with information and action. It's your brain and body. Grab the wheel and let's make the journey as smooth as possible!

Night sweats and hot flashes are an uncomfortable reality of menopause. Our bodies want to be released from the grip of hormones in our brains. But there are things we can do to alleviate the symptoms. Remember, this too shall pass.

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