Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) include hot flashes (or hot flushes) and night sweats. These sudden surges of warmth and sweat often start for women during the menopausal transition.

You might be surprised to learn that vasomotor symptoms can start in your 40s and can last on average for over 7 years.

Vasomotor symptoms are thought to be caused by changes in hormones that affect how your body regulates temperature. Though there are medications available to help treat VMS, there are also ways to manage hot flashes and night sweats at home.

Here are eight at-home tips to help you cope with VMS in menopause.

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Infographic by Bailey Mariner

Hot flashes can be unpredictable and sporadic. If it’s cold out, dressing in layers means you can easily peel off one layer at a time if you start to get warm. You can also layer your bedding.

In the summer, it might be best to wear loose-fitting clothing to keep you cool.

An air conditioner or fan to keep you cool at night can provide relief if you have a hot flash at night.

Summertime humidity can also trigger or worsen VMS. If you live in an area with high heat and humidity, running a dehumidifier in your home or bedroom can also help keep it cool.

Any foods, drink, or environmental change that makes you warm or dilates your blood vessels could trigger a hot flash.

Your triggers might not be the same as someone else’s triggers. Consider keeping a diary to write down when you have a hot flash and what you ate, drank, and any activities you did that day. Once you identify your triggers, you can take steps to avoid them.

Common hot flash triggers include:

  • spicy foods
  • hot beverages
  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke
  • tight clothing
  • hot weather

Sipping ice water can help you cool off and cope with a hot flash until it passes. At night, keep a glass or thermos filled with ice water on your nightstand for easy access.

Mindfulness-based techniques, like meditation and yoga, are tools used to develop awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Not only can a mindfulness practice help you reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, but it can also help you cope with hot flashes.

A 2022 review of 19 studies found that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques were potentially effective at reducing the frequency and severity of VMS in participants.

Though the intensity of hot flashes didn’t change, the mindfulness group also benefited from improvements in anxiety, stress, sleep quality, and overall quality of life.

Eating a low fat, plant-based diet rich in soybeans could also reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.

In one clinical trial, known as the Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS), this plant-based approach reduced moderate to severe hot flashes by 84%.

During the study, participants in one group were asked to follow a low fat, vegan diet and to focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and to eat a half a cup of cooked soybeans each day. They were also asked to minimize fatty foods, like nuts, oils, and avocado.

Maintaining a moderate weight before you enter menopause can help ward off vasomotor symptoms.

A body mass index (BMI) that falls between 18.5 and 25 is typically considered a healthy weight range.

Recently, researchers conducted a pooled analysis of eight studies involving a total of 21,460 women. In the analysis, researchers found that women with a BMI over 25 had a 1.5-fold higher risk of experiencing frequent or severe VMS compared to those at a moderate weight.

Exercising is thought to improve your thermoregulatory control system and decrease your core body temperature over time.

In a small study published in 2016, women who engaged in moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, like jogging or biking, four or five times a week for 45 minutes experienced a significant reduction in the frequency of their hot flashes over a 16-week period.

The duration of each hot flash was also lower in the exercise group compared to control group who didn’t exercise, but the results weren’t statistically significant.

A 2019 study that looked at 58 postmenopausal women found that engaging in a 15-week resistance-training program cut the frequency of moderate and severe hot flashes by nearly half.

The resistance training was performed three times per week and included six exercises in seated resistance machines and two body-weight exercises.

Menopause is a natural biological process, but the transition can be both physically and emotionally challenging.

You can try to manage VMS of menopause at home. But if these lifestyle changes aren’t working and your hot flashes are severely impacting your quality of life, talk with your doctor about other available treatments.

You may also consider looking to organizations like the North American Menopause Society for additional information and support.