Every woman knows that menopause is eventually in her future, but when your symptoms first appear, you may feel taken by surprise. While some women find it’s no big deal, others find the symptoms more uncomfortable and disruptive than they expected.
“Some of the first symptoms that women report are night sweats, hot flashes, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and sometimes pain during sexual activity and vaginal dryness,” says Sonal Chaudhry, MD, endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health.
While you can’t completely avoid perimenopause symptoms, you can make them more tolerable, and you might not even need to go to the pharmacy to do so. Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can soothe the symptoms and keep you from missing out on life.
1. Keep your home or work environment cool.
Obviously, you have more say over the temperature of your home than where you work; for the latter, consider bringing in a personal fan.
2. Dress in layers.
When a hot flash occurs, you can easily strip off a cardigan or blazer to feel more comfortable. “After a hot flash, you may experience a decrease in your core body temperature, and having extra layers to help you warm up is also important,” says Dr. Chaudhry.
3. Keep cold water on hand.
Just as you would on a hot summer day, taking a drink of cold water during a hot flash can help you beat the heat. Plus, dehydration is more common among older adults, so you should make a habit to keep water on hand anyway.
4. Avoid certain foods and drinks.
Alcohol, caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, and large meals are all known to make hot flashes worse, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Menopause can disrupt and negatively impact sleep, but prioritizing good sleep habits can help counteract that effect. Good sleep hygiene during menopause includes:
Going to bed at the same time every night.
Using the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Avoiding screens (TVs, laptops, tablets, phones) before bed.
“It’s hard to adhere to all of these sleep hygiene guidelines, but it may be worthwhile to try one or a few of them to see what works best for you,” says Dr. Chaudhry.
6. Stay sexually active to treat vaginal dryness.
Here’s a home remedy you and your partner may enjoy: Increase the frequency of your sexual activity. While it may be uncomfortable at first, increased sexual activity improves vaginal elasticity and the lubricative response. (Psst … masturbation works, too.)
Of course, sex should be enjoyable—not painful. There are over-the-counter moisturizers and water-based lubricants that can help treat vaginal dryness. If OTC lubricants aren’t successful, another option is vaginal estrogen (which is not the same as hormone replacement therapy). (Here are more tips to deal with pain during sex.)
7. Prioritize mental health.
Mood changes during menopause are common, and you may be able to stabilize the mood and improve energy levels with self-care practices. For example, try the following:
Exercise regularly, especially in the earlier part of the day
Build stress relief into your routine (e.g., yoga or meditation)
And get enough sleep at night.
“I think most patients know all of this, and they just find it difficult to execute,” says Dr. Chaudhry, “but I think it is still important to have that conversation and reinforce these concepts because if it’s really bothersome to them then hearing it enough times, maybe people will try to adhere to those recommendations.”