The Freakout: You wake up damp and clammy and think: night sweats!
What else it might be: The jalapeños you had at dinner—no joke. Night sweats have so many causes, they’re practically unavoidable. In addition to spicy food (and, yes, menopause), they're commonly due to nightmares, thermostat-creep and superfluous layers of flannel or down, as well as the extra drinks you may have had after dinner (alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, triggering the glands to release perspiration even throughout the night). Antidepressants are another often-overlooked culprit: Night sweats affect 8 to 22 percent of people taking them.
What to do: Recognize the difference between "sweaty" and "drenched." While both can be annoying enough to wake you up, it's the flash flood out of nowhere that you should tell your doctor about. It could be a sign that your body is dealing with hormones, a viral or bacterial infection, a thyroid imbalance, a disease (like lymphoma, especially if you also have fevers and unexplained weight loss), or a reaction to medication.
The Freakout: You're having trouble falling asleep or you've been waking up in the middle of the night, consumed with fears of aging.
What else it might be: If you're under 40, your insomnia is more likely to be due to PMS than menopause. The fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone that happen in the second phase of the menstrual cycle (around ovulation as well right before your next period) can make it harder for women to fall and stay asleep. Those who are already prone to premenstrual cramps, mood swings or irritability will be especially likely to have trouble.
What to do: Keeping a sleep diary can help you see if your sleepless nights tend to fall during a specific time of the month. (If you haven't been getting your period, read on...)
Next: What could be causing you to miss a period...