The Heat Is On

I wet the bed at night.

Not the kind of wet the bed I did on and off ‘til about 6th grade (that’s another story!).

Maybe it’s more accurate to say I sweat the bed at night…

Night sweats. Hot flashes. Whatever you want to call ‘em, every morning I wake up looking like I spent an hour on an elliptical at the health club… My hair’s matted, the sheets are soaked, pillow. I’ve got that wet-yolk thing around the collar of my t-shirt. It’s a pretty sight.

I wasn’t always like this; I didn’t always sweat like a pig in my sleep. I used to freeze at night, shivering under several blankets. Now I’m my own, personal furnace. And this doesn’t just happen at night. I’ll be in the middle of a meeting in the middle of the afternoon, wide awake, and that space heater feeling kicks in, sweeping over me like a sauna. I take on a complexion usually reserved for dockworkers and farmhands. I become what you’d call: ruddy.

“Looks, like you got some sun, huh Walter?” a coworker will quip, thinking they’re making small talk. Except I didn’t get any sun. It’s the middle of winter. In Chicago. There pretty much is no sun. I just turn bright red, on and off, like a traffic light.

It could have something to do with the handful of meds I take every day since my bypass, plus all the supplements. But I’m thinking it’s more likely “male menopause.” The Mayo Clinic says men don’t technically go through menopause. (You’d call it “womenopause” or something, wouldn’t you?) Actually, doctors call what guys go through andropause. Hormone levels in women of a certain age drop off quickly and they’re done. Men’s hormone levels, mainly testosterone, decrease over time (along with muscle mass, bone density, their taste in clothes, and that rugged attractiveness they had in high school). Men lose as much as 1% of their testosterone every year starting at age 30. Over 25 million men in the U.S. show signs of andropause— hot flashes and other symptoms —every year.

Harvard Medical School connects the dots: there’s a part in everyone’s brain called the hypothalamus. It works like your thermostat. Low testosterone puts your thermostat on the fritz. It makes your nervous system send out signals for your blood vessels to widen, making you feel warm and flush and ruddy all over. To counteract the sudden heat wave, you break out in sweat. Thanks, hypothalamus.

Clammy jammies and a bright red face are a natural part of aging they say, it’s simply what happens when you get old. (Like calling your wife “mother” or eating dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon.) Wait it out, they say, it’ll pass.

Yeah, right, no sweat.


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