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Hot Flashes May Boost Insomnia Risk

Menopausal symptoms may lead to sleepless nights, study finds

MONDAY, June 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- As if they weren't already unpleasant enough, menopause-linked hot flashes may also cause insomnia, a large new study shows.

"Severe hot flashes are associated with chronic insomnia in women aged 35 to 65 years. The dramatic increase in insomnia in women with severe hot flashes indicates that severity of hot flashes should be routinely assessed in all studies of menopause," researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine wrote in a prepared statement.

Knowing that women usually experience hot flashes at night, the Stanford team decided to study 982 women to better understand the relationship between hot flashes and sleep.

The women were interviewed by phone between June 2003 and April 2004, and asked about their age, stage of menopause, severity of hot flashes and sleep habits. Participants were between 35 and 65 years old, and 57.2 percent were premenopausal. Another 20.5 percent were postmenopausal, with no period within the last year, and 22.3 percent had experienced at least one irregular menstrual cycle in the last year, making them perimenopausal.

Thirty-three percent of the women interviewed said they had experienced hot flashes. Women in the perimenopausal group were most likely to have had a hot flash, with 79 percent reporting the symptom. Half of the women who reported hot flashes classified them as mild, meaning that they usually did not cause sweating. One-third reported moderate hot flashes that did cause sweating but did not cause them to stop their activity, and 15 percent said they experienced hot flashes that caused so much sweating that they had to stop what they were doing.

Of the women who reported having severe hot flashes, 81 percent also reported symptoms of insomnia, including problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or poor quality of sleep. Women who experienced mild hot flashes were no more likely to have insomnia than women who did not have hot flashes, but, as the severity of hot flashes increased, so too did symptoms of insomnia.

"Treating hot flashes could improve sleep quality and minimize the deleterious consequences of chronic insomnia," the researchers concluded.

The findings appear in the June 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More information

Head to the North American Menopause Society to read more about menopause.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 26, 2006
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