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Hot Flashes Linked to Insomnia

Severe Hot Flashes, Chronic Insomnia Often Go Together, Study Shows

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 26, 2006 -- Women who have severe menopausal hot flashesoften have chronic insomniaas well, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, comes from Maurice Ohayon, MD, DSc, PhD, of Stanford University's medical school.

"Severe hot flashes are strongly associated with chronic insomnia in midlife women," writes Ohayon, who recommends asking women with chronic insomnia about hot flashes and possibly treating hot flashes to improve sleep quality.

About Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. Up to 85% of menopausal women experience them, according to background information cited in the study.

Data for Ohayon's findings came from 982 California women age 35-65 years. Ohayon split the women into three groups:

  • Before menopause (premenopausal): 562 women
  • Around the time of menopause (perimenopausal): 219 women
  • After menopause (postmenopause): 201 women

Menopause doesn't happen overnight. Here's what those terms mean in this study:

  • Premenopause: Women at least 35 years old who reported regular menstrual periods in the last year.
  • Perimenopause: Women who reported irregular menstrual periods during the last year and had at least one period in the previous year.
  • Postmenopause: Women who reported no menstrual bleeding during the last 12 months.

During telephone interviews, the women were asked if they had hot flashes. They also rated their hot flashes' severity by these standards:

  • Mild: Hot flashes usually don't cause sweating.
  • Moderate: Hot flashes usually include sweating that doesn't limit activities.
  • Severe: Hot flashes usually cause sweating that prompts a woman to stop her activity.

The women also reported any sleep problems. Chronic insomnia was defined as at least six months of poor quality sleep, including trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Severity of Hot Flashes

Nearly a third of the women reported having at least three weekly hot flashes in the previous month. About 12% of the premenopausal group, 79% of the perimenopausal group, and 39% of the postmenopausal group reported having hot flashes that often.

Of the women with frequent hot flashes, about half experienced mild hot flashes and nearly one-third had moderate ones. But 15.5% said they suffered from severe hot flashes, Ohayon writes.

Like hot flashes, chronic insomniawas most commonly reported by perimenopausal women, followed by the postmenopausal women.

More than half of the perimenopausal women had chronic insomnia (nearly 57%). So did about half of the postmenopausal women (almost 51%).

Chronic insomnia was rarest among premenopausal women, the study shows.

Hot Flashes and Sleep

Many health problems can disrupt sleep. Ohayon took that into account.

Self-reported poor health, chronic pain, and sleep apnea(in which breathing stops temporarily during sleep) were tied to chronic insomnia. After considering those factors, Ohayon still found a strong link between severe hot flashes and chronic insomnia.

Of the 48 women who experienced severe hot flashes, about 80% had problems with chronic insomnia.

The women weren't followed over time. But more than half of the perimenopausal women and one in five postmenopausal women said their chronic insomnia began before, not during, menopause.

Even so, Ohayon found that "chronic pain and moderate or severe hot flashes were associated with chronic insomnia occurring around or after menopause."

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

However, Ohayon's study didn't test any treatments for hot flashes.

The study was partly funded by NV Organon, which makes hormone therapies for menopause.

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It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping, have insomnia, or have other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep, since sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep because sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's important to keep your bedtime and routine consistent every night and wake up around the same time every morning.

Click here to read more about the importance of sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep this amount, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep longer, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's also important to keep bedtime consistent and wake up around the same time every morning.

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia, another sleep disorder, or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:239.

Carskadon, MA, Dement, WC. Normal Human Sleep: An Overview. In: Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, Fifth, Kryger, MH, Roth, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO 2011. p.16.

Harvard University: "Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety."

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