June 3, 2011 -- Training in mindfulness-based stress reduction may help women cope with hot flashes and night sweats caused by menopause, a study shows.
The study shows women who used mindfulness-based stress reduction were less bothered by their hot flashes even though their intensity did not change.
Researchers found women who learned the technique reduced the degree to which they were bothered by hot flashes by 22% for up to three months after training compared with an 11% reduction among the comparison group.
The study is published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.
"Mindfulness training involves women learning to recognize and discriminate more accurately between the components of experience such as thoughts, feelings, and sensations and developing a nonreactive awareness of these components," write study researcher James Francis Carmody, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., and colleagues.
Researchers say mindfulness creates a psychological distance that allows the person to observe, appraise, and be less reactive to events occurring internally or in the environment. Previous studies have shown that mindfulness-based stress reduction can help women cope with sleep problems, stress, and anxiety.
In the study, researchers looked at the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction training on the degree of "bother" associated with hot flashes and night sweats among a group of 110 late perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women.
The participants reported experiencing an average of five or more moderate or severe hot flashes or night sweats per day at the start of the study, which they regarded as moderate or extremely bothersome.
The women were randomly divided into two groups. One group received standard mindfulness-based stress reduction training consisting of eight weekly two-and-one-half-hour classes plus one all-day class during the sixth week. The other group received no training.
All of the participants kept diaries to record how much they were bothered by hot flashes and night sweats as well as their frequency and intensity.
The results showed that immediately after mindfulness-based stress reduction training, women who used the technique experienced a 15% reduction in bother caused by their hot flashes compared with a 7% reduction in the no-training group.
Twenty weeks after training, the average reduction in bother among those practicing mindfulness increased to 21% compared with 11% in the no-training group.
Researchers say the intensity of hot flashes did not change during the course of the study in both groups.
Despite this, the mindfulness group also reported improvements in quality of life, subjective sleep quality, and perceived stress for up to three months after training.