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Perceived high number of hot flushes at night can trigger mild depression

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A woman’s perception that she is experiencing a high number of night-time hot flushes can trigger mild symptoms of depression during menopause, according to a US study.

US researchers found both interruption of sleep and greater frequency of perceived night-time hot flashes were associated with mood disturbance.

“Perception contributed to mood disturbance in women whose oestrogen levels had fallen”

Hadine Joffe

As a result, they suggest that menopausal women who report experiencing night-time hot flushes and sleep disruption should be screened for mood disturbances.

Their study involved 29 healthy, premenopausal women between the ages of 18 and 45. The women took a medication to suppress oestrogen production in the ovaries for a four-week period to mimic menopause and induce menopausal symptoms to varying degrees of intensity.

Before and after the four-week timeframe, researchers monitored sleep and hormone levels. The participants completed mental health questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study.

The study found that women who reported experiencing frequent hot flushes at night were more likely to experience mild symptoms of depression than those who reported fewer or no hot flushes.

However, the researchers found only the women’s perception of hot flush frequency – not the measured number of hot flushes – was linked to changes in mood.

Women who experienced sleep interruption also were more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression than women who got more sleep, said the researchers.

In contrast, daytime hot flushes had no effect on the participants’ mood, according to the findings published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Nocturnal hot flushes can spark ‘mild depression’

Hadine Joffe

Study author Dr Hadine Joffe said: “When women were awake long enough to later recall night-time hot flushes, that perception contributed to mood disturbance in women whose oestrogen levels had fallen.

“The association was independent of sleep disruption that the women experienced,” noted Dr Joffe, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“The results of our research suggest menopausal women who report experiencing night-time hot flushes and sleep disruption should be screened for mood disturbances,” she said.

“Any treatment of mood symptoms in this population also should incorporate efforts to address sleep and night-time hot flushes,” she added.

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