Health In Focus
  • Hot flashes are the most common symptom of the menopausal transition.
  • Average age for menopause is 51 years
  • Woman’s perception of hot flash frequency linked to changes in mood.

Nighttime hot flashes can trigger symptoms of depression during menopause.

Twenty-nine healthy, pre-menopausal women between the age group of 18 and 45 years participated in the study. The women were asked to take medication to suppress the production of estrogen hormone in the ovaries for a 4-week period. The medication treatment mimics menopause and induces symptoms of menopause.
Nighttime Hot Flashes Can Trigger Symptoms of Depression

The sleep and hormonal levels of the participants were monitored before and after the four-week timeframe. The mental health questionnaires were also compared at the beginning and end of the study.

Study Results
  • Women who experienced frequent nighttime hot flashes were more likely to experience mild symptoms of depression than women who reported fewer or no nighttime hot flashes.
  • Women who experienced sleep disturbances were more likely to show depression symptoms than women who got adequate sleep.
  • Daytime hot flashes had no effect on the participants' mood.
"When women were awake long enough to later recall nighttime hot flashes, that perception contributed to mood disturbance in women whose estrogen levels had fallen," said the study's first author, Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. "The association was independent of sleep disruption that the women experienced."

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a time in a woman's life when her menstrual periods stop. Menopause usually occurs naturally, most often after the age of 45 years. Menopause happens when a woman's ovaries stop producing estrogen and other hormones.

Most women reach menopause between the ages 45 and 55, with the average age around 51 years. One percent of women experience menopause before the age of 40 years and is known as premature menopause.

Early menopause occurs between 41 and 45 years of age

Symptoms of Menopause

Hot flashes or night sweats - most common symptom of menopause and occur in around two-thirds of women

Other symptoms include
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Vaginal dryness
Why Does Menopause Impact on Mood?

During menopausal transition, women are on a hormonal rollercoaster. Estrogen receptors in the brain are responsible for mood swings.

One of the key functions of the estrogen receptor is to block the breakdown of serotonin - the happy hormone. During perimenopause, when the estrogen levels drop so do the serotonin levels can impact how we feel emotionally.

Changes to the adrenal glands can make women more sensitive to stress hormones during menopause; which increases the risk for depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Research work conducted by Freeman et al., and published in the journal Menopause (2016) finds a strong association between somatic anxiety (physical symptoms of anxiety) and the risk of menopausal hot flashes.

Any treatment of mood symptoms in this population also should incorporate efforts to address sleep and nighttime hot flashes."

Ways to Deal with Emotional Changes of Menopause

1. Get active and do it regularly - Exercise is like a magic bullet for lifting mood and improving sleep

2. Talk about it: Feeling isolated can lower your mood and confidence; be open with your family and friends.

3. Practice yoga, meditation and rhythmic breathing techniques, Mindfulness helps deal with stress.

4. Set small goals.

5. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is the most common triggers for anxiety and depression. Stick to healthy drinking limits

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Source: Medindia

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