Women going through menopause don't have many options for relieving hot flashes, and many women report difficulty sleeping and sleep disturbance as a result.
Hormone therapy - estrogen with or without progestin - is the most common and only FDA-approved treatment of menopausal hot flashes, but its use declined after studies showed a delicate balance of risks and benefits of hormone therapy.
But could some antidepressants reduce insomnia symptoms and improve self-reported sleep quality while reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes in menopausal women?
School of Public Health and Medical School professor Kristine Ensrud, M.D., M.P.H. recently published research that found the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram reduced insomnia symptoms for menopausal women and lessened the severity of hot flashes. The results of her research suggest that the medication could provide a non-hormonal, off-label option for women looking for effective management of menopause-related hot flashes and sleep disturbances.
"Hormone therapy is the current 'gold standard' in treatment for menopausal hot flashes, but there are concerns about long-term use and whether the risks outweigh the benefits," Ensrud said. "Because hormone therapy is only recommended in low doses for short periods of time to relieve menopausal symptoms, we wanted to see what alternatives there might be, by determining the effect of the antidepressant escitalopram on hot flashes and sleep complaints."
According to Ensrud, her study's findings can reassure providers and patients that SSRIs, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, are options for women going through the transition of menopause."