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Getting a good night's sleep and feeling better could be all in your head

11 October 2017

North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting

Study demonstrates effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy for menopausal insomnia on depressive symptoms

For the thousands of peri- and postmenopausal women who struggle to sleep and battle depression, help can't come soon enough. Although physical changes during the menopause transition are often the cause of these problems, a new study from the University of Texas suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy might provide the relief these women seek. 

Insomnia is a frequently cited problem, affecting 30-60% of peri- and postmenopausal women. Depressive symptoms are nearly equally prevalent, affecting 25-40% of this female population. Over the years, medical professionals have proposed a number of treatment options to relieve one or both of these menopause symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia is one alternative that has shown tremendous potential in treating menopausal insomnia. This new study, however, is the first to examine the effects of this same therapy on depressive symptoms. Cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia is a type of psychotherapy which targets negative thoughts and behaviours contributing to insomnia.

The study provided promising results for a small group of participants. A four-session cognitive behavioural therapy intervention targeting both insomnia and hot flashes led to clinically meaningful improvements in sleep and depressive symptoms. The results were similar regardless of the severity of the depression.

"Given the high prevalence rates of insomnia and depressive symptoms in midlife women, we felt there was a need for more research to be done on the effectiveness of possible alternatives for treating these symptoms," says Dr Sara Nowakowski, lead author of the study from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

"The results of this study will hopefully lead to additional research to provide symptomatic menopausal women with more options than what were previously available," says Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director."

Content updated 11 October 2017