About 85 percent of women going through menopause experience hot flashes. Hot flashes also known as hot flushes, or vasomotor events are the most common symptom menopausal women experience.
Night sweats are also considered hot flashes, they just occur while a woman is sleeping.
Since hot flashes can happen any time day or night, it is not surprising that they can have an impact on other menopausal difficulties including sleep, changes in mood like anxiety and/or depression, and overall quality of daily activities in life.
During the North American Menopause Society's 2014 Annual Meeting, Dr. Nanette Santoro discussed Vasomotor Symptoms: Impact of Sleep, Mood and Quality of Life and Methods of Measurement.
Dr. Santoro shared two theories of how hot flashes could impact quality of life for women during menopause: The ‘Cascade’ Model of Hot Flash Disruption and The ‘Cumulative Burden’ Model.
In the ‘Cascade’ Model of Hot Flash Disruption the theory is that hot flashes, particularly at night, lead to changes in sleep patterns or sleep disturbances. The consistently poor sleep results in increased levels of anxiety and depression in menopausal women.
Women with moderate to severe hot flashes report more sleep disturbances in the second half of the night, which reduces their overall quality of sleep. As women are successfully treated for hot flashes, their sleep improves and so do their mood conditions.
Research shows that in perimenopausal women who have been diagnosed with adverse mood (anxiety and depression) sleep habits will improve before their mood becomes elevated. This indicates that better quality of sleep is a factor in improving mood.
The ‘Cumulative Burden’ Model is designed to look at the balance between the protective factors and the decompensating that impact the quality of life that women experience as they go through menopause.
Protective factors are factors that help stabilize or lessen menopausal symptoms. Some examples of protective factor are exercise, social support and health of the nervous system.