Primary menopausal insomnia: Definition, review, and practical approach

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11 Scopus citations


Objective: To present a case of primary menopausal insomnia with hot flashes to introduce recent changes in technology and nomenclature of sleep medicine and to review presentation, diagnosis, and therapies for menopausal insomnia. Methods: Clinical findings and results of sleep evaluation in the menopausal study patient are presented with details about polysomnography performed before and after therapy with pregabalin. Results: A 56.5-year-old female athlete with severe hot flashes and insomnia of 12 years' duration was treated with pregabalin, which ameliorated the hot flashes and sweats and improved sleep quality and architecture. Menopause is associated with hormonal and metabolic changes that disrupt sleep. Disruption of sleep can in turn lead to morbidity and metabolic sequelae. Hormonal treatment, although effective, carries risks unacceptable to many patients and physicians. To date, nonhormonal therapies of symptomatic menopause have not been objectively studied for effects on sleep efficiency and architecture. Primary menopausal insomnia is insomnia associated with menopause and not attributable to secondary causes. Polysomnographically, it seems characterized by a high percentage of slow-wave (N3) sleep, decreased rapid eye movement sleep, cyclic alternating pattern, and arousals. Conclusions: Primary menopausal insomnia is probably mediated through a mechanism separate from hot flashes, and one can occur without the other. Thermal dysregulation and sleep abnormalities of menopause are probably related to more general changes mediated through loss of estrogenic effects on neuronal modulation of energy metabolism, and more clinical direction is expected as this research field develops. Identification of sleep disorders in menopausal women is important, and polysomnographic evaluation is underused in both clinical and research evaluations of metabolic disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalEndocrine Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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