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Drug improves sleep of women with hot flashes

September 9, 2009 |  6:00 am

 A medication that is used for a variety of conditions, mostly seizures, may help women whose sleep is disrupted by menopausal hot flashes.

Menopausal hot flashes are common, and about 40% of women with hot flashes experience sleep disruption. Hormone replacement therapy is a proven remedy for the condition. However, studies on the risks associated with long-term use of hormone replacement therapy has left many women looking for alternatives.

The study, published today in the Journal of Women's Health, found that the drug gabapentin improved sleep quality in women experiencing hot flashes. Researchers gave 59 postmenopausal women either 300 milligrams of gabapentin three times a day or a placebo. After 12 weeks of treatment, the study showed significant improvement in overall sleep quality for the women receiving gabapentin compared with those receiving the placebo.

"Gabapentin improves sleep quality but does not have the potential dependency problems of some other sleep medications and does not involve the use of hormone replacement therapy," the lead author of the study, Dr. Michael E. Yurcheshen of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a news release.

"It has minimal side effects and it is a generic drug. That makes it a very attractive treatment for these problems in this patient population."

Researchers aren't sure why the drug improves sleep in women with hot flashes. It could be that it reduces the hot flashes, stabilizes sleep or decreases the amount of time to transition from wakefulness to sleep. Gabapentin may also help with other sleep problems such as restless leg syndrome.

-- Shari Roan