Treating insomnia may ease depression in menopause

Targeted CBT 'can be added to the arsenal' of treatments for menopausal sleeplessness, says researcher

Women going through menopause may have fewer symptoms of depression when they receive treatment for insomnia than when they don't, a recent experiment suggests.

woman with insomnia

Researchers in the US recruited 117 menopausal women with insomnia for the study and randomly assigned them to three groups.

One group received cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBTI) while another group received a component of CBT known as sleep restriction therapy.

The third group only received education on sleep hygiene or on habits that can make it easier to fall and remain asleep.

Overall, 4.3% of the women had moderately severe depression. Both forms of insomnia treatment helped ease depression symptoms for these women, but sleep hygiene education did not.

"We can add targeted CBTI to the current arsenal of treatments available to alleviate menopausal associated insomnia, “ said senior study author Dr Christopher Drake (PhD) of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan.

Women in the study who received CBTI completed six face-to-face therapy sessions with a registered nurse specialising in behavioural sleep medicine.

Sleep restriction therapy was briefer, and involved two face-to-face sessions and three phone sessions.

The control group assigned to sleep hygiene education, meanwhile, received six weekly emails with tips on how to create better nighttime routines, along with information on the connection between sleep and a variety of health problems and lifestyle habits.

Those who received CBTI immediately experienced moderate to large reductions in symptoms of the mood disorder, the researchers report in Sleep Medicine.

Patients also reported moderate improvements in depression with sleep restriction therapy, but these effects didn't occur until six months after treatment ended.

One limitation of the study is that it excluded women diagnosed with major depression, so it's not clear how well these insomnia treatments would work for these women, researchers note.

Differences in the duration and form of treatment between the types of insomnia therapies tested may have also impacted the results.

More information: Sleep Medicine 2018.