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Which is worse: Night sweats or hot flashes?

In a presentation at the North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting, investigators found these signs of menopause are 2 very separate symptoms and have different effects on stress and depression in menopausal women.

While many women view hot flashes and night sweats as the same phenomena, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), these signs of menopause are actually 2 very separate symptoms.

In a presentation given at the NAMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta from October 12-15, 2022, Sofiya Shreyer, lead author of the study from the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts, found that night sweats and hot flashes were separate events rather than the same phenomena associated with menopause.

While both hot flashes and night sweats induce a feeling of overheating, hot flashes occur during the day and may involve sweating, and night sweats occur during nighttime and involve an intense period of sweating.

In their study, investigators from the University of Massachusetts sought to discover whether 1 symptom was worse than the other when looking at depression and stress.

The study involved 200 menopausal women, and after adjusting for menopause status, marriage, and financial comfort, found night sweats were significantly associated with both stress and depression, while hot flashes were associated with only depression. Moreover, Shreyer and her fellow investigators found that night sweats are more stressful than hot flashes.

"This study adds to the growing evidence that menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can significantly detract from a woman's quality of life and should be taken seriously by healthcare professionals. More research is necessary to fully understand the mechanisms of these symptoms and their overall effect on a woman's menopause experience," said Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, NAMS medical director.

Additionally, those who reported the highest hot flash frequency at night had higher depression scores vs women who had the highest hot flash frequency during other times of the day, according to the study results. These data support previous results from studies that found sleep disruptions during menopause have a substantial effect on the quality of life. Also, the results suggest night sweats may have more severe effects than hot flashes.

"We know that sleep disturbances are one of the biggest detriments for women going through menopause, but these results are unique because they show that women experiencing night sweats, rather than just hot flashes, may be at an even bigger disadvantage," concluded Shreyer.

Reference:

Shreyer S. Night Sweats Versus Hot Flashes. Presented at: North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting. October 12-15, Atlanta, Georgia.