The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants are used off-label to treat menopausal hot flushes. One of their most common side-effects is insomnia and, therefore, investigation of this mode of therapy in postmenopausal women with vasomotor symptoms and related sleep disturbances is of importance. The aim of a recent randomized, blinded, multicenter, placebo-controlled study was to determine the effect of escitalopram, a widely used SSRI, on insomnia symptoms and subjective sleep quality in healthy perimenopausal and postmenopausal women with hot flushes . The study included 205 women (95 African-American, 102 white, eight other) who received escitalopram (10–20 mg/day) or placebo for a duration of 8 weeks. Insomnia symptoms (Insomnia Severity Index, ISI) and subjective sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, PSQI) at weeks 4 and 8 were the pre-specified secondary outcomes. A total of 199 women (97%) provided ISI data and 194 (95%) women provided PSQI data at follow-up. At baseline, the mean hot flush frequency was 9.8 per day (standard deviation (SD) 5.60), the mean ISI was 11.4 (SD 6.3), and the mean PSQI was 8.0 (SD 3.7). Treatment with escitalopram reduced the ISI at week 8 (mean difference -2.00; 95% confidence interval (CI) -3.43 to -0.57; [i]p[/i] < 0.001, overall treatment effect), with mean differences of -4.73 (95% CI -5.72 to -3.75) in the escitalopram group and -2.73 (95% CI -3.78 to -1.69) in the placebo group. The reduction in PSQI was greater in the escitalopram group than in the placebo group at week 8 (mean difference -1.31; 95% CI -2.14 to -0.49; [i]p[/i] < 0.001, overall treatment effect). Clinical improvement in insomnia symptoms and subjective sleep quality (≥ 50% decreases in ISI and PSQI from baseline) was observed more frequently in the escitalopram group than in the placebo group (ISI: 50.0% vs. 35.4%, [i]p[/i] = 0.04; PSQI: 29.6% vs. 19.2%, [i]p[/i] = 0.09). The investigators’ conclusions were that. among healthy perimenopausal and postmenopausal women with hot flushes, escitalopram at 10–20 mg/day compared with placebo reduced insomnia symptoms and improved subjective sleep quality at 8 weeks of follow-up.
Department of Medicine T, Ichilov Hospital, Tel-Aviv, Israel
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