Objectives: Given the neurocognitive hyperarousal observed in patients with insomnia disorder and associations of nocturnal hot flashes with cardiovascular disease risk, we examined whether women with hot flash-associated insomnia disorder demonstrate exaggerated cardiovascular responsivity to acute stressors, and also a profile of psychological hyperarousal.
Methods: Peri and postmenopausal women with and without hot flash-associated insomnia disorder underwent assessments of cardiovascular autonomic responsivity to acute stress paradigms and psychological hyperarousal. Hemodynamic responses (heart rate, blood pressure) to nociceptive, social-evaluative, and cognitive stress paradigms were measured in the morning. Psychological hyperarousal was evaluated using questionnaires assessing daytime and presleep hyperarousal, anxiety, and sleep-related cognitions.
Results: Women (25 with and 15 without hot flash-associated insomnia) aged 53.4 ± 4.8 years reported a range of insomnia symptoms. Resting-state hemodynamics were similar between groups. Heart rate and blood pressure responses to stress paradigms did not differ by group nor did they correlate with insomnia severity. Women with insomnia disorder had higher generalized anxiety disorder scores (mean 2.7 ± 3.0 vs 1.0 ± 1.4; P = 0.05) and sleep-related cognitions than those without insomnia (P ≤ 0.05). Insomnia symptom severity was moderately correlated with presleep and daytime hyperarousal, anxiety, and sleep-related cognition (all r ≥ 0.43).
Conclusions: Though hot flash-associated insomnia is characterized by psychological hyperarousal before sleep and during the daytime, it does not relate to cardiovascular responsiveness to acute stressors. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that altered cardiovascular control is a potential mechanism by which hot flash-associated insomnia confers higher cardiovascular disease risk.