The study divided 110 women between the ages of 47 and 69 into two groups, one receiving the training, the other "waitlisted" to learn the technique.
Participants filled out questionnaires to determine factors known to influence hot flashes, such as alcohol use, yoga and exercise.
Researchers also measured four dimensions of quality of life: physical, psychosocial, vasomotor (hot flashes), and sexual function. The women rated how much they were bothered by symptoms on a four-point scale ranging from "not at all" to "extremely" bothered. They kept diaries noting the number and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats. On average, the women had five or more moderate to severe hot flashes, or night sweats, a day when the study began.
After taking classes once a week for eight weeks, and a full day of training, the training group women had an average decrease of 15 percent in how much their symptoms bothered them vs. 7 percent for the control group. While hot flash intensity did not differ significantly, the training group reported better sleep, and less anxiety and perceived stress.
At the beginning of the study, which ran from November 2005 to September 2007, participants had "clinically significant" sleep problems. Improved sleep was an important outcome, the study found.
"The thing that surprised us the most was the effect on sleep," said Carmody, noting that mindfulness training was found to be as effective as hormone replacement therapy in reducing insomnia.
Another expert praised the study for using the "mind-body connection" to help women with serious menopause symptoms with "no side effects."
"We've known about the mind-body connection," said Dr. Jill M. Rabin. "We're just beginning to unlock the power of the mind to have an impact on our physiological selves."
The study authors were "self-critical regarding the limitations of the study," said Rabin, chief of the division of ambulato
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