Women who suffered emotional or physical abuse or neglect as children likely to have more frequent physiologically assessed hot flashes during sleep, according to research published in the journal Menopause.

This latest study involving 295 nonsmoking perimenopausal and postmenopausal women aged 40 to 60 years with hot flashes examines the relationship between childhood maltreatment and physiologically assessed hot flashes. The study yielded a number of noteworthy observations, including the fact that the incidence of childhood maltreatment is higher than originally thought. Although some previous studies have estimated at least one in four US women have experienced childhood abuse or neglect, 44% of this sample population reported some form of abuse.

Nonwhite women were more likely to report being abused or neglected, especially physically. Overall, however, emotional abuse was the most frequently cited type of abuse endured. And, in general, women reporting daily hot flashes were younger, less educated, and more often nonwhite than women not reporting these symptoms.

With regard to menopause symptoms, the study found that childhood abuse was associated with more frequent physiologically assessed hot flashes during sleep. Because hot flashes are linked with sleep problems and other quality-of-life issues, this study underscores the importance for clinicians to routinely screen for trauma history when considering women’s midlife health.

“Sleep disruption is a major issue for many menopausal women. Screening and counseling for trauma history, whether childhood trauma, intimate partner violence, or posttraumatic stress, should be part of routine preventive medical care for women at midlife and may be present in women with nighttime hot flashes,” says JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society.