Gabapentin, a drug used to treat seizures, improves the quality of sleep in menopausal women bothered by hot flashes, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers report in the Journal of Women's Health.

Approximately 40 percent of menopausal women have trouble sleeping. They often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.

In a previous study, the Rochester researchers found that gabapentin helps alleviate hot flashes. Their current study, they say, is the first to show sustained benefits in sleep quality with gabapentin.

To determine the impact of gabapentin on sleep, the researchers used data from their previous of gabapentin in 59 postmenopausal women who experienced 7 to 20 hot flashes daily. The subjects took either 300 milligrams of gabapentin three times a day or a placebo.

Based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index -- a well-known and validated sleep questionnaire, they found that women who took gabapentin reported better quality sleep than those who took placebo.

Gabapentin improves sleep quality but does not have the potential dependency problems of some other sleep medications and does not involve the use of hormone replacement therapy, Dr. Michael E. Yurcheshen, who led the study, noted in a university-issued statement.

It has minimal side effects and it is a generic drug, said Yurcheshen, who is based at the Strong Sleep Disorders Center. That makes it a very attractive treatment for these problems in this patient population.

SOURCE: Journal of Women's Health, September 2009.