New research suggests that quality of sleep influences the quality of women's sex life.
Women who are either premenopausal or have entered the menopause often have trouble sleeping. Some of the sleep problems they experience include trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up in the early hours of the morning.
Some of the factors contributing to these sleep disturbances range from hormonal changes, hot flushes, and abnormalities of the circadian rhythm, to lifestyle choices or other age-related medical conditions.
Insufficient sleep can cause a variety of health problems. Individuals who are constantly sleep deprived may develop hypertension and heart disease. Additional research has found a link between insufficient sleep, and type 2 diabetes and obesity.
A new study from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) suggests that sleep deprivation also affects levels of sexual satisfaction among postmenopausal women. The first author of the study is Dr. Juliana M. Kling, and the findings were published in the journal Menopause.
Poor sleep impacts sexual satisfaction
Researchers analyzed the data collected by the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Study, a long-term national health study aiming to prevent a range of diseases among postmenopausal women aged between 50 and 79.
For the present study, Dr. Kling and colleagues examined data on sleep quality and sexual satisfaction from 93,668 women enrolled in the WIH. Short sleep duration was defined as fewer than 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Of the women enrolled, 56 percent reported being somewhat or very satisfied with their current sexual activity, while 52 percent reported having partnered sexual activity in the last year. The researchers found a total insomnia prevalence of 31 percent.
Overall, women who reported sleeping for under 7-8 hours were less likely to be sexually active and sexually satisfied.
After adjusting for potential causes of insomnia, such as depression and chronic disease, there was still an inverse association between insomnia and sexual satisfaction. Higher insomnia scores correlated with lower odds of sexual satisfaction, and short sleep duration was associated with lower odds of partnered sexual activity, as well as lower sexual satisfaction.
The observed relationship varied with age. Compared with younger women, older women tended to be less sexually active if they slept for fewer than 7-8 hours. Additionally, women older than 70 who slept fewer than 5 hours were 30 percent less likely to be sexually active than women who slept for 7-8 hours. However, the authors note, this could be due to the presence of more comorbidities.
The authors write that, in order to elucidate the relationships between older age, lower sleep duration, and other comorbidities, more prospective, longitudinal studies are needed.
Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, the executive director of NAMS, weighs in on the findings:
"Women and healthcare providers need to recognize the link between menopause symptoms and inadequate sleep and their effects on sexual satisfaction. There are effective treatment options to help with sleep disruption and sexual satisfaction, including hormone therapy, which this study confirmed to be effective at menopause for symptomatic women."