Sleep and sex are two essential ingredients for a woman’s quality of life.
A fulfilling sex life boosts many aspects of physical and emotional health, improving everything from mood to heart health.
And a good night’s sleep? Research has shown that it also affects many things, from concentration and patience to the prevention of physical disorders including type 2 diabetes, immune dysfunction and depression. Women approaching menopause who don’t sleep well are even more likely to gain excess weight, research has shown.
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A new study sheds light on the link between sex and sleep – beyond the simple fact that each one often contains a bed.
The study found that middle-aged women who report insufficient sleep quality tend to have higher rates of sexual dysfunction.
Sleep and Sexual Issues are Common in Midlife
It is important to understand any connection between sleep and sexual issues, as both are so prevalent in middle-aged women, says one of the study’s authors, Stephanie Faubion, MD, chair of the medicine department at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and ‘ r medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Previous research has found that more than 26 percent of middle-aged women have significant sleep problems, with more than half experiencing at least some sleep problems during the menopause transition, the study’s authors note.
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Meanwhile, about 43 percent of middle-aged women have sexual dysfunction, which can be reduced desire, orgasm issues, dissatisfaction, pain, or other problems.
Researchers used Validated Questionnaires to Get to the Root Causes
Several previous studies tried to link sleep quality with sex, but did not consistently use validated questionnaires, Dr. Faubion.
For the new study, published online April 21 in the journal Menopause, women were asked to complete several previously validated questionnaires, meaning that the questions they asked were correct to identify these issues.
This included a sleep questionnaire called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which asks not only the hours a woman sleeps but whether she has problems falling asleep and if anything, including a condition physical, room temperature affects its slumber, the need to spike often, or other factors.
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Sexual function was identified using two questionnaires, the Female Sexual Function Index and the revised Female Sexual Distress Scale. Both are essential to truly understanding sexual dysfunction, Faubion said, though she says many researchers rely on the first index only.
“You can’t call something a problem unless the woman does,” he said. “It is important not only to say that there is a low appetite, for example, but for the woman herself to indicate that she is worried,” he said.
Other questionnaires looked at women’s anxiety, mood and relationship satisfaction.
The study involved more than 3,400 middle-aged women who came to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Arizona between 2016 and 2019. These women were predominantly white, educated, and in a relationship, so it is not known if they would ‘ The results are the same for the wider female population.
Results Refer to Sleep Quality as the Problem
About 75 percent of the women in the study reported poor sleep quality, while 54 percent met the criteria for sexual dysfunction. These are huge percentages, Faubion said, saying the prevalence of these concerns underscores the need for doctors to address them better.
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When the results were analyzed to consider other factors, it was found that women with poor sleep quality were 1.48 times more likely to report having sexual problems.
On the flip side, sexually active women were more likely to be getting good quality sleep.
One notable finding: Total sleep (known as sleep duration) was less important than sleep quality.
Going through Full Cycles in Sleep is Key to Quality of Rest
This can be because during the night, a person passes through a series of sleep stages, a cycle that is repeated several times each night. Repeated interruption of these cycles short-circuits this process.
Researchers, as authors of a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in October 2015, began documenting the effects of disturbed sleep besides the total amount of sleep a person receives, and found that it affects everything from physical and emotional health to how your brain operates during the day .
In the Menopause study, the researchers were unable to determine why reported quality of sleep had more than a duration effect, but could be related to the interference of these cycles.
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The researchers also could not determine whether poor quality sleep led to poorer sex, or whether it was lack of good sex that affected a woman’s ability to sleep. “It logically makes sense that sleep quality issues affect sex, because when you’re tired you have very little libido. But it could also identify a problem with her relationship that is affecting her ability to sleep, ”said Faubion.
Don’t Leave Either Problem (Sleep or Sex) Unsolved
It is clear from this study that doctors should be asking women about anything that might be affecting either their sleep or their sex lives, experts say.
“When encountering patients with sexual dysfunction, practitioners should consider the possibility of a sleep disorder, which can cause sleep disruption,” said Meir Kryger, MD, a Yale Medicine sleep specialist and professor of pulmonary medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut .
Dr. Kryger was involved in the study.
Treatments for Sleep Trouble are available
Some of the sleep-affecting issues that doctors can help with include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, panic attacks, or menopausal symptoms like night sweats, Faubion said.
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But many GPs don’t ask middle-aged women about either their sleep or their sex life, Faubion laments. If your doctor doesn’t, it’s important that you raise it yourself.
“A woman with sexual functioning problems should look completely at her sleep. Sexual functioning can be affected by many things, but this study identified sleep as one of them, ”he said.