Sleep complaints are common in women, and women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Multiple factors across a woman’s lifespan, including hormonal changes, age-related physiological changes, psychosocial factors, the presence of sleep disorders, and physical and mental health conditions, can contribute to complaints of poor sleep in women. This article reviews the literature on the characteristics of, and contributing factors to, subjectively and objectively measured sleep during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and post-partum period, as well as the menopausal transition and postmenopause. Evidence from both subjective and objective measurements supports the presence of chronic sleep fragmentation associated with pregnancy, acute sleep deprivation during labour and the immediate post-partum periods, as well as disrupted sleep during the first few months after childbirth. While there is evidence for menstrual cycle and menopause related sleep disturbance based on women’s self report, findings from objectively measured sleep have been mixed. Observational and intervention studies on the relationship between sleep and women’s psychological well-being suggest that underlying causes of sleep disturbance across a woman’s lifespan are often multi-factorial. Comprehensive assessments and targeted interventions are needed in managing sleep problems in women. Cognitive behavioural interventions have been shown to reduce sleep complaints during the perinatal and menopausal periods, and improvements in sleep are likely to lead to improvements in women’s overall well-being.
To quantify the impact of objectively recorded hot flashes on objective sleep in perimenopausal women.
Cross-sectional study. Participants underwent 1–5 laboratory-based polysomnographic recordings for a total of 63 nights, including sternal skin-conductance measures, from which 222 hot flashes were identified according to established criteria. Data were analyzed with hierarchical mixed-effect models and Spearman’s rank correlations.
Thirty-four perimenopausal women (age ± SD: 50.4 ± 2.7 years).
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Perceived and polysomnographic sleep measures (sleep quality, amount of time spent awake after sleep onset, and number of awakenings). Subjective (frequency and level of bother) and objective (frequency and amount of hot flash–associated awake time) hot-flash measures.
Women had an average of 3.5 (95% confidence interval: 2.8–4.2, range = 1–9) objective hot flashes per night. A total of 69.4% of hot flashes were associated with an awakening. Hot flash–associated time awake per night was, on average, 16.6 minutes (95% confidence interval: 10.8–22.4 minutes), which accounted for 27.2% (SD 27.1) of total awake time per night. Hot flash–associated time awake, but not hot flash frequency, was negatively associated with sleep efficiency and positively associated with waking after sleep onset. In addition, self-reported wakefulness correlated with hot flash–associated waking, suggesting that women’s estimates of wakefulness are influenced by the amount of time spent awake in association with hot flashes during the night. Having more perceived and bothersome hot flashes was correlated with more perceived wakefulness and awakenings and more objective hot flash–associated time awake and hot-flash frequency.
The presence of physiological hot flashes accounts for a significant proportion of total objective time awake during the night in perimenopausal women.
We investigated cardiac vagal and sympathetic activity in 13 young primary insomniacs (PI; 24.4 ± 1.6 years) and 14 good sleepers (GS; 23.3 ± 2.5 years) during nocturnal sleep. Pre-ejection period (PEP; inversely related to beta-adrenergic sympathetic activity), interval between consecutive R-waves (RR), and vagal-related indices of time- and frequency-domain heart rate variability were computed during pre-sleep wakefulness and undisturbed arousal-free sleep stages (N2, SWS, REM) as well as across the whole night irrespective of the presence of disruptive sleep events (e.g. sleep arousals/awakenings) and/or sleep stage transitions. Groups exhibited a similar vagal activity throughout each undisturbed sleep stage as well as considering the whole night, with a higher modulation during sleep compared to prior wakefulness. However, PEP was constantly shorter (higher sympathetic activity) during pre-sleep wakefulness and each sleep stage in PI compared to GS. Moreover, pre-sleep RR intervals were positively associated with sleep efficiency and negatively associated with wake after sleep onset in PI. Altogether our findings indicated a dysfunctional sympathetic activity but a normal parasympathetic modulation before and during sleep in young adults with insomnia.
Association between Personality Traits and DSM-IV Diagnosis of Insomnia in Peri- and Postmenopausal Women
The aim of this study was to determine the role of personality factors in the development of DSM-IV insomnia coincident with perimenopause.
Perimenopausal women (35 women with DSM-IV insomnia and 28 women with self-reported normal sleep) underwent clinical assessments and completed menopause-related questionnaires, the NEO Five Factor Inventory and the Structured Interview for DSM-IV Personality. Logistic regressions determined whether personality factors and hot flash-related interference were associated with an insomnia diagnosis concurrent with the menopausal transition.
Women with insomnia reported higher neuroticism, lower agreeableness, and lower conscientiousness than controls on the NEO Five Factor Inventory. Moreover, women with insomnia were more likely to meet DSM-IV criteria for cluster C personality disorders, particularly obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, on the Structured Interview for DSM-IV Personality. Women with insomnia were more likely to have had a past depressive episode and a history of severe premenstrual symptoms. Findings from regressions revealed that higher neuroticism and greater interference from hot flashes were associated with insomnia classification even after controlling for history of depression, suggesting that sensitivity to hot flashes and a greater degree of neuroticism are independent contributors toward establishing which women are most likely to have sleep problems during perimenopause.
Findings show the relevance of personality factors, particularly neuroticism and obsessive-compulsive personality, to a woman’s experience of insomnia as she goes through the menopausal transition.
Substantial brain development occurs during adolescence providing the foundation for functional advancement from stimulus-bound “bottom-up” to more mature executive-driven “top-down” processing strategies. The objective was to assess development of EEG markers of these strategies and their role in both preparatory attention (contingent negative variation, CNV) and response monitoring (Error Related Negativity, ERN, and Correct Related Negativity, CRN).
CNV, ERN and CRN were assessed in 38 adolescents (18 girls), age 11–18 years, using a variation of a letter discrimination task.
Accuracy increased with age and developmental stage. Younger adolescents used a posterior attention network involved in inhibiting irrelevant information. Activity in this juvenile network, as indexed by a posteriorly-biased CNV and CRN decreased with age and advancing pubertal development. Although enhanced frontal CNV, known to be predictive of accuracy in adults, was not detected even in the older adolescents, top-down medial frontal response monitoring processes (ERN) showed evidence of development within the age-range studied.
The data revealed a dissociation of developmental progress, marked by relatively delayed onset of frontal preparatory attention relative to error monitoring.
This dissociation may render adolescents vulnerable to excessive risk-taking and disinhibited behavior imposed by asynchronous development of component cognitive control processes.
Poor Autonomic Nervous System Functioning During Sleep in Recently Detoxified Alcohol-Dependent Men and Women
Alcoholism is considered an important risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) disease. Autonomic nervous system (ANS) function is a major indicator of CV health. Sleep is a suitable model to investigate ANS activity free from wake-related confounders. We investigated nighttime ANS functioning, and the relation between ANS activity and severity of alcohol dependence in chronic alcoholism.
Fourteen recently abstaining alcoholics (age: 42.0 ± 9.0 years, 7 women) and 16 age- and sex-matched controls (age: 45.2 ± 9.1 years, 8 women) underwent a night of standard clinical polysomnography, including electrocardiographic recording. Time- and frequency-domain spectral analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) was performed across hours of the night and during artifact-free epochs of stable sleep and wakefulness (presleep wakefulness, rapid-eye-movement [REM], and non-REM sleep).
Alcoholics had a poorer subjective and objective sleep quality compared to controls. Across the night, alcoholic men and women had elevated heart rate, reduced total HRV, that is, lower standard deviation of normal-to-normal interbeat intervals, and reduced high frequency (HF) activity (assessed by the HF power and by the square root of the mean squared of successive heart period differences). This ANS pattern was most apparent at the beginning of the night. None of the ANS measures was associated with lifetime alcohol consumption or duration of alcohol dependence.
Our results show that ANS functioning is disrupted during the night, even in undisturbed sleep periods, indicating poor CV functioning in recently detoxified alcohol-dependent men and women.
The 24-H Progression of Menstrual Pain in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea When Given Diclofenac Potassium: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study
Primary dysmenorrhea, which refers to painful, spasmodic cramping in the lower abdomen just before/or during menstruation, is the most common gynecological complaint in women of reproductive age. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been prescribed as the first-line therapy for pain relief from dysmenorrhea. We aimed to investigate the efficacy of the daily recommended dose (150 mg) of diclofenac potassium, administered at set intervals across the first 24 h of menstruation, in treating severe menstrual pain in 24 women with severe primary dysmenorrhea.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over study, women rated their menstrual pain intensity on a 100-mm visual analog scale across set time intervals over a 24-h period.
Menstrual pain intensity was significantly reduced after taking the first capsule of diclofenac, and remained consistently lower (P < 0.0001), compared with initial pain intensity, in the morning (before treatment), throughout the day, evening, and into the next morning. Also, women rated their pain intensity as significantly lower (P < 0.001) at each time point across the 24-h time interval of the cycle when receiving diclofenac compared with the cycle when they received placebo. No woman required rescue medication when taking diclofenac potassium compared with six women taking rescue medications during the placebo trial. When taking only placebo, women rated their menstrual pain intensity as persistently severe across the first 24 h of menstruation. CONCLUSION: These results show that the recommended daily dose of diclofenac potassium, in three 50 mg doses across the day and evening, offers effective menstrual pain relief across 24 h, compared with placebo, in women with severe primary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common gynecological condition among women of reproductive age. Although dysmenorrhea has been reported to affect the ability of women to carry out daily activities, the impact of primary dysmenorrheic pain specifically on quality of life (QoL), has yet to be elucidated. We investigated whether QoL varies between women with and without severe primary dysmenorrhea, and whether QoL is impaired only during menstruation or also during pain-free phases of the menstrual cycle. Twelve women with severe primary dysmenorrhea and nine control women completed the quality of life enjoyment and satisfaction questionnaire (Q-LES-Q-SF) during menstruation and during the late follicular phase. Women with dysmenorrhea had a significant reduction in Q-LES-Q-SF scores (mean ± SD: 54 ± 18%, percentage of the total maximum possible score) when they were experiencing severe menstrual pain compared with their own pain-free follicular phase (80 ± 14%, p < 0.0001) and compared with controls during menstruation (81 ± 10%, p < 0.0001). They also rated their overall life satisfaction and contentment as poorer during menstruation. Severe menstrual pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea, therefore, impacts health-related of QoL.
SRI Authors: Ian M. Colrain, Fiona C Baker, Massimiliano de Zambotti Abstract Objective Little is known about the impact of hot flashes on cardiac autonomic regulation, in particular vagal control. Thereby, we assessed the cardiac autonomic profile associated with physiological hot flashes occurring in undisturbed sleep. Methods Eleven perimenopausal women (45 to 56 years) had […]
Autonomic Regulation across Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Sleep Stages in Women with Premenstrual Syndrome and Healthy Controls
Abstract To investigate the influence of menstrual cycle phase and the presence of severe premenstrual symptoms on cardiac autonomic control during sleep, we performed heart rate variability (HRV) analysis during stable non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and REM sleep in 12 women with severe premenstrual syndrome and 14 controls in the mid-follicular, mid-luteal, and late-luteal phases […]
Women with Dysmenorrhea Are Hypersensitive to Experimental Deep Muscle Pain across the Menstrual Cycle
SRI Authors: Fiona C Baker Abstract Primary dysmenorrhea is a common painful condition in women that recurs every month across the reproductive years. The recurrent nociceptive input into the central nervous system that occurs during menstruation each month in women with dysmenorrhea is hypothesized to lead to increased sensitivity to painful stimuli. We investigated whether […]