This review paper summarizes presentations from a conference update on the state of knowledge about the extent to which reproductive status and age influence women’s sleep. Key issues pertaining to sleep during menstrual cycles, pregnancy and postpartum, perimenopausal transition, and aging are presented. Clinical implications and areas for further research are identified.
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There are few studies of sleep in menstrual-related disorders. Preliminary evidence indicates subtle differences in sleep and circadian regulation in women with severe premenstrual syndrome, and increased subjective sleepiness in the premenstrual phase. Symptoms may be relieved in some sufferers with partial sleep deprivation. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs in approximately 25% of women who self-report sleep disturbance, a finding confirmed by laboratory-based study of sleep in these women. Menstrual cycle-related sleep disturbance appears to be highly prevalent; more research is needed to investigate the role of sleep in the etiology of menstrual disorders and the role of sleep manipulation in their treatment.