Baker FC, Carskadon MA, Hasler BP. Sleep and Women’s Health: Sex- and Age-Specific Contributors to Alcohol Use Disorders. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2020;29(3):443-445. doi:10.1089/jwh.2020.8328
Prior research on alcohol use disorder (AUD) has focused primarily on men, but psycho-social-cultural changes have led to more women drinking or binge drinking, thus highlighting sex differences observed in alcohol use. In parallel, recent evidence indicates bidirectional links between alcohol use and sleep disruption, offering a burgeoning field of research for the study of sex differences in sleep-alcohol interactions. As part of the 2018 Research Conference on Sleep and the Health of Women at the National Institutes of Health, three presentations focused on the intersection between alcohol and sleep in women, including links between disrupted sleep and the risk of AUD. The literature to date hints at sex differences in the relationships between sleep and alcohol use that may be relevant to prevention and/or intervention. For example, insomnia is more prevalent among women, yet men may be more likely to self-medicate insomnia with alcohol and may benefit more from alcohol’s sedating effects. Sex differences in sleep timing and duration that begin during adolescence may also be relevant, as later and/or shorter sleep appear to be risk factors for binge drinking. Preliminary data also implicate circadian timing as a sex difference potentially relevant to alcohol use. Limited extant data suggest complex relationships between sex, sleep, and alcohol problems, but defy easy summary. Relevant studies sufficiently powered to test sex differences are needed.