Sleep and sex are two critical components of a woman’s life quality. A fulfilling sexual life benefits numerous facets of physical and emotional health, ranging from mood to heart health.
And how about a good night’s sleep? It also has an effect on a variety of other factors, ranging from attention and patience to warding off bodily disorders such as type 2 diabetes, immunological malfunction, and depression. Women approaching menopause who do not get enough sleep are at an increased risk of gaining excess weight, research has shown.
A new study focuses on the connection between sex and sleep – beyond the obvious fact that both frequently include a bed.
Women in their forties who report poor sleep quality also had a greater prevalence of sexual dysfunction, the study discovered.
Both Sleep and Sexual Issues Are Common in Midlife
It’s critical to understand any connection between sleep and sexual problems in midlife women, according to coauthor Stephanie Faubion, MD, chair of the department of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
According to the study authors, over 26% of midlife women experience major sleep disorders, with more than half reporting at least some sleep disturbances throughout the menopause transition.
Meanwhile, over 43% of midlife women experience sexual dysfunction, which can manifest as decreased desire, orgasm problems, unhappiness, pain, or other disorders.
Researchers Used Validated Questionnaires to Get to the Root Causes
Numerous past research attempted to establish a link between sleep quality and sex, but they did not always employ validated questionnaires, Dr. Faubion notes.
For the current study, which was published online April 21 in the journal Menopause, women were asked to complete numerous validated questionnaires, ensuring that the questions they asked were appropriate for identifying these difficulties.
This included a sleep questionnaire called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which inquires not only about how many hours a woman sleeps but also about whether she has difficulty falling asleep and whether her slumber is affected by anything, such as a physical condition, the room’s temperature, the need to pee frequently, or other factors.
Two questionnaires were used to assess sexual function: the Female Sexual Function Index and the updated Female Sexual Distress Scale. Both are necessary for a complete understanding of sexual dysfunction, Faubion asserts, while many researchers focus solely on the first index.
“You cannot refer to something as an issue unless and until the lady does,” she explains. “It’s critical not only to acknowledge that there is a lack of desire, for example, but also for the woman to acknowledge that it bothers her,” she says.
The women’s anxiety, mood, and relationship satisfaction were also assessed by questionnaires.
The study enrolled almost 3,400 women in their forties who visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Arizona between 2016 and 2019. Because these women were predominantly white, educated, and in relationships, it is unknown if the findings would hold true for the general population of women.
Results Point to Sleep Quality as the Problem
75% of women in the research reported inadequate sleep, whereas 54% matched the criteria for sexual dysfunction. These are significant numbers, Faubion notes, adding that the prevalence of these problems highlights the importance of physicians addressing them more effectively.
When findings were evaluated to account for confounding variables, it was discovered that women with poor sleep quality were 1.48 times more likely to report experiencing sexual problems.
On the other hand, sexually active women were more likely to sleep well.
One major finding: total sleep time (also known as sleep duration) was found to be less essential than sleep quality.
Going Through Full Cycles in Sleep Is Key to Quality Rest
This could be because a person travels through a succession of sleep stages during the night, a cycle that occurs numerous times each night. Interrupting these cycles repeatedly disrupts this process.
Researchers, such as the authors of a study published in October 2015 in the Journal of Neuroscience, have begun to document the effects of disrupted sleep in isolation from the total amount of sleep a person receives, and have discovered that it has an effect on everything from physical and emotional health to how your brain functions during the day.
The researchers in the Menopause study were unable to explain why reported sleep quality had a greater effect than duration, but it could be related to the disruption of these cycles.
Additionally, the researchers were unable to determine whether poor quality sleep resulted in poorer sex or whether a woman’s capacity to sleep was harmed by a lack of good sex. “It makes reasonable that sleep troubles would have an effect on sex, because when you’re sleepy, you don’t have much libido. However, it could also signal that something is wrong with her relationship, impairing her capacity to sleep,” Faubion explains.