Sleep is frequently impaired in postmenopausal women. Progesterone prompted benzodiazepine-like effects on sleep EEG in young normal male subjects. Aim of this study was to test if treatment with progesterone improves sleep after menopause. A randomised double blind crossover design study with 2 treatment intervals of 21 days duration separated by a 2 weeks washout was performed. An oral dose of 300 mg micronized progesterone was given each for 21 days. At the beginning and the end of the two intervals a sleep EEG was recorded and cognitive performance was assessed in 10 healthy postmenopausal women (age: 54-70 years). Progesterone treatment led to a decrease of intermittent time spent awake. During the first third of the night rapid eye movement (REM) sleep increased. The spectral analysis of the EEG resulted in no significant differences of the power spectra. Progesterone did not affect cognitive performance. In summary progesterone demonstrated a distinct sleep promoting effect by reduction of time of wake without impairing cognitive functions during daytime. As possible mechanisms of progesterone a GABA-agonistic effect and the regulation of gene expression via the progesterone receptor are discussed. Progesterone might be useful in the treatment of sleep disturbances of postmenopausal women.