Sleep regulation and sex hormones exposure in men and women across adulthood

Pathol Biol (Paris). 2014 Oct;62(5):302-10. doi: 10.1016/j.patbio.2014.07.005. Epub 2014 Sep 11.


This review aims to discuss how endogenous and exogenous testosterone exposures in men and estrogens/progesterone exposures in women interact with sleep regulation. In young men, testosterone secretion peaks during sleep and is linked to sleep architecture. Animal and human studies support the notion that sleep loss suppresses testosterone secretion. Testosterone levels decline slowly throughout the aging process, but relatively few studies investigate its impact on age-related sleep modifications. Results suggest that poorer sleep quality is associated with lower testosterone concentrations and that sleep loss may have a more prominent effect on testosterone levels in older individuals. In women, sex steroid levels are characterized by a marked monthly cycle and reproductive milestones such as pregnancy and menopause. Animal models indicate that estrogens and progesterone influence sleep. Most studies do not show any clear effects of the menstrual cycle on sleep, but sample sizes are too low, and research designs often inhibit definitive conclusions. The effects of hormonal contraceptives on sleep are currently unknown. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are associated with increased sleep disturbances, but their relation to the hormonal milieu still needs to be determined. Finally, studies suggest that menopausal transition and the hormonal changes associated with it are linked to lower subjective sleep quality, but results concerning objective sleep measures are less conclusive. More research is necessary to unravel the effects of vasomotor symptoms on sleep. Hormone therapy seems to induce positive effects on sleep, but key concerns are still unresolved, including the long-term effects and efficacy of different hormonal regimens.

Keywords: Cycle menstruel; Estrogens; Estrogènes; Grossesse; Menopause; Menstrual cycle; Ménopause; Pregnancy; Progesterone; Sleep; Sommeil; Testosterone; Testostérone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Secretory Rate
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones