Sleep disturbances in a community-based sample of women with polycystic ovary syndrome

Hum Reprod. 2015 Feb;30(2):466-72. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu318. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


Study question: Is there an excess of sleep disturbances in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in a community-based sample?

Study answer: Sleep disturbances are almost twice as common in women with PCOS compared with women of similar age without PCOS, with the association slightly accounted for by body weight and, to a greater extent, by depressive symptoms.

What is known already: There is an excess of sleep-disordered breathing in clinical samples of women with PCOS, after accounting for their profile of body weight. Poor sleep patterns increase insulin resistance and thus may exacerbate PCOS symptoms and longer-term risk of metabolic disease.

Study design, size, duration: A cross-sectional study of 724 women, comprising 74% of a cohort study established retrospectively when women were around age 30 years.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: Comparisons were made between 87 women with PCOS, diagnosed using the Rotterdam criteria, and 637 women without this diagnosis in Adelaide, South Australia. Differences in sleep disturbances, assessed using a modified version of the Jenkins questionnaire, were investigated using ordered logistic regression.

Main results and the role of chance: Sleep disturbances were twice as common in women with PCOS compared with those without. Specifically, PCOS was associated with increasing occurrence of difficulty falling asleep (odds ratio (OR) 1.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.28-2.95); this association was attenuated but still statistically significant after accounting for BMI and depressive symptoms. Increasing occurrence of difficulty maintaining sleep (OR 1.92 95% CI 1.12-3.31) was mediated by obesity and depressive symptoms, together. Other factors did not change these findings.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The cross-sectional nature of the study means that the direction of associations between PCOS and sleep disturbances is unclear, although bi-directionality for the mediators is likely based on data in the wider literature.

Wider implications of the findings: Our results indicate that assessment and management of both sleep and mental health problems in women with PCOS should be undertaken. Longitudinal data would be valuable to see how poor sleep affects longer-term health profiles.

Keywords: depression; obesity; polycystic ovary syndrome; sleep disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / etiology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications
  • Sleep Deprivation / etiology
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • South Australia / epidemiology