Sleep and Women's Health

Sleep Med Res. 2013;4(1):1-22. doi: 10.17241/smr.2013.4.1.1.


Sex differences in sleep begin at a very early age and women report poorer sleep quality and have higher risk for insomnia than do men. Sleep may be affected by variation in reproductive hormones, stress, depression, aging, life/role transitions, and other factors. The menstrual cycle is associated with changes in circadian rhythms and sleep architecture. Menstruating women (even without significant menstrual-related complaints) often report poorer sleep quality and greater sleep disturbance during the premenstrual week compared to other times of her menstrual cycle. In addition to these sleep disturbances, women with severe premenstrual syndrome often report more disturbing dreams, sleepiness, fatigue, decreased alertness and concentration during the premenstrual phase. Sleep disturbances are also commonly reported during pregnancy and increase in frequency and duration as the pregnancy progresses. The precipitous decline in hormones and unpredictable sleep patterns of the newborn contribute to and/or exacerbate poor sleep and daytime sleepiness during the early postpartum period. Insomnia is also among the most common health complaints that are reported by perimenopausal women. Women are particularly vulnerable to developing insomnia disorder during these times of reproductive hormonal change. In this review, we present a discussion on the most relevant and recent publications on sleep across the woman's lifespan, including changes in sleep related to menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and the menopausal transition. Treatment for sleep disturbances and insomnia disorder and special considerations for treating women will also be discussed.

Keywords: Insomnia; Menopause; Postpartum; Pregnancy; Sleep; Women.