Progesterone and some of its metabolites are neuroactive steroids that affect sleep by increasing melatonin secretion and stimulating GABA-A receptors. The effect of progestogens in hormonal contraceptives on sleep has not been thoroughly investigated. This observational study assessed possible associations in sleep changes induced by estrogen-progestogens in contraceptives in 108 women between the ages of 20 and 50 years. We assessed mean nightly sleep time with a 31-day sleep diary, and subjective sleep quality with the five subjective subscores of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Included women were of childbearing age, healthy, sexually active and had been using a hormonal contraceptive method (pill, intrauterine system (IUS), subcutaneous implant, vaginal ring) for at least six months. Results were compared to a matched control group that did not use hormonal contraceptives. The longest mean nightly sleep time, compared to control (450 min), occurred in women who used progestogen-only oral contraception (510 min), followed by IUS delivery of levonorgestrel 13.5 mg (480 min) and oral ethinylestradiol 0.02/0.03 mg plus gestodene 0.075 mg (475 min). Global subjective sleep quality was influenced most by the administration of etonorgestrel 0.120 mg/ethinylestradiol 0.015 mg via the vaginal route. Our results show that low-doses of progestins affect various aspects of sleep, and that this is influenced by the route of administration.
Keywords: Hormonal contraceptives; administration route; progestin; sleep duration; sleep quality.