Almost a quarter of middle-aged women report their quality
of sleep is less than good, according to a new study.
Sleep problems were tied to poor quality of life, chronic
illness and medication use, researchers found.
The new study adds to earlier research by looking at common
sleep problems among women before they hit menopause, according to Dr Päivi
She led the study at the University of Turku in
Finland. "Typically we think that these are problems of menopause and thus
menopause is the reason for everything," Polo told Reuters Health.
"Then we try to treat all menopausal insomnia symptoms
with hormone replacement therapy... but because in some women the sleep
problems are already evident before the menopause, the HRT may not alleviate
all sleep problems and we physicians are wondering what to do next. After
menopause, hot flashes and night sweats increase sleep problems," she said.
Sleep troubles not new
Polo and her colleagues surveyed 850 mothers about their
sleep when they were 42 years old, on average. One third had a chronic illness,
like diabetes or heart disease, and 28% were on regular medication.
Women most often reported waking up frequently at night. 60%
of them had that problem at least once a week.16% of women reported having difficulty falling asleep and
20% said they woke up too early in the morning on a weekly basis. Morning sleepiness
was reported by 42% and daytime sleepiness by 32%.
Sleep troubles are not new for people of any age, but they
do seem to be a bit more common among women. Hormonal changes related to
menstrual cycles or menopause may be partly to blame, the authors write in
Occasional alcohol drinking was tied to better sleep quality
and less falling asleep at work, they found. But women's weight and physical
activity levels were not linked to sleep problems.
That might be because most women in the study were in the
normal range for body size, Polo said.
Other studies have tied obesity to sleep problems like sleep
"There is likely a bidirectional association such that
obesity may induce poor sleep, and short sleep may induce weight gain and
subsequent obesity," Dr Helen Driver, who researches sleep at Queen's
University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, said.
"The study was not designed to assess much detail about
the relationship between physical activity and sleep, which is a complex
interaction depending on factors such as physical fitness, aerobic capacity,
exercise type (aerobic, non-aerobic, stretching) and timing," Driver told
Reuters Health in an email.
All sleep problems can affect daytime tiredness, work
performance and quality of life, Driver said.
Women tend to get about seven hours of sleep each night
during the week, but sleep needs are unique to individuals, she
said. "Sleep is so crucial, since we sleep one third of our life and it
affects so much of our health," Polo said.
Sleep problems can be a symptom of a disease or mental
state, which doctors should keep in mind, she said.
Women having sleep problems should talk to their doctor and
be sure to note any potential sleep-related side effects of medications,
researchers said. "A good start is to keep a sleep diary and note any
patterns or symptoms such as snoring, restlessness, morning headache," Driver
said. "If there is concern, ask your family physician for a referral to a
sleep centre for an assessment by a qualified sleep specialist."
(Picture: Woman sleeping from Shutterstock)