Older women who sleep well at night are more likely to have satisfying sex lives, a recent study suggests.
Postmenopausal women reported less sexual activity and less sexual satisfaction if they also had trouble sleeping through the night, researchers found.
Based on the findings, doctors may want to consider an older woman's overall health if she brings up issues like sexual satisfaction, said lead author Dr. Juliana Kling, a women’s health internist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"When a patient is asking me about a sexual health concern, it's important for me to look at other aspects of her health and ask about sleep," she told Reuters Health.
For the new study, Kling and colleagues analyzed data collected from nearly 94,000 women, ages 50 to 79, who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. The women had answered questions about their sexual function in the previous year and their sleep in the previous month.
Overall, 56 percent of the women reported being at least somewhat satisfied with their current sexual activity. Additionally, 52 percent reported sexual activity with a partner during the previous year.
Nearly one third of women had insomnia, as determined by a tool that takes into account their ability to fall asleep, how often they wake during the night and overall sleep quality.
After accounting for variables that may influence the results, like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, the researchers found that women who scored high on the insomnia tool were about 8 percent less likely to report being satisfied with their sex lives.
The researchers also report in the journal Menopause that sexual activity and satisfaction decreased with shorter sleep duration.
Women who slept six hours per night were about 6 percent less likely to be sexually active and 6 percent less likely to be sexually satisfied, compared to women who slept seven to eight hours per night.
Likewise, women who slept only about five hours per night were about 12 percent less likely to be sexually active and 12 percent less likely to be sexually satisfied than those who slept seven to eight hours per night.
"The study suggests high-quality and sufficient sleep is important for sexual function," said Kling.
The results don't prove poor sleep causes less sexual activity and satisfaction, however. The study also can't say whether increasing sleep duration would improve the women's sex lives.
"It certainly suggests that, but it’s an observational study we can’t show the directionality of that relationship," Kling said.
Women and their doctors should recognize how symptoms of menopause and sleep affect women's lives, including their health, work, home and relationships, said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, who is executive director of the North American Menopause Society.
"We know that seven hours of sleep have been determined by the national sleep foundation as best for your cognitive functioning and prevention of Alzheimer's," said Pinkerton, who is also affiliated with the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville.
For women having trouble with sleep, there are a number of interventions that may help, including short-term hormone therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and good sleep hygiene, Pinkerton told Reuters Health.
"Paying attention to getting seven hours of sleep per night is one of the most important things you can do for your family, your relationship your work and your health," said Pinkerton, who was not involved with the new study.
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