New studies confirmed that early sexual dysfunction may occur in the midlife of women which may be linked to poor sleeping habits. There are 2 crucial ingredients in a women’s quality of life which are sleep and sex.
A new study shines a light on how sex and sleep are connected, it is beyond the simple fact that each often involves a bed. Midlife women who report insufficient sleep quality also tend to have higher rates of sexual dysfunction, the study found.
Problems with both sleep and sexual function are common in women during midlife. More than 26% of midlife women experience significant sleep symptoms that meet the criteria for insomnia, and sleep problems are reported by nearly half of women during the menopause transition. Similarly, up to 43% of women report sexual problems during menopause. Both conditions have multiple determinants, and both can negatively impact the quality of life, mood, and physical health. Understanding whether a relationship exists between sleep problems and sexual dysfunction in midlife women can have important clinical implications. Associations between sleep and sexual function in women have been previously described. Studies evaluating relationships between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and female sexual function have used the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), demonstrating that the presence and severity of OSA was associated with lower FSFI scores (indicating worse sexual function). Similarly, associations between insomnia and sexual problems have been described, focusing on concerns such as low libido and desire, but not directly evaluating distress related to these symptoms.
Higher insomnia risk and lower sleep duration (<7-8 h per night) have been found to associate with worse sexual function based on self-report. Taken together, these studies suggest a potential relationship between sleep and sexual function in women. Moreover, previous studies have not consistently evaluated sexual dysfunction with validated tools, nor have they defined female sexual dysfunction (FSD) by the presence of sexual problems associated with distress, an important criterion for the diagnosis of FSD. In addition, given the multifactorial and often overlapping etiologies of sleep and sexual function disturbances, the presence of shared mediating factor(s) influencing the relationship between these two common entities has not been excluded.
Some 75 percent of the women in the study reported poor sleep quality, while 54 percent met the criteria for sexual dysfunction. When results were analyzed to take other factors into account, women with poor sleep quality were found to be 1.48 times more likely to report having sexual issues. On the flip side, sexually active women were more likely to be getting good quality sleep. The amount of total sleep (known as sleep duration) turned out to be less important than the quality of sleep. This may be because during the night, a person passes through a series of sleep stages, a cycle that is repeated several times each night. Repeated interruptions of these cycles short-circuit this process. In the menopause study, the researchers were not able to determine why reported sleep quality had a bigger impact than duration, but it could be related to the interruption of these cycles.
As a summary
Poor sleep quality was associated with a greater risk for FSD. While shorter sleep duration correlated with a greater risk for FSD on univariate analysis, this finding seems to be moderated by other factors known to associate with both short sleep duration and FSD. Conversely, good sleep quality was associated with sexual activity. This study shows that sleep quality seems to be linked to female sexual function and sexual activity. In addition to its myriad effects on health, poor sleep quality may be independently associated with FSD. Given that sleep and sexual function concerns are common, particularly in midlife women, proactive identification and management of both FSD and sleep problems has the potential to increase the overall quality of life.