At which ages are women more likely to experience sleep dysfunction?

Updated: Jan 31, 2019
  • Author: Gila Hertz, PhD, ABSM; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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In general, sleep is sounder and less prone to disturbances in younger people. As women age, physical and hormonal changes take place that make sleep lighter and less sound. Women older than 40 years are 1.3 times more likely than age-matched men to report insomnia. Risk of insomnia, sleep apnea, periodic leg movements, and restless legs syndrome increase as women get older.

In the years surrounding menopause, sleep disturbances occur with increased frequency. Women take longer to fall asleep, wake up more often at night, and are more tired during the day. Hot flashes and night sweats, associated with decreased levels of estrogen, may contribute to midsleep awakenings. The prevalence of SDB increases significantly after menopause.

During postmenopausal years, sleep efficiency further decreases, and waking after sleep onset increases. Factors affecting sleep during this period include pain, certain medical and emotional conditions, and physical discomfort. [27] Polysomnographic changes in elderly women include decreased SWS stages 3 and 4, which results from decreased electroencephalographic amplitude, and shorter REM sleep latency. [28] In one study, older women who slept more than 9 hours per night had a higher risk of ischemic stroke. [29]

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