Menopausal Women: Exercise, Housework May Help Sleep

Jenni Laidman

April 02, 2013

Physical activity, including household chores, is associated with reports of a good night's sleep among menopausal women with vasomotor symptoms, according to results from a study published online March 25 in Menopause.

Maya J. Lambiase, PhD, and Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, studied the sleep patterns of 52 women between the ages of 54 and 63 years: 27 white and 25 black. Sleep quality was tracked by self-report and actigraphic monitoring for 4 nights. The study participants all had vasomotor symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats, and were taking neither hormone therapy nor serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Study participants were selected so that body mass index distribution was similar. Study participants wore an Actiwatch and physiologic vasomotor symptom monitor and kept a sleep diary for two 48-hour periods.

The researchers found an association between greater leisure time physical activity and self-reports of good sleep quality, with an odds ratio (OR) of 8.08 (95% confidence interval, 1.5 - 44.5; P = .02). Greater household physical activity was associated with better self-reported sleep, including fewer awakenings during the night (B, −0.14; SE, 0.06; P = .01). Neither form of activity was associated with actigraphy-measured sleep.

The authors report that household physical activity was associated with more favorable sleep characteristics primarily among white and nonobese women.

Leisure time activity among participants in this study was low, and the authors report that this limited their ability to evaluate associations for leisure time activity.

To assess activity levels, women were asked about the frequency, duration, and intensity of their 2 most common leisure time physical activities and were asked how much time they spent caregiving, preparing and cleaning up after meals, and performing light, moderate, or vigorous housekeeping.

Previous studies have looked at leisure time physical activity, not household activities, and other studies looking at the relationship of physical activity to sleep did not focus on women with vasomotor symptoms.

Limitations of the study include the small sample size and the fact that it did not assess the effects of exercise on sleep stage or account for factors such as sleep apnea or periodic leg movements. Nor could the study separate cause and effect.

"Although we hypothesized that physical activity may be beneficial for sleep, it is also plausible that better sleep makes women more likely to be physically active," the authors write.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Menopause. Published online March 25, 2013. Abstract