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Getting a good night’s sleep might go a long way to improving sex life for middle-aged and older women, a new study suggests.
Researchers, who analyzed data from 93,668 women aged 50 to 79, found those who got less than seven to eight hours of sleep each night were less likely to be satisfied with their sex lives, compared to those who slept longer, according to the report published in Menopause.
Insomnia also seemed to diminish the likelihood a woman would feel satisfied with her sex life, the researchers found.
While no one knows for sure why less sleep might lead to less sexual satisfaction, the study’s lead author, Dr. Juliana Kling, has some ideas.
“We know that sleep is really important for our functioning,” said Kling, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Lack of sleep oftentimes leads to difficulty with concentration along with other ramifications. A lot of sex is in the brain and if we’re not alert and we’re not able to focus, that might help explain some of the findings.”
Studies in younger women seem to back this up. “A study in healthy college age women found that the number of hours slept at night was related to the level of sexual desire the next day,” Kling said.
So it's quite possible that the hit sleep takes as women age could be having an impact on their sex lives.
The majority of women in the study, 60 percent, reported they achieved those magical seven to eight hours of sleep. So, perhaps not surprisingly, 56 percent of the women said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their current sexual activity.
But among those who slept less, sex occurred more rarely and was less satisfying, Kling and her colleagues found.
The bottom line, Kling said, is “the findings really suggest that high quality and sufficient sleep is important for sexual function. “We need to be making sure that we’re looking at those factors and other healthy habits and not from just the gynecological perspective.”
The new findings make Dr. Phyllis Zee wonder: “if we could prioritize and improve sleep in women, particularly those who are peri-menopausal and post-menopausal, could we improve their sexual function?"
“This type of research leads us to ask more questions,” said Zee, professor of neurology and the director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University. “From a clinical standpoint, it would make me think of things I hadn’t thought of before. Now, I will ask about sleep and sexual function.”
The findings may add to the growing list of reasons why we should prioritize sleep, said Rebecca Thurston, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “There’s a relationship between shortened sleep and the risk for cardiovascular disease,” Thurston said. “And we also know that it affects people’s mood and anxiety levels as well as cognitive function."