Insufficient quality sleep, but not duration, is associated with greater odds of female sexual dysfunction, according to a new study.

Published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the study was a cross-sectional analysis from the Data Registry on Experiences of Aging, Menopause and Sexuality (DREAMS). It was performed using questionnaires in women presenting for menopause or sexual health consult at Mayo Clinic from December, 2016 to September, 2019. 

Both sleep and sexual function problems 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. Up to 43% of women report sexual problems during this same period in their lives.

Multiple studies have been conducted to determine whether there is any association between sleep and sexual function problems. However, most of the previous studies did not consistently evaluate sexual dysfunction with validated tools, nor did they define sexual dysfunction by the presence of sex problems associated with distress.

An association between poor sleep quality and sexual dysfunction

In this study involving more than 3,400 women (mean age, 53 years), researchers evaluated potential associations between sleep quality and duration and sexual function using validated tools after accounting for factors that may influence both outcomes. They concluded that poor sleep quality, but not sleep duration, was associated with greater odds of female sexual dysfunction. Good sleep quality, in contrast, was linked with sexual activity.

Understanding this association is valuable as clinicians seek to identify potential treatment options for women affected by sleep and sexual problems. Both of these common midlife issues have been determined to adversely affect a woman's quality of life.

Dr Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director and senior author of the study, said: "This study highlights an association between poor sleep quality and sexual dysfunction. These are two common issues for midlife women and asking about and addressing each may contribute to improved quality of life."