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Hormone Decline May Affect Sleep Before Menopause

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Declining levels of the hormone estradiol in the years just prior to menopause may contribute to sleeplessness in some women, according to the results of a new study.

In fact, estradiol, an estrogen hormone produced by the ovaries, ``may be more important than previously thought for women aged 45 to 49 who report poor sleep,'' Lori E. Hollander and colleagues at the University Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia report in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The researchers followed 218 black women and 218 white women aged 35 to 49 over a 2-year period. The women answered questions about their sleeping habits and had blood samples evaluated for various hormones, including estradiol, at four different times over the course of the study. Most continued to have regular menstrual cycles during the study.

About 17% of the women reported suffering from poor sleep throughout the entire study period. While factors such as anxiety, depression and caffeine consumption affected how well a woman slept, the investigators also found that low estradiol levels in women aged 45 to 49 were associated with sleepless nights. Hot flashes were also associated with difficulty sleeping.

What is interesting about the finding, the authors note, is that the women in the study were still experiencing regular menstrual cycles and had not yet entered menopause. The average age of menopause in the United States is 51 years.

``The estradiol association suggests that hormonal changes that occur with ovarian aging may be associated with poor sleep in some women earlier than previously thought,'' Hollander and colleagues conclude. They suggest further studies to test whether hormone supplementation would be helpful for treating poor sleep in women 45 and older.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001;98:391-397

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