Consistently getting a bad night’s sleep may lead to an unsatisfactory sex life for many older women, a new study finds.
In fact, women who slept poorly were nearly twice as likely to report issues such as lack of sexual interest or pleasure than women who got plenty of shut-eye, according to the study published Wednesday in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society.
Poor sleep was measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which asks questions about ability to fall and stay asleep, use of sleep medication, daytime drowsiness and more.
In contrast, the study also found that good sleep quality was linked with having more sexual activity, a result that “doesn’t surprise anyone, right?” said senior author Dr. Stephanie Faubion, who directs the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health.
“If you put a platter of sleep and a platter of sex in front of a tired woman, she’s going to pick sleep every time,” said Faubion, who is also the medical director for the North American Menopause Society.
These results, she added, should be a wake-up call for physicians to begin asking their patients about their sleep and their sexual functioning.
“In an ideal world, every woman should be asked by her primary care provider about her sexual function. Is that happening? No, it’s not happening,” Faubion said.
“Sleep may be something easier to ask about, and poor sleep is associated with so many negative outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease,” she added. “If she’s not sleeping well, that leads you to the next question, because sexual function is probably suffering, too.”
Sleep and sex are intertwined
It’s not just women who experience sexual dysfunction due to poor sleep. It affects men, too.
A 2009 study found obstructive sleep apnea – a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts – was linked to erectile dysfunction and more global sexual difficulties in men. Disrupted sleep also leads to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.
Obstructive sleep apnea is also linked to sexual dysfunction in women.