New study focuses on women's sleep

2024-02-06

Although women make up half of the world's population, sleep studies are mainly carried out on men, but in a new project funded by the Swedish Brain Foundation, researchers Diana Aline Nôga and Christian Benedict hope to answer how women's sleep is affected by menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations and whether it can provide protection against known effects of sleep depravation.

Diana Noga Morais

Despite our increased knowledge of the importance of rest, sleep problems are spreading epidemic style across the world. In a survey among teenagers in Uppsala County, every third respondent states that they suffer from impaired sleep. Even bleaker figures are found in a current report from the Public Health Agency of Sweden, where almost every other woman states that they experience sleep depravation. The risks that come with irregular sleep routines may seem well mapped, but since many conclusions are based on observations of men, several important gaps remain to be filled.

“The woman's menstrual cycle has long been perceived as a complicating factor in experimental sleep studies. Instead, we assume that it is almost necessary to take it into account. Not least, observations of the hormonal fluctuations women experience can generate important knowledge, and in an ongoing project we hope to answer how estrogen and progesterone levels affect sleep and consequently a number of related, important health aspects,” says Diana Aline Nôga, researcher at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences.

Christian Benedict, Faculty of Pharmacy
Christian Benedict, Faculty of Pharmacy

In the Sleep Laboratory at Uppsala’s Biomedical Center, approximately a hundred women in various stages of the menstrual cycle will spend two nights and participate in several tests during daytime. The scientific questions studied arouse interest: How important are individual hormone levels for sleep? Can favorable levels strengthen protection against known effects of sleep deprivation? And if so, what does the reverse mean for all the women working night shifts?

“Our initial data indicate that we are on the right track in our approach. Still, a lot of work remain and we expect to start publishing results from the study early next year. This is an incredibly fascinating field with a constantly increasing demand for new knowledge. Our ambition is to contribute as far as possible with a scientific voice, but it is also important to emphasize that when it comes to sleep, evidence is not everything. If you find the method that puts you to rest, stick to it,” says Christian Benedict, sleep researcher at Uppsala University.

SEE VIDEO FROM THE SLEEP LAB

FACTS

  • Christian Benedict's research group studies how disturbances in the circadian rhythm and sleep loss affect health and performance with a particular focus on the connection between sleep deprivation and metabolism.

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CONTACT

Christian BenedictChristian Benedict, Associate Professor
Dep. of Pharmaceutical Biosciences
Christian.Benedict@farmbio.uu.se

Diana Noga Morais FerreiraDiana Aline Nôga, Researcher
Dep. of Pharmaceutical Biosciences
Diana.Noga.Morais@uu.se

Text: Magnus Alsne, foto: Daniel Olsson a o

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Last modified: 2024-04-04