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09-02-2014 | Sleep medicine | Article

Sleep disturbances highly prevalent among middle-aged women


Free abstract

medwireNews: One in four middle-aged women are dissatisfied with their quality of sleep and 60% wake in the night at least once a week, a Finnish study has found.

The survey included 850 mothers who were participating in a long-term prospective population-based study. Fifteen years after baseline, all the women completed a questionnaire about their sleep and health.

The women’s median age at this point was 41.9 years (range 32.0–58.0) and their mean body mass index (BMI) was 24.9 kg/m2, report Päivi Polo–Kantola and colleagues from the University of Turku. Nearly one third had a chronic illness, 28% were taking a regular medication and 74% were in full-time work.

Overall, sleep quality was rated ‘good’ by 32% of the women, ‘quite good’ by 43%, ‘average’ by 12%, ‘quite poor’ by 10% and ‘poor’ by 3%.

The most frequently reported form of sleep disturbance was wakening in the night, which was experienced at least once a week by 60% of women. In all, 50% said they tended to wake once per night, 18% woke twice, 7% woke three or four times and 1% woke at least five times.

Other sleep disturbances included difficulty falling asleep, reported by 16% of women, and waking too early, reported by 20%. At least once a week, 44% were sleepy in the morning and 32% were sleepy during the day; 26% took a daytime nap and 2% were liable to fall asleep at work.

In all, 3% of women used sleeping pills at least once a week.

Further analysis identified positive correlations between sleep quality and various health-related quality-of-life indicators. For instance, poor sleep quality was more common in women with chronic illnesses, those taking regular medication and those with lower levels of physical or psychological functioning. There was no association with BMI, however.

Sleep quality was also linked with health behaviours. Specifically, older age was associated with wakening too early in the morning; shift-workers were more prone and part-time workers were less prone to daytime sleepiness; people who took regular physical exercise were less prone to daytime sleeping; smoking was associated with fewer nighttime awakenings; and women who used alcohol rarely or 1–2 times per month had better sleep quality compared with abstainers.

Writing in Maturitas, the authors conclude: “Our study showed that sleep disturbances in middle-aged women are frequent and more often comorbid than idiopathic, associating especially with health related quality of life, chronic diseases and medications….

“Therefore clinicians should be encouraged to carefully assess the general health and health related quality of life of the patients with sleep disturbances.”

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2014

By Joanna Lyford, Senior medwireNews Reporter