SEATTLE -- Women whose sexual desire diminishes during menopause are more likely to report disturbed sleep, depression symptoms, and night sweats, according to Group Health research in the June American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
To the best of the research teams knowledge, this marks the first time that sleep disturbance has been independently associated with diminished sexual desire during or after menopause.
The paper is based on data from Group Health's Herbal Alternatives for Treatment of Menopause Symptoms (HALT) study. Other results from this study, showing that the herbal supplement black cohosh did not relieve menopausal hot flashes or night sweats (hot flashes during sleep), were reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2006.
All 341 of the women were chosen to be in the study because they were age 45 to 55 and had hot flashes, night sweats, or both. Of them, 64 percent reported diminished sexual desire, 43 percent slept poorly, and 18 percent had major depression.
It seems reasonable that night sweats can disturb sleep, said Susan D. Reed, MD, MPH, the papers lead author. Dr. Reed is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and epidemiology at the University of Washington and an affiliate investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies. And poor sleep can reduce energy for everything, including sex.
However, Dr. Reed cautioned against inferring cause and effect between depression and low libido. They are each so complex that the interactions can be difficult to tease apart.
Dr. Reed noted a well-established catch 22: Like depression itself, treating depression with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the most common type of antidepressant medication, can interfere with interest in sex. Likewise, she added, although systemic hormone therapy with estrogen can reduce vaginal dryness, it can also lower womens natural testosterone, which affects
Contact: Joan DeClaire
Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies