Our overall aim—through a narrative review—is to critically profile key extant evidence of menopause-related sleep, mostly from studies published in the last decade.
We searched the database PubMed using selected Medical Subject Headings for sleep and menopause (n = 588 articles). Using similar headings, we also searched the Cochrane Library (n = 1), Embase (n = 449), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (n = 163), Web of Science (n = 506), and PsycINFO (n = 58). Articles deemed most related to the purpose were reviewed.
Results were articulated with interpretive comments according to evidence of sleep quality (self-reported) and sleep patterns (polysomnography and actigraphy) impact as related to reproductive aging and in the context of vasomotor symptoms (VMS; self-reported), vasomotor activity (VMA) events (recorded skin conductance), depressed mood, and ovarian hormones.
Predominantly, the menopausal transition conveys poor sleep beyond anticipated age effects. Perceptions of sleep are not necessarily translatable from detectable physical sleep changes and are probably affected by an emotional overlay on symptoms reporting. Sleep quality and pattern changes are mostly manifest in wakefulness indicators, but sleep pattern changes are not striking. Likely contributing are VMS of sufficient frequency/severity and bothersomeness, probably with a sweating component. VMA events influence physical sleep fragmentation but not necessarily extensive sleep loss or sleep architecture changes. Lack of robust connections between perceived and recorded sleep (and VMA) could be influenced by inadequate detection. There is a need for studies of women in well-defined menopausal transition stages who have no sleep problems, accounting for sleep-related disorders, mood, and other symptoms, with attention to VMS dimensions, distribution of VMS during night and day, and advanced measurement of symptoms and physiologic manifestations.