Hormone levels linked to snoring and sleep apnea among postmenopausal women, study finds

Photo (c) Jakob Helbig - Getty Images

Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone may affect women’s sleep

A new study explored how women’s hormone levels can impact their sleeping habits. The findings showed that postmenopausal women with lower levels of estrogen and progesterone may be more likely to experience snoring and sleep apnea

“The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea is higher in women after menopause,” the researchers wrote. “This is suggested to be a result of an altered sex hormone balance but has so far not been confirmed in a population-based study.”

How hormones affect sleep

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 780 women enrolled in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey between 2010 and 2012. The women completed questionnaires about their lifestyles, respiratory health, and reproductive health; they also gave blood samples to measure their hormone levels. 

Ultimately, the researchers identified a link between reproductive hormones and snoring and sleep apnea. When looking specifically at the women’s reproductive hormone levels, the team learned that higher levels of estrogen and progesterone were linked with a lower likelihood of snoring and fewer sleep apnea-related symptoms. When progesterone doubled, the women were 9% less likely to snore; when estrone (one of the types of estrogen) doubled, there was a nearly 20% lower likelihood of snoring. 

The study showed similar results for women with a history of snoring. For these women, doubling estrogen lowered the likelihood of waking with a choking sensation by 12%. Similarly, when several types of estrogen doubled, women who snored were as much as 23% less likely to have breathing troubles while they slept. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope medical professionals consider women’s reproductive hormones when thinking about ways to address their sleep struggles. 

“Female sex hormones are crucial for health and disease, and especially after menopause the hormone status should be considered to develop holistic treatment strategies,” the researchers wrote. 

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