Woman and Sleep – Your Menstrual Cycle

November 20, 2017

Sleep and your menstrual cycle.

How your menstrual cycle could be responsible for a wrong diagnosis. Check out our YouTube videos and follow us on Facebook.

Woman and Sleep – Your Menstrual Cycle

Research that has focused on gender differences in sleep, has found that from early adolescence woman differ in their sleep stage distribution, quantity and even quality of sleep compared to their male counterpart.


Photo from Getty Images

The influence of the menstrual cycle, with its varying estrogen and progesterone levels, extends beyond the reproductive system. During part of the menstrual cycle (follicular phase) the upper airway mucosa (airway lining) becomes engorged resulting in reduced airway diameters. This may result in an increased chance of scoring positive for obstructive sleep apnea. In another part of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase) sleep apnea can become less severe as progesterone levels are increased.  This creates stability in the airway and increases respiratory drive and response to oxygenation changes.

If a female patient has a negative test for OSA and yet a normal menstrual cycle, and other risk indicators for OSA, perhaps a repeat test may be warranted. Mapping the follicular and luteal phase in patients might help lead to less false negative testing.



It is estimated that 5-10% of women in childbearing age suffer from PCO’s (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), which often leads to an increase of severity of OSA . 70% of people with this endocrine disorder are obese and have insulin resistance, which could explain the sleep disorder, yet other data shows some PCOS patients with normal BMI’s, still having OSA. Further research is required in this area.

Overall, further research is needed to better establish prudent testing methods that consider gender bias, to limit false negative and false positive results. This leads me to personally wonder if menstrual cycle should be discussed further in regards to testing for sleep apnea, and if it should be noted for increased event index on certain days.

Talking about female issues does not always make for comfortable conversation, but it might assist in a proper diagnosis which can lead to appropriate treatment and better health outcomes.

Woman going in for a sleep study should consider these factors and discuss them with their doctor to truly understand their diagnosis.

Find more articles on women and sleep here.

Sweet Dreams,
The Team at SleepTech

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Posted in Blog