Science of Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders “affect all racial groups and genders,” said Doctor Michael J. Twery of National Institutes of Health (NIH). They “increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, mortality, hypertension, and obesity.” Sleep controls our memory filters, affects our dreams, inspirations, and emotional responses, so not getting enough can be very detrimental to our health.

Doctor Helene A. Emsellem of the Centre for Sleep and Wake Disorders discussed specific sex differences in sleep disorders. Because of the different hormonal levels in different trimesters, pregnancy can either increase or decrease sleepiness, and raises the risk of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) in the third trimester. Emsellem noted “35-40 per cent of menopausal women report sleep problems as well.”

She further explained that a lack of sleep causes cognitive impairment, difficulty focusing, impaired memory, delayed visual reaction time, and impaired motor function. Men and women should set aside the requisite 7-9 hours for sleep to maintain high cognitive function and motor abilities. Emsellem suggests exercise, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and other healthy lifestyle habits to help fall and stay asleep.

The final panellist Doctor Ronald Farkas of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided information on sleep drugs and dosing requirements that account for gender differences. Farkas said: “To support FDA approval of drugs for sleep disorders (and most disorders), data is required about potential gender differences in safety and efficacy.”

Zolpidem, the most popular type of sleep drug, has a known gender difference. It is “known that women clear zolpidem from the body more slowly than men,” said Farkas. Because of this difference, women are prescribed a lower dose than men (1.75 mg for women versus 3.5 mg for men). According to Farkas, FDA is always revaluating sleep drugs and data to better serve the public.

Understanding the science of sleep and the influence of sex differences will lead to healthier and more effective treatments for all.

MEDICA.de; Source: Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR)