Penn Sleep Centers Newsletter
 

Spring 2006

Sleep in the Elderly
History of Penn Sleep Centers
Sleep in Women: A New Perspective
Finding the Cause of Residual Sleeplessness in Sleep Apnea
 
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Sleep in Women: A New Perspective

Biological conditions specific to women, including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, can all affect how well a woman sleeps. The impact of these conditions on sleep in women can be due to both hormonal and physical changes. Scientific research has only recently focused on the incidence and causes of sleep problems in women, particularly sleep patterns and the changing needs and problems associated with sleep throughout women's life spans.

Dr. Grace Pien, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, is currently working on several research questions in these areas. Dr Pien is examining the relationship between pregnancy and sleep-disordered breathing. Physiologic changes that take place during pregnancy, including gestational weight gain, pharyngeal hyperemia and diaphragmatic elevation, may place pregnant women at increased risk for the development of obstructive sleep apnea.

Because snoring and cases of obstructive sleep apnea in pregnant women have been reported to increase the likelihood of adverse maternal-fetal outcomes (e.g. gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and small-for-gestational age births), this is an important area of investigation. Dr.Pien is nearing completion of a prospective cohort study in which women are monitored for sleep-disordered breathing with overnight sleep studies in early and late pregnancy. She is also following these pregnant women for other sleep problems, including restless legs syndrome and difficulty sleeping.

Complaints of difficulty sleeping also increase among women during the menopausal transition, but the relationship between menopause and insomnia is poorly understood. To explore this issue, Dr. Pien is examining risk factors for poor sleep quality among perimenopausal women. In addition to trouble sleeping, the risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea increases approximately three-fold among postmenopausal women compared to premenopausal women. In order to better understand the mechanisms that lead to sleep apnea among postmenopausal women, plans are underway to study the relationship between the hormonal changes of menopause and changes in the upper airway during the menopausal transition.

Faculty in the Division of Sleep Medicine provide care for women of all ages with sleep complaints, including insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Dr. Pien's areas of special interest and expertise include management of sleep problems in pregnant women, including both women with preexisting sleep disorders and those with pregnancy- related sleep compaints. In addition, she provides evaluation of sleep problems in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

 


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