If you’re a postmenopausal woman and it’s taking a toll on your sex life, there’s a simple remedy that can help.

We’re not talking about a prescription drug…or a botanical supplement…or even a lubricant. It’s sleep. Just a little extra sleep. New research finds that women over age 50 who get as little as one extra hour of shut-eye a night not only have more sex—they enjoy it more, too.

Background: Sleep disturbance is one of many common side effects of life after menopause. Sexual activity and satisfaction tends to decline around this time, too. But there has been little research into the connections between sleep problems and sexual issues in women in postmenopause.

Study: The 93,668 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, a large long-term health study, were asked to report on their sexual activity and satisfaction in the previous year. They also were asked about how well they had slept over the previous four weeks. The researchers analyzed statistical associations between sleep and sexual frequency and satisfaction. The women ranged in age from 50 to 79, with the average age being about age 64. Nearly one-third (31%) of the women had insomnia…60% slept a healthy seven or eight hours a night…and about half had been sexually active in the previous year.

Results: Compared with women who slept seven or eight hours a night, those who slept for only about six hours were 9% less likely to be sexually active. Those who slept for fewer than five hours a night were 17% less likely to be sexually active. The women who were “short sleepers” were also less likely to report that they were sexually satisfied. The sex/sleep connection got stronger with age…

• Women age 50 to 59 who slept fewer than five hours a night were only 7% less likely to be sexually active than women who got the full seven or eight hours.

• Women age 60 to 69 who were short sleepers were 13% less likely to sexually active.

• Women age 70 and over who got too little sleep were 30% less likely to be sexually active.

Surprising finding: Women who weren’t using hormone therapy were particularly susceptible to the effects of sleep deprivation on sexual function. Because this is an observational study, however, it doesn’t shed light on possible reasons.

Bottom line: Menopause can contribute to many sexual issues, from vaginal dryness that makes sex uncomfortable to a loss of sexual desire. At Bottom Line, we’ve reported on solutions including natural vaginal lubricants, an FDA-approved nonhormonal vaginal insert to treat painful sex, libido boosters and even a “zesty” orgasm enhancer.  But if you’re not getting enough shut-eye, learning ways to get more sleep may be the most powerful aphrodisiac of all.

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