Study: Sleep Disturbances May Contribute to Weight Gain in Menopause

March 30, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

Addressing sleep symptoms during menopause may reduce susceptibility to weight gain.

Addressing sleep symptoms during menopause may reduce susceptibility to weight gain, according to a study presented at the virtual ENDO 2021 annual meeting.

“Our findings suggest that not only estrogen withdrawal but also sleep disturbances during menopause may contribute to changes in a woman’s body that could predispose midlife women to weight gain,” said lead researcher Leilah Grant, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in a press release. “Helping women sleep better during menopause may therefore reduce the chances a woman will gain weight, which in turn will lower her risk of diabetes and other related diseases.”

The researchers studied 21 healthy pre-menopausal women to better understand the role of sleep disturbances and hormonal changes in menopausal weight gain. The team used an experimental model simulating the sleep disturbance experienced during menopause to examine the effects of poor sleep on the body’s use of fat.

The participants had 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep followed by 3 nights of interrupted sleep, in which they were woken by an alarm every 15 minutes for 2 minutes each time. The researchers restudied a subset of 9 participants in the same sleep interruption protocol after they were given a drug called leuprolide, which temporarily suppressed estrogen to levels similar to menopause.

After 3 nights of disturbed sleep, there was a significant reduction in the rate at which the women’s bodies used fat compared to a normal night of sleep. A similar reduction in fat utilization was also seen when estrogen was suppressed, even during normal sleep. The combination of low estrogen and sleep disturbance also reduced fat utilization, but the effect was not larger than either exposure on their own, according to the study authors.

“In addition to estrogen withdrawal, sleep disturbances decrease fat utilization,” Grant said in a press release. “This may increase the likelihood of fat storage and subsequent weight gain during menopause.”

REFERENCE

Sleep disturbances may contribute to weight gain in menopause. Endocrine Society. Published March 20, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2021. https://www.endocrine.org/news-and-advocacy/news-room/featured-science-from-endo-2021/sleep-disturbances-may-contribute-to-weight-gain-in-menopause#:~:text=Sleep%20disturbances%20may%20contribute%20to%20weight%20gain%20in%20menopause,-Washington%2C%20DC%20March&text=Addressing%20sleep%20symptoms%20during%20menopause,the%20Endocrine%20Society's%20annual%20meeting.