Sleep disturbance and sympathetic neural reactivity in postmenopausal females

Chowdhury Tasnova Tahsin, Miguel Anselmo, Emma Lee, William Stokes, Ida T. Fonkoue, Marnie L. Vanden Noven, Jason R. Carter, Manda L. Keller-Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Sleep disturbance, one of the most common menopausal symptoms, contributes to autonomic dysfunction and is linked to hypertension and cardiovascular risk. Longitudinal studies suggest that hyperreactivity of blood pressure (BP) to a stressor can predict the future development of hypertension. It remains unknown if postmenopausal females who experience sleep disturbance (SDG) demonstrate greater hemodynamic and sympathetic neural hyperreactivity to a stressor. We hypothesized that postmenopausal females with reported sleep disturbance would exhibit increased hemodynamic and sympathetic reactivity to a stressor compared with postmenopausal females without sleep disturbance (non-SDG). Fifty-five postmenopausal females (age, 62 ± 4 yr old; SDG, n ¼ 36; non-SDG; n ¼ 19) completed two study visits. The Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MENQOL) was used to assess the presence of sleep disturbance (MENQOL sleep scale, ≥2 units). Beat-to-beat BP (finger plethysmography), heart rate (HR; electrocardiogram), and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; microneurography; SDG, n ¼ 25; non-SDG, n ¼ 15) were continuously measured during a 10-min baseline and 2-min stressor (cold pressor test; CPT) in both groups. Menopause age and body mass index were similar between groups (P > 0.05). There were no differences between resting BP, HR, or MSNA (P > 0.05). HR and BP reactivity were not different between SDG and non-SDG (P > 0.05). In contrast, MSNA reactivity had a more rapid increase in the first 30 s of the CPT in the SDG (burst incidence, D10.2 ± 14.8 bursts/100 hb) compared with the non-SDG (burst incidence, D4.0 ± 14.8 bursts/100 hb, time × group, P ¼ 0.011). Our results demonstrate a more rapid sympathetic neural reactivity to a CPT in postmenopausal females with perceived sleep disturbance, a finding that aligns with and advances recent evidence that sleep disturbance is associated with sympathetic neural hyperactivity in postmenopausal females. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first study to demonstrate that muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) to a cold pressor test is augmented in postmenopausal females with perceived sleep disturbance. The more rapid increase in MSNA reactivity during the cold pressor test in the sleep disturbance group was present despite similar increases in the perceived pain levels between groups. Baseline MSNA burst incidence and burst frequency, as well as blood pressure and heart rate, were similar between the sleep disturbance and nonsleep disturbance groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H752-H759
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 the American Physiological Society.


  • autonomic nervous system
  • cardiovascular risk
  • menopause symptoms
  • microneurography
  • women’s health

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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