Neuroscience:  For menopausal women who have difficulty sleeping, it might be because of chemicals in the environment. A new study based on data from the Midlife Women’s Health Study suggests that exposure to various chemicals, such as phthalates, found in hundreds of products used daily, is associated with sleep disruptions in midlife women. Study results are published online today in Menopause.
 Up to 60% of women in the menopause transition experience sleep difficulties. Women who have trouble falling asleep are at greater risk of developing persistent depression that can lead to worse health outcomes, may require more medical care, and increase absenteeism.
 Earlier studies have shown that such sleep disruption is the result of decreasing hormone levels. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), however, is one largely unexplored area that may help to explain the increased prevalence of sleep difficulties in midlife women. Phthalates are common EDCs that are found in industrial plasticizers and chemical
Phthalates increase the performance of everything from food packaging and clothing to cosmetics and children’s toys. Personal care products, in particular, represent a major area of exposure.
Although everyone is exposed to phthalates, they appear to concentrate more in women than men. A previous study suggested that increased exposure to phthalates from personal care products significantly increased the risk of hot flashes. Other studies have demonstrated associations between phthalate exposure and the likelihood of waking up at night, as well as the risk of suffering from depression.