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Free Content Different nocturnal body temperatures and sleep with forced-air warming in men and in women taking hormonal contraceptives

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We studied how forced-air warming, conventionally used to control body temperature during and after anaesthesia, affected the nocturnal rectal temperatures and sleep composition of young men and women. Seven healthy women who were taking oral or injection contraceptives, and six healthy men spent 3 nights in a controlled environment: an adaptation night followed by 2 nights when they slept under either a down duvet (baseline) or a quilt perfused with warm air (hot). Repeated analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed significant gender differences in the body temperature responses. On the baseline night, despite sleeping under the same conditions, the women did not show a nocturnal drop in body temperature as shown by the men. Forced-air warming increased body temperature to a similar extent in the men and the women, and resulted in enhanced hyperthermia in the women, and blunted the drop in body temperature in the men, compared to their baseline nights. The significant increases in body temperature had no consequences, however, for the subjective sleep quality of either the men or women, and only minor consequences for objective sleep composition. Both men and women had increased amounts of Stage 2 sleep on the hot night ( P <0.04). In addition, the women had reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when compared to their baseline night ( P <0.04). Our results confirm that in a passive thermal environment, women who are taking oral or injection contraceptives have higher nocturnal body temperatures than men. Also, as sleep architecture was minimally affected by the increases in body temperature of between 0.2 and 0.3°C on the hot night in the men and women, and subjective sleep quality was unaffected, our results question the existence of a tight association between sleep and body temperature.
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Keywords: contraceptives; gender; nocturnal heating; sleep; temperature

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Department of Physiology and Brain Function Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, South Africa

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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