Rates of heavy drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are increasing in women at an alarming pace. Such
drastic increases in drinking will have a significant negative impact on women’s health. Unfortunately, until
recently heavy drinking has been considered a male-oriented problem, and consequently research on alcohol-
related harms in women has been minimal. One specific aspect of women’s health that may be negatively
affected by alcohol is sleep. Numerous studies in men show that although alcohol has an initial sedative effect,
it leads to frequent awakenings and impaired rapid eye movement sleep in the second half of the night.
Preliminary evidence suggests that women experience similar impairment, and that they may be even more
sensitive to alcohol-disrupted sleep than men. Further, in the general population, women are at greater risk for
insomnia and sleep disturbances than men, in part because women’s sleep is sensitive to fluctuations in
ovarian hormones. Hormonal influences on sleep are especially pronounced in older women of late
reproductive age. However, the influence of sex and sex hormones on alcohol-disrupted sleep across the
reproductive lifespan in women is unknown. Here, we will determine the influence of sex, menstrual cycle
phase, and sex hormones on alcohol-disrupted sleep in adults across the reproductive age range for women.
Healthy women and men (age 21-45) will complete two pairs of experimental sessions in which they receive a
dose of alcohol (target BrAC = 100mg%, intravenous) or placebo (saline) one hour prior to eight hours of
polysomnographically-monitored sleep in the lab. Women will complete one alcohol-placebo session pair
during the mid-follicular phase of the menstrual cycle and one pair during the late luteal phase. Men will
complete two session pairs at matched intervals. Participants will also complete two 5-day at-home monitoring
periods of naturalistic sleep and alcohol consumption patterns during the mid-follicular and late luteal phases.
Sleep and alcohol use will be assessed with actigraphy, daily sleep and wake diaries, and alcohol wrist
sensors. We hypothesize that women will show greater disruption of sleep following alcohol than men and that
alcohol-disrupted sleep, measured in lab with polysomnography and at-home with actigraphy, will be more
pronounced in the late luteal phase compared to the mid-follicular phase. We also expect that estradiol will be
negatively associated with alcohol-disrupted sleep, whereas progesterone will be positively associated with
alcohol-disrupted sleep. This study will provide essential information regarding alcohol effects on sleep across
the reproductive age span in women, and critically, how these effects are moderated by sex, menstrual cycle,
and fluctuations in sex hormones. Findings will directly inform future interventions aimed at reducing alcohol
consumption and the negative impacts of alcohol on sleep in women. Given the wide-ranging impact of sleep
on other areas of function, including cognition, stress, and well-being, such interventions will have a substantial
positive impact on women’s health.