A recent study conducted by Margot Morssinkhof at Amsterdam UMC and OLVG has shed light on the effects of sex hormones on sleep, particularly in transgender men undergoing hormone treatment.

The research, a first of its kind, specifically explored how receiving gender-affirming hormones impacts the sleep quality of transgender people.

“Such research had not yet been done, except for a very small study,” Morssinkhof said. “So it was really very new.

“It’s quite a commitment,” she explained of the study that took place thanks to people attending Amsterdam UMC gender clinic. “Being followed for a year, answering questionnaires and sleeping with a sleeping band around your head three times a week. That’s no small feat.”

The study found that after three months of testosterone use, trans men experienced an average decrease of seven minutes in deep sleep and dream sleep, aligning with the general pattern that men typically have poorer sleep quality than women.

Additionally, it was observed that trans men tended to go to bed later and wake up later, moving closer to a night person’s sleep pattern, which is more common in men than women.

“What is very paradoxical is that women also more often go to the doctor with sleep complaints,” Morssinkhof said. “We don’t yet know exactly how this is possible, but it means that there is a difference in the subjective experience of sleep and the sleep quality that we measure based on the electrical activity of the brain.”

Morssinkhof, now a postdoc at Amsterdam UMC, will further investigate the broader psychological and social well-being of transgender people in transition.

This research not only aims to benefit the trans community but also to provide deeper insights into the role of sex hormones on mood and sleep.

The study’s findings underscore the need for greater attention to how hormone changes, often experienced uniquely by women, can significantly impact mood and sleep patterns.