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Effect of Sex, Menstrual Cycle Phase, and Oral Contraceptive Use on Circadian Temperature Rhythms

Effect of Sex, Menstrual Cycle Phase, and Oral Contraceptive Use on Circadian Temperature Rhythms


The circadian rhythm of rectal temperature was continuously recorded over several consecutive days in young men and women on regular nocturnal sleep schedules. There were 50 men, 21 women with natural menstrual cycles (i.e., not taking oral contraceptives (OCs) (10 in the follicular phase and 11 in the luteal phase)), and 14 women using OCs (6 in the pseudofollicular phase and 8 in the pseudoluteal phase). Circadian phase and amplitude were estimated using a curve-fitting procedure, and temperature levels were determined from the raw data. A two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) on the data from the four groups of women, with factors menstrual cycle phase (follicular, luteal) and OC use (yes, no), showed that temperature during sleep was lower during the follicular phase than during the luteal phase. Since waking temperatures were similar in the two phases, the circadian amplitude was also larger during the follicular phase. The lower follicular phase sleep temperature also resulted in a lower 24-h temperature during the follicular phase. The two-way ANOVA showed that temperature during sleep and 24-h temperature were lower in naturally cycling women than in women taking OCs. A one-way ANOVA on the temperature rhythm parameters from the five groups of subjects showed that the temperature rhythms of the men and of the naturally cycling women in the follicular phase were not significantly different. Both of these groups had lower temperatures during sleep, lower 24-h temperatures, and larger circadian amplitudes than the other groups. There were no significant differences in circadian phase among the five groups studied. In conclusion, menstrual cycle phase, OC use, and sex affect the amplitude and level, but not the phase, of the overt circadian temperature rhythm.
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