Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?
The average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed. However, research suggests that women tend to sleep just a little bit longer than men. We take a closer look at what factors may contribute to how much sleep a person needs.
Why Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?
There are a number of reasons why women may need more sleep than men. Women are 40% more likely to have insomnia than men. Women are also nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression , two conditions strongly associated with insomnia . Individuals with insomnia have difficulty falling or staying asleep on a regular basis, and suffer from sleepiness during the day.
Hormones may be another reason for differing sleep needs. The sleep-wake cycle is ruled by hormones . These hormones affect when a person feels tired, when they feel alert, and when they feel hungry. Women and people assigned female at birth can experience hormonal changes each month and over the course of their lifetimes, which impact their circadian rhythms and create a greater need for sleep.
- Menstruation: One-third of people who menstruate have trouble sleeping due to cramps, headaches, and bloating. They report higher levels of daytime sleepiness, tiredness, and fatigue .
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, women may develop restless legs syndrome, a condition that makes it harder to fall asleep. Pregnant people are also more likely to experience depression, sleep apnea, pain, and incontinence, which disrupt their sleep. These sleep issues can persist into the postpartum period , when their hormone levels drop at the same time they start taking care of a newborn with an irregular sleep cycle — often resulting in even more daytime sleepiness.
- Menopause: During menopause, up to 85% of women experience hot flashes. When these occur at night, women wake up in a sweat, thereby disrupting their sleep. The risk of developing sleep apnea also increases during menopause . This sleep disorder causes pauses in breathing that can interfere with the quality of one’s sleep. As a result, women with sleep apnea may feel less refreshed upon waking up and experience tiredness and excessive sleepiness during the day.
Do Women Actually Sleep More Than Men?
While research shows that women need more sleep than men, it is also the case that women tend to sleep slightly longer than men — by just over 11 minutes . In addition to biological differences like hormone production, there are also gender-based differences that can affect how much sleep a person needs and gets each night.
Researchers have documented differences in the amount of time women and men dedicate to paid and unpaid labor, work and social responsibilities, and family caregiving . Women are more likely than men to wake up to take care of others in the home, a task which disrupts their sleep. Sleep disruptions can reduce overall sleep quality.
Studies have also shown that women are more likely to nap during the day, which suggests their longer total sleep time may be misleading, since some of it takes place during the day. Naps add to a person’s total sleep time, but they can also make nighttime sleep less restful.
Sleep works best when it is uninterrupted throughout the night. During a full night’s sleep, you cycle through the various stages of sleep several times a night — from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep and back again. With each subsequent stage of sleep, you spend more time in REM sleep, a time for dreaming and cognitive processing, and less time in deep sleep, a time where your body physically repairs itself. When that sleep is interrupted, you start the cycle over again — causing you to miss out on essential REM sleep.
Multiple studies have found that women fall asleep faster than men. This may suggest they have a greater need for sleep, but it could also suggest they are simply more tired on average. Studies show women also spend more time in deep sleep than men. However, that changes in menopause, when women take longer to fall asleep and spend less time in deep sleep than men.
Studies exploring sleep differences for non-binary and transgender people are limited.
Do You Need More Sleep?
Regardless of gender, most adults do not get enough sleep each night. Around one-third of adults sleep less than seven hours per night on a regular basis.
The best way to know if you are getting enough sleep is whether you feel refreshed and restored when you wake up. If you are having trouble sleeping, try getting regular exercise, setting routine bed and wake times, limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake, and improving your sleep environment. Develop a bedtime routine that calms down your mind and body before sleep. If your insomn
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