Do women need more sleep than men?

Sleep is a vital component of overall health and well-being, and it is no secret that men and women have inherent physiological and psychological differences. But does this mean that women require more sleep than men? The answer is in most cases probably not, but they are more likely to have disturbed sleep and even 40% more likely to suffer with insomnia [1], ultimately men and women both need a similar if not the same amount of quality sleep. 

There's some, albeit limited evidence that women may need slightly, and we do mean slightly more sleep. But, it's really doesn't amount to much, we're looking at perhaps 11-13 mins more a night. [2]

Overall it seems age actually plays a much bigger role in the amount of sleep we need, as you'd probably expect. And when it comes to men, sleep effects their testosterone production meaning it is just as vital. 

So, Why Do We Often Think Women Need More Sleep?

There have been a lot of studies that show women sleep more than men. But, that doesn't necessarily need they need more, it's important to distinguish between the sleep people get and the sleep they actually need. Sleep duration alone does not often reflect quality sleep. And to top it off this is mostly self-reported data on sleep duration, and it seems that men often simply say they sleep less than they do and women have been shown to over report sleep hours. Most likely this is influenced by factors such as societal expectations and personal biases. 

What is Quality Sleep

Quality sleep is characterized by getting enough restful sleep that allows your body and brain to recover and rejuvenate. It involves a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding disruptions that can impair the quality of sleep. It's important that your body goes through all of the sleep cycles as they have different functions in your nightly recovery process.

A complete sleep cycle typically lasts around 90 minutes and consists of four stages: N1 (light sleep), N2 (light to moderate sleep), N3 (deep sleep), and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the stage where dreaming occurs and is crucial for cognitive function and emotional well-being.

Ideally, you should aim to get 4-5 complete sleep cycles per night to ensure you have enough REM sleep. This becomes less important with age, but that's a different discussion in and of itself as to why. [3]

Factors Affecting Women's Sleep

While the need for more sleep among women as a whole may not be universally supported, there are specific factors that can impact women's sleep patterns and contribute to a higher risk of sleep deprivation. These factors include hormonal changes, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and social factors. Although these factors may affect women differently, it is important to note that individual experiences may vary significantly. It does also seem to be the case that womens sleep is more likely to be disturbed by child rearing duties, even in two parent homes. [4]

Hormonal Changes and Sleep

Research has shown that women's sleep can be influenced by hormonal fluctuations throughout their menstrual cycles. During certain phases of the menstrual cycle, women may experience changes in sleep architecture, including increased sleep onset insomnia, more awakenings during sleep, and lower sleep quality and efficiency. These changes are primarily attributed to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels. [5]

Pregnancy and Sleep

Pregnancy brings about significant physiological and hormonal changes, which can impact a woman's sleep. Many pregnant women report sleep disturbances, including increased wakefulness, difficulty falling and staying asleep, and daytime sleepiness. Factors such as increased urinary frequency, hormonal fluctuations, physical discomfort, and anxiety can contribute to disrupted sleep patterns during pregnancy. [6]

Menopause and Sleep

As women enter menopause, hormonal changes, specifically a decline in estrogen and progesterone levels, can disrupt sleep. Menopausal women often experience symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, which can significantly affect sleep quality and duration. Sleep disturbances during menopause are associated with increased rates of insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. [7]

Other Sleep Challenges for Women

Women, in general, are more prone to experiencing sleep disorders compared to men. Studies have shown that women are more likely to experience insomnia, restless leg syndrome, trouble staying asleep, feeling unrefreshed in the morning, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Additionally, women have a higher prevalence of anxiety and major depression, which can further impact sleep quality.

Sleep and Age

As we mentioned earlier, age is a more important bench mark rather than gender. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides general sleep guidelines [8] for different age groups:

  • Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
  • 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours

Tips for Women To Get Better Sleep

Whilst some of these can be difficult for women, especially if they are the primary caregiver for a child for example, a newborn isn't too likely to let you get on a consistent schedule too easily, but in general it's still helpful. 

Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule - Having a consistent sleep and wake-up time helps regulate your body's internal clock and promotes better sleep quality. Aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment - Your sleep environment plays a crucial role in promoting quality sleep. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable. Consider using blackout blinds, comfortable bedding, and a supportive mattress to optimize your sleep environment.

Mind Your Eating and Drinking Habits - Avoid consuming heavy meals or stimulating substances, such as caffeine, close to bedtime. Eating at least three hours before bed and limiting caffeine intake can help prevent sleep disturbances. It is also advisable to avoid consuming alcohol before bed, as it can disrupt sleep patterns.

Reduce Blue Light Exposure - Blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Minimize exposure to blue light by avoiding screen time, including television, smartphones, and other devices, at least two hours before bedtime.

Engage in Relaxation Techniques - Incorporating relaxation techniques before bed can help signal your body that it is time to wind down. Consider taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, practicing deep breathing exercises, or meditation to promote relaxation and prepare your body for sleep.

Regular Exercise - Regular physical activity has been shown to improve sleep quality. Engaging in exercise earlier in the day can help regulate sleep patterns and reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can affect sleep. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can have the opposite effect and make it harder to fall asleep. This is actually one of the reasons why on average men have less issues with insomnia on average due to a higher rate of manual labour in the work force.


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