Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

Gender and Sleep


Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?


Regardless of sex and gender, most adults require at least seven hours sleep every night for good health. Sleep is a fundamental part of a person’s overall health and wellbeing and effects every major part of the body from the brain to the immune system.

Multiple research studies have shown that women tend to sleep longer when compared to men. However, there is no simple explanation for this. Instead, a combination of both biological and cultural factors may account for these different requirements for sleep.


Why Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?


The relationship between sex, gender and sleep is still unclear. Sex refers to biological traits such as anatomy, genetics, hormones while gender includes cultural expectations about behaviour and characteristics associated with a person’s sex.

Researchers have observed a variety of differences in sleep related to a person’s sex and gender, each of which may be influenced by both their biology and culture.


Women Are More Likely To Have Sleep Problems


Hormonal differences and higher rates of mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, may make women more susceptible to sleep problems and sleep disorders throughout their lives.

Insomnia is 40% more likely in women and they are more than twice as likely to receive a diagnosis for restless legs syndrome. Women also tend to have higher rates of persistent, chronic insomnia and exhibit more symptoms that impact their day-to-day lives. Such symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, mood disturbances, and trouble focusing.

Women also experience marked hormonal fluctuations and physical changes throughout their lives that can affect how long they sleep and contribute to sleep disruptions. These include hormonal shifts during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.


Women Have Shorter Circadian Rhythms


Circadian rhythms are biological cycles that serve a wide range of functions in the body. Experts know that certain rhythms affect sleep, yet much of what is known about these cycles if based on research performed predominantly in men.

Emerging research shows that women may have slightly shorter circadian rhythms in their daily cycles of body temperature and the release of melatonin, a hormone that signals the timing of sleep. Researchers believe that these variations in circadian rhythms may contribute to women spending more time and having higher rates of sleep issues.


Gender Expectations Influence Sleep Patterns


Cultural and societal expectations also influence women’s sleep patterns, as well as the higher rates of sleep disorders.

Although studies show that women tend to sleep slightly more than men, there’s evidence that women get less undisturbed, quality sleep. In part, this may be due to the fact that women more often act as caregivers, whether to children or ailing family members. This often means they sacrifice sleep and stay awake later to attend to others’ needs.


Do You Actually Need More Sleep?


To understand whether you need more sleep than you’re currently getting, consider expert guidelines and talk to your doctor. Adults generally require seven or more hours sleep each night, but people may need more sleep if they are pregnant, sick, or catching up from sleep loss.

Making a few lifestyle changes may help you improve your sleep. Some simple ways to get better sleep include:

  • Setting consistent bedtimes and wake times
  • Getting daily sunlight exposure
  • Limiting caffeine to earlier in the day
  • Avoiding large meals and alcohol close to bedtime
  • Finding a relaxing routine to help calm yourself before bed
  • Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and relatively cool

If you think you may be showing signs of a sleep disorder, talk with your doctor or another health care professional. They can help you understand your symptoms, get an accurate diagnosis, and implement a successful treatment plan.