Several studies have shown decisively that sleep is necessary for human health. It enables for better physical, mental, and emotional well-being by allowing the brain and body to rest and heal.
Despite the fact that everyone needs to sleep, there are significant disparities in the amount of sleep that men and women get. In the past, sleep research has been skewed toward men, which has left a void in our understanding of the sleep disparities across genders.
Nevertheless, in recent years, the field of sleep science has made strides to better understand how sleep differs for men and women. Sleep disorders impact different groups differently, as women and men get different amounts and types of sleep.
Are Sleep Needs Different For Women and Men?
Women and men generally require the same amount of sleep each night. Healthy individuals of any gender should receive between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More sleep is needed by teenagers and younger children.
Do Women and Men Sleep Equally Well?
There is mounting evidence that women in the United States obtain more total sleep4 per day than men, including sleep at night and naps throughout the day. The average age-related time difference ranged from five minutes to 28 minutes in one big study.
Women, on the other hand, have shorter sleep durations and poorer sleep quality. In an effort to make up for poor sleep quality, some experts believe that many women are sleeping more hours.
Keep in mind that everyone’s sleep pattern is different, and that it can be influenced by a variety of things. This doesn’t mean, for example, that all females sleep more or sleep less than their male counterparts.
Why Is Sleep Different Between Men and Women?
Sleeping patterns differ between men and women for a variety of reasons, including sex and gender differences5.
Hormone synthesis, sleep patterns, and the circadian rhythm are just a few of the biological processes that play a role in sex. Social and cultural inequalities are intertwined with gender differences. Individual men and women may be affected in different ways by these influences, which can be overlapping and nuanced.
When young women begin their menstrual cycle6, which involves considerable changes in hormone production, sex-based sleep variations typically begin to emerge. As men and women’s bodies change with age, sex-based characteristics alter as well.
When it comes to gender-based characteristics, they may begin earlier in life because they mirror social and cultural trends. They, like sex-based factors, can shift over time and have an effect on sleep in a dynamic way.
There are disparities in the sleep cycles of men and women, which contributes to the fact that they sleep differently.
Three to five sleep cycles are typical in a typical night’s slumber. There are three separate stages of sleep in each of these cycles, which last between 70 and 120 minutes. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the first stage, followed by three non-REM stages of sleep (NREM).
In the first three stages of the sleep cycle, known as NREM, the brain prepares for REM, which comes afterward. During the first two phases of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), the brain and muscles remain active. However, during stage three, known as deep sleep, the breathing slows significantly, as does the brain and muscular activity. Dreaming becomes more vivid in stage 4 of REM sleep, which is characterized by increased brain activity.
In order to fully benefit from the healing properties of sleep, it is important to understand how a person’s sleep cycle is organized.
There are differences in sleep architecture between the sexes. Women spend less time in stage 1, the lightest stage of sleep, and more time in stage 3, the deepest state. Between the ages of 30 and 40, there is some evidence that this disparity begins.
Men and women’s circadian rhythms differ somewhat, but this can have an impact on both the quantity and quality of their sleep.
The 24-hour internal clock of the body is known as circadian rhythm. All of the body’s systems and processes, including sleep, are regulated by this clock, which coordinates their operation at precise times throughout the day.
A regular sleep cycle is made possible by a healthy circadian rhythm, which keeps us alert throughout the day and asleep at night. For example, those who aren’t in sync with their circadian rhythm are more likely to experience sleep disturbances, daytime tiredness, and other health issues.
Men and women have different circadian rhythms, according to research. Women’s internal clocks are typically a few minutes shorter than men’s, even though most circadian rhythms aren’t exactly 24 hours long. Women tend to have earlier circadian rhythms, which means that they tend to go to bed and wake up earlier than their male counterparts.
When it comes to sleep, men and women are vastly different. During various stages of a woman’s life, changes in hormone production can cause major sleep disturbances:
- The monthly menstrual cycle, which begins at adolescence and involves significant changes in the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, is known as the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual syndrome can produce physical and emotional symptoms, including interrupted sleep, if the levels of these hormones fall before a woman’s menstruation begins. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) may be diagnosed if these effects are particularly disruptive (PMDD). Both PMS and PMDD are associated with significant sleep disturbances.
- During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes significant hormonal changes, which can make it difficult for her to fall asleep at night. The time and structure of sleep may be altered as a result of these modifications. Pregnancy hormones begin to fluctuate in the first trimester, but many women say their sleep becomes worse in the third trimester.. Insomnia-like symptoms are common in about half of all pregnant women, and they can last far into the postpartum period.
- During menopause, a woman’s reproductive system undergoes a major shift in hormone production. Perimenopause is a stage between menopause and the beginning of those changes. Throughout perimenopause and menopause, hot flashes and night sweats can affect as many as 85 percent of women15, causing sleep disturbances that are prevalent during this time period.
Hormonal changes that occur as a man ages can impair his sleep, as well. Growth hormone production declines with age, but cortisol levels, a stress hormone, rise. Poor sleep can lead to changes in these hormone levels, but they may also contribute to an increase in arousals and a lower quality of sleep.
Men’s testosterone levels can decline as they get older. The breathing ailment obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been linked to reduced testosterone levels in several studies. Obesity and male hormones appear to have a complex interaction, but more research is needed to understand the link between testosterone and sleep.
Other Health Issues
Many underlying health issues affect men and women differently, which might have an impact on how well one sleeps.
Men are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular illness and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), both of which can disrupt sleep. Men are more likely than women to drink excessively, which can disrupt sleep patterns and diminish quality of sleep.
Depression and anxiety, which can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, affect women more frequently than males. Nausea at night, which affects more than 75% of women over the age of 40, has been linked to a higher incidence among women of incontinence and overactive bladder. Women are more prone to suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, which can have a negative impact on their overall sleep quality.
Social and Cultural Norms
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, there are a number of factors that are influenced by gender. Because of the complexities of these standards, sleep may be implicated in a variety of ways that aren’t the same for everyone.
The primary example of a factor that impacts sleep in a gendered way is caregiving. Elderly people, young children, or ill family members are often left in the care of women. Caregivers’ sleep is disrupted more frequently and their overall stress level rises, which can have a negative impact on their ability to sleep.
Employment possibilities, job schedules, and the distribution of household responsibilities are all affected by gender stereotypes. Female sleep hygiene and sleep habits are negatively affected as a result of these social expectations. However, men might also be affected by similar social standards. For example, some males may experience a greater cultural pressure to be moneymakers, resulting in a reduced amount of sleep time.
How Sleep Occurs
The most fundamental distinction between men and women’s sleep patterns is their circadian rhythms1. There are “physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle” known as circadian rhythms. Light and darkness are the primary cues that they take into account while making a decision2.” In comparison to women, men’s rhythms are a little longer. Many women are early risers, but most males are night owls, as has been observed time and time again. In many cases, women report feeling more energized throughout the day but exhausted at night. Instead of getting enough shuteye, they stay up late to try to catch up on their snoozed-in time. It’s common for women (especially mothers) to put off going to bed because they have a lot on their plate (job, children, and home).
A 24-hour sleep cycle is the norm for men’s sleep regimens. In contrast to women, males struggle more than women with the effects of inadequate sleep, according to research conducted by the field of sleep science3. Women, on the other hand, tend to benefit more from morning shifts than men do from midnight shifts.
Women’s sleeping habits have also been found to differ from those of men, according to research. When it comes to deep sleep, women spend more time in it. One theory is that this is due to the fact that men and women age in quite different ways. Older males don’t go through the same sleep cycle as younger ones.
Which Sleep Disorders Are More Common Among Each Sex?
Insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome (RLS) are among the many sleep problems that affect men and women differently.
Insomnia is more common in women than in men, according to a recent study. In sum, they had a 40% increased lifetime risk of sleeplessness. Women are more likely than males to suffer from insomnia, which may be caused by both gender and sex differences.
Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than males, but they are also more likely to suffer from a more complex form of insomnia that includes several symptoms.
Men are much more likely than women to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially deadly disorder in which breathing stops repeatedly while you sleep. Between the ages of 30 and 70, 13% of men and 6% of women are expected to suffer from moderate to severe OSA. Constant sleep disturbances caused by OSA are linked to a variety of health conditions such as heart disease, depression, and more.
OSA is more prevalent in males than in women, however this may be due to the fact that men and women are diagnosed differently by doctors. OSA is less commonly diagnosed in women’s sleep clinics because women’s symptoms are misinterpreted.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from restless leg syndrome, a sleep problem characterized by an overwhelming desire to move one’s limbs. Pregnancy is the most common time for it to occur, which is why it is more common in women.
Does Poor Sleep Affect Women and Men Differently?
There is a physical and mental impact to sleep deprivation. Men and women suffer from the same repercussions of sleep deprivation, with only small variations.
When asked about how they deal with daytime sleepiness, nearly 80% of women in the Sleep In America 2007 survey responded, “I just accept it and power through.” A “sleep debt” can be quickly accrued by women who have had a period of inadequate sleep.
In both sexes, circadian rhythms that are out of sync with daylight and darkness can have catastrophic repercussions. Jet lag or shift work may have a greater impact on women due to the fact that they have a different circadian rhythm. Women who work night shifts may be more prone to workplace mishaps, according to studies.
Do Couples Sleep Differently?
In the past, sleep studies have primarily focused on single people, but in reality, most adults share a bed. For men or women, this sleeping position can have an impact on sleep.
Studies have showed that people sleep better when they are alone than when they share a bed with someone else. Those who have been polled, on the other hand, report that sleeping next to a partner makes them feel more content. Sharing a bed with a spouse can help heterosexual and same-sex couples sleep better because it conveys a sense of security and comfort.
Some relationships are more conducive to sound sleep than others, of course. Positive features of a married couple’s relationship have been linked to better sleep, according to study, while negative characteristics have been linked to worse sleep. Marriages with high levels of mutual support appear to improve the sleep of both partners among older persons who frequently encounter sleep issues related to aging.
Sharing a bed with a man or a woman can cause sleep issues. Because men snore more than women, their sleep may be more disrupted as a result. Having a spouse with a different circadian rhythm and sleep schedule might cause even more sleep disruption. As expected, the impact of these elements can vary greatly depending on the unique circumstances of each marriage.
Why Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?
It is possible that women require more sleep than males because of a variety of factors. Women are 40% more prone than males to suffer from sleeplessness. In addition, women are nearly twice as likely as males to experience worry or depression, both of which are closely linked to sleep disturbances. Insomniacs find it difficult to fall or stay asleep on a regular basis, and they are frequently sleepy during the day.
Another possible explanation for women’s higher sleep requirements than men is the impact of hormones. Hormones control our sleep-wake cycles. We feel weary, alert, hungry, and a host of other emotions because of these hormones. Each month, women’s hormones fluctuate, causing their circadian rhythms to shift and increasing their demand for sleep. For instance:
- Cramping, headaches, and bloating keep one-third of women up at night during menstruation. They report feeling more weary, sleepy, and worn out during the day.
- Pregnant women may suffer from restless legs syndrome, a disease that makes it difficult for them to get to sleep at night. Depression, sleep apnea, discomfort, and incontinence are among issues that might affect their sleep. In the postpartum period, when hormone levels drop and they start caring for a newborn with an irregular sleep pattern, these sleep disorders can remain, resulting in even more daytime tiredness for the mother.
- Up to 85% of women have hot flashes during menopause. Women often wake up in a cold sweat if this happens to them in the middle of the night. During menopause, women’s risk of acquiring sleep apnea also rises. Even if the person doesn’t wake up, this sleep condition creates pauses in breathing that might affect the quality of one’s sleep. As a result, women with sleep apnea may wake up feeling less rested, and they may also get fatigued and groggy throughout the day.
Do Women Actually Sleep More Than Men?
Despite the fact that studies shows that women require more sleep than men, women also sleep for an average of nearly 11 minutes longer per night.
Even while women may sleep less well than males, this may be related to the fact that they spend their days in different ways. The amount of time women and men devote to paid and unpaid work, work and social duties, and family caring has been documented by researchers. Because women are more likely than males to wake up early to take care of family members, this can cause sleep disruptions..
Independent of marital status, men and women with children get slightly more sleep than their childless counterparts. This shows that their longer overall sleep time may be deceiving because some of this sleep occurs during the day. While naps extend a person’s total amount of sleep, they also detract from the quality of their evening sleep.
The greatest way to get the most out of your sleep is to get plenty of uninterrupted time in bed. Each stage of sleep, from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep and back again, occurs numerous times throughout the course of a typical night’s sleep. More time is spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a stage during which dreams and other mental processes take place, and less time is spent in deep sleep, a stage during which your body repairs itself physically. As a result, you miss out on vital REM sleep when you disrupt your sleep cycle.
Numerous studies have shown that women sleep more quickly than males. Even though they may have a greater need for sleep, this could also indicate that they are simply exhausted more frequently. Women also spend more time in deep sleep than men, according to research. When it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep, men and women have very different sleep patterns.
Do You Need More Sleep?
Many women and men, regardless of their sex, are not getting enough sleep regardless of their age. At least 64.5 percent of men and 65.2 percent of women fall short of the seven-hour mark every night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High school pupils, particularly females, have significantly lower odds. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 71.3 percent of female students usually go without adequate sleep, compared to 66.4 percent of male students.
We know how much sleep we need when we wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Get regular exercise, set regular bed and waking times, restrict coffee and alcohol intake, and improve your sleep environment if you’re having difficulties sleeping. Establish a pre-sleep ritual that helps you relax your body and mind. Consult with your doctor to find out if there are any other steps you can take to improve your sleep.