Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

6 Min Read | By Shannan Humphrey

Last Modified 31 August 2023   First Added 4 November 2021

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

According to sleep experts at Loughborough University, women need 20 minutes more sleep than men because of their “complex” brains. Our 2022 sleep study confirmed that more women do in fact sleep longer as 51% of women get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Meanwhile, only 49% of men get the full 7-8 hours of shut-eye.

Let’s look at what the director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, Jim Horne told the Mail Online:

“Women’s brains are wired differently … so their sleep need will be slightly greater. Women tend to multi-task – they do lots at once and are flexible – and so they use more of their actual brain than men do… For women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger. In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men.”

6 reasons why women need more sleep than men

Research suggests men and women differ in numerous behavioural and biological variables that affect our sleep needs. However, the studies on sex, gender, and sleep do need further research to better understand how these all affect each other. Let’s explore the potential reasons why women need more sleep than men.

 

1. Women have an increased risk of sleep disorders

A sleep study from 2014 shows that women have a 40 per cent higher risk of experiencing and developing sleep disorders than men. For example insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea can all affect sleep quality and might lead women to want to get some extra sleep to make up for the time lost. As well as sleep disorders, a lack of sleep isn’t good for mental health and because of this women are more prone to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

If this sounds like you, find helpful advice here: Ways To Sleep Better At Night

2. Women experience more hormone changes

Women’s menstruation cycle and hormones can directly impact sleep quality, as well as everyday life. Being a woman isn’t always fun! The fluctuations in hormones can cause physical discomfort and pain, with PMS symptoms including headaches, bloating, cramps, and just plain irritability. All this can impact a woman’s circadian rhythm and make it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep. Or, on the other hand, stop sleeping so much.

 

3. Pregnancy

Research shows that during pregnancy, developing restless leg syndrome is common in women, making sleep difficult. With hormone changes throughout the pregnancy, they can also experience fatigue, drowsiness, and more throughout the day. Growing a baby is exhausting as the foetus can take all of mum’s energy, leaving her extra tired. It can also be tough to sleep while pregnant as you’ve got this massive bump on your body, not only making small tasks during the day harder but sleeping too. And with pregnancy comes frequent urination, so as soon as you fall asleep you’re up to go to the bathroom.

4. Menopause

Sleep can also be affected by menopause, as hormone fluctuations can cause hot flashes and night sweats. After menopause, the risk of developing sleep apnea increases. Women really don’t have it easy with the hormone fluctuations. All of these, disturb their sleep and make them tired throughout the day. Trust the women in your life, periods and hormone changes are the worst.

5. Women have busier lives

It’s not a competition! We’re not saying men don’t have busy lives. However, on average, women do have busier schedules. Women usually not only have a full-time – or part-time – day job, but also the work doesn’t end when they come home. Societal norms have placed women to be the kind of superhero who comes home from work to cook, clean, and take care of the kids.

I know growing up I saw my dad come from work and sit down to watch T.V. Meanwhile, my mum came home and took care of all the household chores and didn’t get to sit down till 8 or 9 at night. So it’s no wonder women are more tired, this constant on-the-go and multitasking is exhausting.

Supporting all this, a study in 2013 found that women were spending less time in paid work and more time doing unpaid labour such as housework and caring for the family. Spending less time at work allows women more time to sleep, but with the constant business of everyday life, women end up working more. Women are also more likely to have their sleep interrupted by caring for the kids or taking them to school. This is especially so if they have a new baby, becoming a parent impacts sleep and is exhausting work. If you’ve got a newborn, get dad to help out with night feeds.

This isn’t only exhausting and makes women more tired, but it also causes many women to not get enough rest. As soon as you feel like you’ve just fallen asleep, you have to get up and do it all over again, meaning a lack of deep sleep. Although this isn’t always the case, it’s no surprise that the pressures society puts on women are exhausting and tiring. So let’s change that and get some equality and share the housework and caregiving.

6. They have different views on sleep

According to one study, women and men might have different views on sleep, which explains the difference in their sleep needs. Women are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours than men and are more likely to attend to their well-being and health. For example, setting time aside to relax and wind down, or even creating evening routines and making time for an earlier bedtime.

So, how much sleep do I need?

How much sleep you need varies and changes with age. Of course, babies’ sleep patterns differ and they need the most sleep. But how much sleep you need all depends on factors such as hormones, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions. On average an adult, regardless of sex, needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night, with women needing an extra 20 minutes worth of a lie-in.

Well, that answers the question; women do need more sleep than men. So, ladies, go ahead and press that snooze button! Get that extra 20 minutes of sleep that you deserve. You, your brain, and your body are working harder so you deserve a good night’s rest. In fact, you deserve an award and a good relaxing holiday too!

If you are struggling to sleep, make sure you check out our tips on how to sleep better at night.

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