Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

7 min read

Last Modified 9 November 2021 First Added 4 November 2021

By Shannan Humphrey

On average, we all need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night to wake up feeling refreshed. However, research suggests that women need more sleep than men, but only a little. Women need to sleep an extra 20 minutes longer to be at peak performance during the day, so feel free to press snooze! Let’s explore why women may need this extra lie-in.

Reasons why women need more sleep

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.

 

Increased risk of sleep disorders

A research review from 2014 shows that women have a 40 per cent higher risk compared to men of experiencing and developing sleep disorders. 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.

Related: 10 Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep And Avoiding Insomnia

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 physical changes in hormones can cause 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.

During pregnancy, it can be even harder to sleep at night. With hormone changes throughout the pregnancy, it can cause fatigue, drowsiness, restless leg syndrome, and more. 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 sleep too. And with pregnancy comes frequent urination, so as soon as you fall asleep you’re up to go to the bathroom.

Sleep can also be affected by menopause, as hormone fluctuations can cause hot flushes and night sweats. And the risk of developing sleep apnea increases after menopause. Women really don’t have it easy with the hormone fluctuations. So, we’re not just making it up. Trust the women in your life, periods and hormone changes are the worst.

Weight gain

Lack of sleep has a link to weight gain. And since women tend to get less sleep than men, it’s no surprise why women are gaining weight and having a harder time losing weight. Men don’t really have as hard a time losing weight as women do. With women being more likely to suffer from insomnia and become sleep deprived, it’s no wonder why many women struggle with losing weight. Additionally, less sleep means higher amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone. More cortisol leads to eating more junk food, which leads to weight gain. So ladies, if you want to lose a couple of pounds, sleep in! Or, try sleeping naked, which can lower your body temperature and help you shed some weight.

Women have busier lives

It’s not a competition and 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 a 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 just sit and 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 why 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 the kids 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, think about letting dad 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 in there and share the housework and caregiving.

Women are wired differently

You heard that correctly. In comparison to men, women’s brains are wired differently. According to researchers at the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, women tend to need more sleep because they have more complex brains. Jim Horne, a sleep expert 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.”

Related: The Effects of Lack of Sleep on Relationships

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 wellbeing and health. For example, setting time aside to relax and wind down, or even create evening routines and make 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!

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