Do women need more sleep than men? Gender and sleep
We know that many factors affect our sleep requirements.
People who spend a lot of their days being physically active often require more sleep than their sedentary counterparts. Depending on your age, you may also need to snooze more often so that you have more time to grow and develop.
However, did you know that there’s a relationship between gender and sleep too?
Sleep needs by gender offer an interesting area of study that we’re only just beginning to explore.
In the search for better sleep hygiene routines and insomnia cures, scientists are finding that your gender could dictate how much time you need to spend on your pillow.
It turns out that not only do women need more slumber after expending more mental energy each day, but they often experience more sleep disorders too.
That’s because a lot of women have issues with things like hormones, periods, and even menopause disrupting their nightly routines.
Here’s your guide to the relationship between gender and sleep, and why women need to sleep more than their manly counterparts.
Sleep needs by gender: The basics
For the most part, all adults follow the same essential guidelines for sleep.
However, just because you fall to sleep at the same time as your partner every evening, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a different set of needs to consider.
Women need more sleep than men for a number of reasons.
One of the main factors in play here is the fact that women often struggle to get the right quality of sleep every night. Issues like obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and even medical problems like arthritis can be more common in women.
Snoring is another factor that stops women from getting the slumber that they need. Men are a lot more likely to snore than women, simply because of the structure of their airways.
If you’re a woman sleeping next to a man, this means that you’re a lot more likely to be kept awake by the sounds of your partner struggling to breathe freely during the night.
On top of that, men tend to drink more often than their female counterparts too.
Since alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, it can worsen snoring. At the same time, the more you drink, the more you need to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, increasing the risk of disruptions.
Why women need more sleep
It’s not just a greater risk of a bad night’s sleep that leads to women having more sleep requirements than men. According to a leading expert in sleep science, Jim Horne, the average woman needs around 20 minutes more sleep each night than men.
During research into the question “Do women need more sleep than men,” the scientist found that women tend to multi-task and use more of their brain most days.
This exhausts you faster and means that you need a lot more sleep. Women can also have much more hectic physical schedules than men, depending on what they do each day.
Of course, this theory into why women need more sleep also means that men who live physically and emotionally demanding lives might require a greater amount of sleep too.
The majority of the factors that cause women to need more sleep aren’t actually restricted to gender.
Although there are hormones in play, and things like menopause that can increase a woman’s chance of a bad night’s sleep, our sleep requirements are often heavily dependent on our individual routines.
Women need to sleep more during pregnancy too
One study of gender and sleep that’s particularly focused on women, is the demand for longer and deeper sleep during pregnancy. Pregnant women need a lot more rest than anyone else, particularly during their first trimester.
This is due to a number of things, including:
Increased pressure on the mind and body
Changes in metabolism within the body
An increase in progesterone
During pregnancy women also have a higher risk of suffering from parasomnias. These are the unusual behaviours that occur either during sleep, when waking up or just before sleep.
Common parasomnias for expectant mothers often range from insomnia to restless leg syndrome.
As babies grow and change the way that a woman’s body performs, the risk of poor sleep is increased.
For example, many expectant mothers during the first trimester wake up a lot during the night to go to the bathroom. That’s because the uterus begins to push on the bladder.
Additionally, swollen breasts, nausea, and cramps all make it a lot harder to go to sleep and stay asleep.
As the pregnancy progresses, women can go through a period of sleeping a little better during the second trimester, as they’re getting used to the changes in their body.
However, when the third trimester approaches, sleep becomes worse again, due to anxiety, frequent urination, lower back pain, and even just problems finding a comfortable position.
A lot of women would naturally find it much easier to fall asleep after a new baby is born because they’re exhausted and sleep-deprived.
Unfortunately — most babies wake every few hours, which prevents women from getting into the deeper phases of restful sleep.
Which gender needs more sleep? More facts to consider
All human beings need plenty of sleep — regardless of gender.
However, it’s difficult to ignore the exciting connections that gender and sleep can have.
Men and women often have different sleep tendencies that depend on their personalities, daily activities, and habits.
However, what’s really interesting, is the fundamental biological differences between genders when it comes to sleep.
One study has proven that there are marked differences in the circadian rhythms that naturally form in men and women. Hormones and biology have a significant impact on the way that we operate, and the way that we sleep.
Since men and women have different hormones working on their brains all the time, it makes sense that we would sleep differently.
Interestingly, the studies that show that women need to sleep more also indicate that females can perform better than men when they’re sleep-deprived.
Although women need more sleep than their male counterparts to perform at their best, they can also rebound a lot more quickly from sleep deprivation.
This may have something to do with women being forced to recover quickly from sleep deprivation after a baby is born — but scientists aren’t totally sure.
One thing that we do know is that women spend more of their time asleep in deep, slow-wave stages. The time spent in that deep sleep is memory-boosting and restorative.