|IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This article predominantly uses binary language to describe data, referring specifically to “male” and “female” or “men” and “women” within the datasets, as the research cited in this article did not incorporate information about participants (if any) who identified as transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.|
Curious why women often report more sleep challenges than men? From hormonal changes to added stress, several factors can impact women’s sleep.
Is it possible that women need more sleep than men? We’ve got three case studies that explore possible gender differences in sleep and how these differences can impact the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.
Several factors can contribute to why women struggle more than men as they try to get a good night’s sleep. One of the most significant factors is hormonal changes, particularly during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. These hormonal changes can cause insomnia, night sweats, and hot flashes, resulting in sleep disturbances.
In addition to hormonal changes, women are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety and often have added responsibilities like childcare and household duties. These factors can cause added stress and make it difficult for women to relax and unwind before bed, ultimately impacting sleep quality.
The amount of sleep a person needs can vary depending on factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health. On average, it is recommended that both men and women get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
When it comes to discussing sleep struggles, studies have shown that women are more likely than men to report sleep challenges. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that women are 1.4 times more likely than men to report insomnia symptoms, and according to Better Sleep Council research…
- More women than men say they do not get enough sleep (54% vs. 42%)
- More women than men say it is very/somewhat difficult to fall asleep (50% vs. 38%) and to stay asleep (55% vs. 43%)
- Women are also more likely than men to say that body pain or aches get in the way of them getting a good night’s sleep (45% vs. 32%)
- Fewer women than men say they are very satisfied with their sleep (15% vs. 23%)
The following case studies explore the differences between sleep in men and women, including how it’s reported and possible reasons why women need more sleep.
Case Study #1
This 2013 study examined gender differences in sleep time among individuals with similar work-family responsibilities. The study found that “overall and at most life course stages, women slept more than men” but that the gender gap was smaller when accounting for the impact of paid and unpaid work, napping, bedtimes, and sleep interruptions for caregiving. Women’s sleep time was more influenced by work and family responsibilities than men’s sleep time. However, interruptions for caregiving, which are more common among women, reduced sleep quality.
Case Study #2
Researchers at the Loughborough University Sleep Research Center found women need “about 20 more minutes of sleep per night” than men. Professor Jim Horne noted that “women’s brains are wired differently…so their sleep need will be slightly greater.”
“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.”
Case Study #3
A 2014 research review highlighted the role of sex differences in sleep research, suggesting that gender differences in sleep disorders among women are lacking research and showing potential gender biases. They found that women’s risk of experiencing insomnia is 40% higher than men’s. Women also have a higher risk of developing restless leg syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea, both of which can impact sleep quality.
The research also notes that differences in sleep behavior and disorders may not only be driven by biological factors but also by gender differences in symptom reporting. Identifying these differences in men and women has the potential to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sleep disorders and related conditions for all.
Getting enough quality sleep is essential for both physical and mental health, regardless of sex or gender. While research shows that women tend to require slightly more sleep than men, it is important that all adults get their required 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
To improve sleep quality, individuals can establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Prioritizing sleep can improve overall health and well-being for both men and women.
Learn how to prioritize sleep and establish healthy sleep habits at BetterSleep.org.