Expert Says Women are More Negatively Affected by Lack of Sleep than Men

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Everyone needs a good night’s rest… but is it possible a good snooze is more important for some than others?

According to associate vice president for research development and professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology Jason Carter, females are much more likely to suffer an increased risk of heart disease and neural health issues from chronic deprivation.

Carter spoke at the 2018 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute research conference on Sleep and the Health of Women in October to present his ideas on the connection between heart health, neural response, and ladies' nighttime patterns. He believes there is strong evidence to prove women’s bodies are much more at risk for developing certain health issues due to lack of rest than male bodies may be.

“Population-based data suggests certain cardiovascular diseases like hypertension are more strongly associated with short sleep in women than they are in men,” Carter says.

This includes potentially fatal side effects like heart attack and stroke. According to research, these issues may be chronic rather than one-time events.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Women?

woman relaxing on convertible sofa bed

Sleep deprivation can affect a woman’s nervous system more drastically. “When women are deprived of sleep, their nervous systems appear to respond more aggressively than men,” Carter says. “There's an acceleration of the nervous system. We see higher blood pressures and greater potential risk for heart attack. The surge of sympathetic activity also increases the risk of stroke. Too much of an excitation of the body sets a person up for negative cardiovascular events acutely and chronically.”

This may be a major culprit behind these negative side effects. Carter believes insomnia and blood pressure control go hand-in-hand, and these numbers often rise sharply in women who don’t get enough slumber time.

“We're using these technologies in novel combinations to better understand the impact of things like alcohol, sleep deprivation and insomnia on blood pressure,” Carter says. “There's a very complex relationship between sleep and blood pressure control. The epidemiological evidence is clear these are strongly coupled, and they seem to be more strongly coupled in women than men.”

How Does Sleep Affect Your Memory?

Sleep can negatively affect memory if you don’t get enough rest, but it may be worse for women. A 2018 study looked at the effects of rest deprivation on memory, concluding that females faced a larger loss in working memory than males.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Men?

Sleep deprivation can impact men’s overall health. Men face decreased sex drive and fertility, lower testosterone levels, an increased cancer risk and a decrease in immunity, and cardiovascular issues, albeit at a lower rate than found in ladies according to recent findings.

A man staring out his window looking tired

It seems rather safe to say a lack of zzz's is detrimental to everyone, regardless of gender. For more information on the effects of this type of deprivation on the body, check out our guide to insomnia and psychosis. Then head over to our guide to fixing your nighttime schedule so you can get back on track!


Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

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