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5 Reasons Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men 

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Healthy adults should get at least seven hours of sleep1 each night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. As it turns out, though, there may be some slight differences in these sleep needs when it comes to the male and female populations. 

Research shows that women actually need more sleep2 than men do. That raises the question, then, as to why women need more sleep than men. There are a few key reasons why women and men have different sleep needs, and in this article, we’ll go into each in detail. 

1. More Sleep Issues 

Women are twice as likely3 to have insomnia and sleep issues compared to men. One of the major reasons for this statistic is hormonal differences (which we’ll get into in the next section), but there are also other contributing differences between males and females. 

For example, during pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, females are more likely4 to develop sleep apnea, which can negatively impact sleep quality. Additionally, women are twice as likely5 to experience restless legs syndrome (RLS) compared to men. 

Sleep disorders aside, women are also more likely6 to have their sleep interrupted by a child or baby than a male. Although gender roles are evolving, this statistic is still true. 

2. Hormonal Fluctuations 

As mentioned, an underlying reason why women need more sleep than men is hormones. In fact, there are no differences between sleep in boys and girls until puberty7. When female hormones come along, they report trouble sleeping as early as 10 years old.7

This trouble with sleeping is because during menstruating years, females are in constant flux in their levels of estrogen, progesterone, and to some degree, testosterone.7 During the luteal phase (the second half) of the menstrual cycle, many females find it harder to sleep since progesterone levels are much lower.7

The shift in hormones during pregnancy, perimenopause, and the postmenopausal years make it more difficult to sleep as well.7 These hormonal shifts also make depression and anxiety8 much more likely in women, which can contribute to poor sleep quality as well.3  

These consistent shifts in hormones mean that a woman’s resting metabolic rate9 also changes significantly throughout the month, and throughout her life. This change in resting metabolic rate indicates a need for more calories during certain times of the month, and also more sleep.9 

3. Busier Schedules 

A 2019 study10 revealed that in general, women are busier than men. Not only that, but women are more likely to feel stressed, exhausted, and experience burnout11. The reasons reported for stress, exhaustion, and burnout included: unequal work demands, wages, work opportunities, and unpaid work (for example, taking care of the household or children).11 

Even though inequality has somewhat improved over the years in terms of gender roles and work allocation, unfortunately, females are often saddled with the bulk of unpaid12 and emotional labor13

4. Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Genetically, female bodies tend to store more fat14 than male bodies. This is true across most of the animal kingdom and is largely due to a difference15 in metabolic rate, hormones, muscle mass, and how the sexes burn fat. For example, females burn fat during exercise but switch over to burning carbs after exercise.15 Males, on the other hand, continue to burn fat after exercise, which is one reason it is often harder for women to lose weight.15 

Studies16 show that sleep plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight, or in losing weight. Getting adequate sleep allows the body to produce appetite-controlling hormones (ghrelin and leptin), reduces the time you have to eat, and allows for more energy the next day to exercise.16 

For females, who tend to store more fat and have a harder time losing weight than males, getting more sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight. 

5. Physical & Mental Health

Poor sleep disproportionately affects a female’s heart health and insulin levels17, which means that if a man and woman both get the same low-quality sleep, the woman would be more likely to develop heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes. Not only that, but the study revealed that when women and men both got poor sleep, the women reported higher levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger compared to the male participants.17

Conclusion

Everybody needs adequate sleep for physical and mental health, but science demonstrates that females need slightly more sleep than males.

This difference between the sexes may seem unfair – especially since women tend to have more issues falling and staying asleep in the first place. However, knowing the reasons sleep is so important for women, in particular, is the first step to truly making sleep a priority. 

If you’re female and have been struggling with sleep, you are by no means alone. Introducing melatonin supplements, a better sleep routine, and other lifestyle changes can make all the difference in your sleep quality.

More Reading:

References:

  1. Watson MD, Nathaniel F., et al. “Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society”. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2015.
  2. “Do women need more sleep than men?”. Piedmont Health. Webpage accessed August 8, 2024.
  3. Conroy, Deirdre. “3 Reasons Women Are More Likely to Have Insomnia”. University of Michigan. 2016. 
  4. “Sleep Apnea and Women”. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last modified March 24, 2022.
  5. Seeman, Mary V. “Why Are Women Prone to Restless Legs Syndrome?”. National Library of Medicine. 2020.
  6. Burgard, Sarah A., Ailshire, Jennifer A. “Gender and Time for Sleep among U.S. Adults”. National Library of Medicine. 2013. 
  7. Chen, Jennifer. “Women, Are Your Hormones Keeping You Up at Night?”. Yale Medicine. 2017.  
  8. Kundakovic, Marija., Rocks, Devin. “Sex hormone fluctuation and increased female risk for depression and anxiety disorders: From clinical evidence to molecular mechanisms”. National Library of Medicine. 2022. 
  9. Benton, Melissa J., Hutchins, Andrea M., Dawes, J. Jay. “Effect of menstrual cycle on resting metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. National Library of Medicine. 2020. 
  10. Festini, Sarah B., et al. “What makes us busy? Predictors of perceived busyness across the adult lifespan”. National Library of Medicine. 2019. 
  11. Cox, Josie. “Why women are more burned out than men”. BBC. 2021. 
  12. “Redistribute unpaid work”. UN Women. Webpage accessed July 18, 2024.
  13. Reese, Hope. “What Is Emotional Labor, and Why Does It Matter?”. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley. 2023. 
  14. Blackadar, Kerry. “How do men and women store fat differently? Ask the fruit fly.”. The University of British Columbia. 2020. 
  15. Shope, Savannah. “What is Metabolism?”. Pressbooks. Webpage accessed July 18, 2024.
  16. Salamon, Maureen. “Snooze more, eat less? Sleep deprivation may hamper weight control”. Harvard Health Publishing. 2022. 
  17. “Poor Sleep More Dangerous for Women”. Duke Health. Last modified January 20, 2016.