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Men, Women and Sleep: How Mother Nature Influences Rest

We have all heard the saying, women are from Venus and men are from Mars, but how do our differences equate for sleep? Here is another round of the battle of the sexes…on sleep that is!

Women Need More Sleep

Researchers have found that women require about 20 minutes more sleep each day than men. The reason? It’s because women expend more mental energy each day. Women multitask and use their brains more than men (this comes from the experts, we swear!)

Bedtime is when the brain regenerates. The most restorative and memory boosting part of the night is the deep, slow-wave sleep stage. Not only do women snooze longer to recharge their hard working brains, they spend more time in the deep, restorative part of the sleep cycle.  

Sleep Apnea Proves Higher in Men, Insomnia More Common in Women

Men are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea at 4% as compared to 2% of the female population. Men also have more apnea events per hour around 27 to 30, while women experience an average of 13 to 15 events per hour. The exception is in older women who suffer sleep apnea at equal rates as men. This may be because of a decrease in muscle tone in the upper airway.

Women prove two to three times more likely to suffer from insomnia. As high as 15% of females suffer from insomnia, as compared to 8% of men. It might also be interesting to note than women seem to prioritize mattress comfort when it comes to getting good rest. Especially when it comes to back pain.

If you find yourself tossing and turning, check your bed first. Make sure it’s providing support and comfort necessary for restful sleep, especially if it’s over seven years. (Memory foam brands like Amerisleep tend to rate highest in our reviews, if you’re in need of a replacement.)

Women Wake Up Earlier

woman symbol in bed

Melatonin levels and body temperature suggest that women wake up and fall asleep about one hour earlier.

More women prefer morning activities then men. Women’s circadian rhythm – the biological process that regulates the phases of the day – tends to start an hour earlier than their male counterparts.

In a study measuring the melatonin levels and body temperature of 157 men and women between the ages of 18 and 74, researchers found that on average, women fall asleep and wake one hour earlier than men.

Women’s circadian cycles, on average, also prove shorter than men’s by about six minutes. About one in three women have super short cycles less than 24 hours meaning they need more light in the evening, and darkness in the morning to be able to adjust to normal hours.

Lack of Sleep is Bad for All, But Women Rebound Quicker in the Short-Term

For both men and women, poor quality or insignificant rest on a regular basis increases the risk of several health problems including diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease. The risks prove higher in men, and more likely to appear at an earlier age.

Women who regularly get less than eight hours of slumber a night face an elevated risk for heart problems and other issues. Mentally, women may experience issues greater such as anger, depression and hostility from low levels of sleep.

In situations of mild, short-term deprivation, women perform better than men though. Researchers in Minneapolis studied how men and women performed mentally after a week of sleeping only six hours of sleep per night. Although performance decreased in both sexes, women’s performance deteriorated less. Women also rebound more quickly from a lack of rest as they spend more time in the restorative sleep stage.

Why Men Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

man symbol in bed

Cultural views and more rigorous work demands keep men from getting enough sleep, and they are less likely to seek counseling for it.

So, for those men who get less than recommended seven to nine hours, what’s keeping them up?

It could be partially related to cultural views, regarding a lack of sleep as working hard. Work demands often extend after work hours, answering emails and phone calls late into the evening.

Long commutes (men face increased of things like drowsy driving-related accidents). Weekend to-do lists. Over-scheduling of time between family, friends, hobbies, exercise, work and television. With competing priorities, slumber seems to slip lower down the list of priorities (for everyone).

Stress is another biggie for men having restless nights. Life changes such as getting married, having a baby, starting a new job, getting divorced, getting sick, making a bad investment, losing a job, being in an accident are examples. Men are less likely to seek counseling to deal with these issues than women.

Sleep deprivation may be internally hard to recognize as a lack of it decreases reasoning skills. It’s a good idea to prioritize getting more than seven hours of good quality sleep each night.

Be aware of signs of low sleep levels such as a lack of energy during the day, short attention span, low motivation, irritability, dozing off while driving, or needing to use an alarm clock to wake up.

Why Women Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Though women need more shut eye than men, many aren’t getting enough. Oftentimes this has to do with biological phases, including menstruation, pregnancy and menopause; emotions such as stress or worry; overloaded schedules between work, family, and friends; or being woken by their partner moving around on the bed.

Women sleep best as young adults. Because of their propensity for deep sleep during the first part of their lives, women may receive protective benefits early on.

The days before and during menstruation can make women feel more tired (and dream more clearly). The movement of the baby and secondary issues related to pregnancy, such as heartburn and backaches, often affect sleep for pregnant women.

After the age of 40, women’s sleep deteriorates. Older women sleep less, lighter, and wake up more often in the night. Physical factors such as arthritis, breathing problems, and hot flashes associated to menopause can affect women’s rest.

Final Words

When it comes to a battle of the sleeping sexes, women need more rest and may rise earlier, but both sexes are at risk of health problems from not getting enough shut-eye. Women and men both need to prioritize sleep, so let’s put our differences aside and go to bed a little earlier tonight.


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