The difference in sleep needs between men and women are hard to quantify. There’s no specific research-backed number of hours of sleep women need compared with men. Typically, adults of any sex need 7 or more hours of sleep daily for optimal health.
Research shows that women tend to need more sleep.
Pain related sleep problems are more common in women. Treatments focus on targeting the pain and improving sleep.
Changes that occur with the biological life cycles of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause significantly impact women's sleep.
A few lifestyle tweaks like reducing caffeine and alcohol, and improving sleep hygiene can help women get better sleep. If the symptoms still persist, seek medical assistance.
But when it comes to the male and female differences in sleep, research has shown that women tend to need more sleep. Let's look into some possible reasons below.
How many hours should a female sleep?
There is a slight difference in the
number of hours of sleep men and women need to get. On average, women need to sleep 12–13 minutes
longer than men. It might seem like an arbitrary amount, but there are reasons why a woman’s body requires a little a bit more rest than a man's.
Why women need more sleep than men
Did you know that over 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, but men and women don’t suffer equally? Women are more likely to have sleep issues than men — creating the need to catch up on sleep. Women are also more prone to developing various sleep disorders such as insomnia and restless legs' syndrome. Let's review the most common sleep issues that tend to affect women more than men.
Pain makes it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position and fall asleep. It also makes it challenging to stay asleep, as certain conditions may force you to turn and toss during the night to prevent waking up in pain.
Some illnesses associated with chronic pain are more typical among women. Cures for pain-related sleep problems may concentrate on targeting the area of pain, the sleeping difficulty, or both. Combining relaxation techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter and prescription medications may help.
Insomnia is a difficulty falling or staying asleep throughout the night. As a result, sufferers don’t feel refreshed upon waking up and have difficulty getting through the day. Insomnia is a prevalent sleep disorder, but women are 40 percent more likely to suffer from it than men.
They are also more likely to experience symptoms of daytime sleepiness. Women may be more prone to insomnia for several reasons:
- Hormones. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can affect the sleep/wake cycle.
- Mood disorders. Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than men, which can lead to insomnia and other sleep related issues.
Treatment for insomnia often begins with better sleep habits, such as following a regular sleep schedule, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and improving the sleep environment — like cooling down your room before sleep or using blackout blinds.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs' syndrome (RLS) causes tingling sensations in the legs which occur when you lay down — making you want to move your legs to reduce the discomfort. Because symptoms occur when lying down and can only be relieved through movement, many women with RLS have difficulty sleeping.
Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from RLS, and the condition can cause symptoms such as:
- Daytime sleepiness. Feeling drowsy and fatigued during the day.
- Anxiety. Anxious feelings occurring due to lack of sleep.
- Depression. Feelings of sadness, anger, and malaise due to being sleep-deprived.
These co-existing factors can have a compound effect, making sleep even harder to attain.
The main reason for RLS is iron deficiency. If you are suffering and looking for a way to reduce your symptoms, you might consider an iron-rich diet and supplementation.
Nocturnal sleep-related eating disorders (NS-RED)
Nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) is a parasomnia where people eat food while asleep and have no memory of it upon waking. Women are significantly more likely to have NS-RED. The condition can be treated with medication, therapy, and stress management techniques like special breathing techniques or meditation. Lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, are useful too.
Sleep changes throughout a woman's life
Gender differences in sleep occur during puberty. In contrast to their male counterparts, women in high school tend to miss out on the recommended 8 hours of sleep daily. They are also more likely to develop other conditions such as depression that contribute to poor sleep quality.
Sleep issues are particularly prevalent during major hormonal shifts in a woman's life, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. One-third of women experience cramps, headaches, and bloating that cause sleep disturbance during their menstrual cycle. Women with severe pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) more frequently report disturbing dreams, sleepiness, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.
Menopause effects on women's sleep
Changes that occur with the biological life cycles of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can significantly impact women's sleep. Each phase of a woman's life, from childhood to menopause, increases the risk of sleep disturbance. For example:
- Insomnia. The prevalence of insomnia among women advances significantly in older age as they transition through menopause.
- Hot flashes. Night sweats and hot flashes often disturb sleep, and are experienced by 75 to 85 percent of women during menopause.
- RLS. The risk for RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) is higher among women with multiple children and increases twofold from pregnancy to menopause.
Women tend to sleep a few more minutes per night than men, and may need that extra sleep for various reasons. Regardless of your sex or gender, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. Healthy lifestyle choices and good sleep hygiene can help you get better sleep. If you are struggling with sleep-related issues, speak to your doctor.
- Sleep Medicine Research. Sleep and Women's Health.
- American Sociological Review. Gender and Time for Sleep Among U.S Adults.
- Chest. Sleep in Women Across the Life Span.
- The Journal of Pain. The Association of Sleep and Pain: An Update and a Path Forward.