The Scientific Reason Why Women Need More Sleep Than Men

For many women, changes in the body can make an impact on your sleep. Hormonal shifts, such as your period and the run up to it, can leave you feeling more tired than usual. Hormone changes can come with various health conditions. This may make you feel like you need an extra-long sleep to catch up on all the energy you require. The average adult is recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. That may not feel enough when you’re not feeling your best during the day.

It may seem like men, who are often a lot physically bigger and stronger than women, would need more serious sleep catch-up. Scientific study, however, has proven the opposite. 18% of women report having poor regular sleep, as opposed to 8% of men. It appears that most women, even when sticking to the recommended amount of sleep, still often feel tired and lacking energy. This likely means that women are not adjusting their sleep to their bodily needs involving tiredness. There are many solutions to improving your sleep, but getting to the root of the problem is essential to resolve it.

Hormonal Reasons

Feeling extra tired and lacking good sleep could be down to the hormonal changes many women face. During your period, many aches and pains such as cramps, migraines or back pain may leave you feeling the need to get to your bed. Fatigue is proven to be part of the menstrual and Pre-Menstural Syndrome (PMS) process.

Your menstrual cycle can make a huge impact on your overall mood and energy. PMS and menstruation combined means that women spend many days of the month feeling tired or low. It is important to recognise days of your period where you will have less energy. Once recognised, you can adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. Learning to nap effectively during the day can help boost your energy levels.

Pregnancy and menopause also disrupt sleep. Many report feelings of pain, temperature, or incontinence during both of these changes to the body. These can both have long-term negative effects on your sleep. Pregnancy, accompanied by looking after a newborn, can be very draining. Menopause significantly increases your risk of developing sleep apnea.

While hard to catch-up on sleep, pregnancy and menopause tiredness may be due to iron deficiency. Pregnant women and women over 50 are both considered “high risk” for anaemia. Taking iron supplements or eating foods rich in iron may help improve sleep and reduce fatigue. If poor sleep persists, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Social Reasons

Women feeling especially tired can be down to more than just their health. Various factors, outside of your own body, can be causing fatigue and poor sleeping habits. Scientific study backs up this claim. Many studies have provided data that examines how social factors drains women’s energy more than men. The lifestyle and and daily tasks of women can be more draining than that of men.

Often, the majority of childcare duties falls upon women. Especially with babies and young children, sleep can be inconsistent and tiredness is frequent for mothers. Keeping regular bedtimes for kids is often easier said than done. Disruption on one night can lead to your entire sleep schedule being knocked out of order.

Studies have shown that women often tend to multi-task more than men. This is not just an old wive’s tale! Having childcare responsibilities on top of a home and work life means many women perform multiple tasks at once. Science has shown that multi-tasking uses multiple parts of your brain, and uses them more intensely. This can be deeply tiring by the end of the day, requiring a long sleep. This lifestyle will leave many women feeling more tired than ever.

These social factors leave many women constantly catching up on sleep from nights before. Multiple sources of stress will keep many women up later than intended. This creates an overall poor sleep routine, leading to a tiring lifestyle. When not controlled or monitored, many women will get much less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.

So, How Much More Sleep do Women Need?

The answer is a little more complex than what you see on the surface. Scientific research has a near-consensus on how much more sleep women need compared to men. It is typically recommended that women only need just twenty minutes more than men.

This feels like a rather minuscule amount of more sleep. If you feel particularly exhausted, an extra twenty minutes before your alarm sets off isn’t going to cut it. To recover from an exhausting day, or to recover from feeling poorly, you may find yourself needing to sleep many more hours.

This can often be due to quality of sleep rather than quantity. 7-9 hours of poor quality sleep can feel very much like getting 3-4 hours of deep sleep. This does not provide enough energy to sustain the average woman throughout the day. When it is said that women only need an extra twenty minutes, this means twenty minutes of deep sleep on top of a full night’s rest. This is full, deep REM sleep – not sleeping lightly.

If you’re waking up feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, it is worth measuring the depth of your sleep. There are many sleep apps and gadgets that help measure sleep. These come in all forms and price ranges. They can help you track how much time you spend in various stages of the sleep cycle, and provide goals and tools on how to improve the quality of your sleep.

Once you know how much time you’re spending in all stages of the sleep cycle, you can begin to improve your sleep. Then, you can begin to get the recommended amount of deep, REM sleep for women. Being able to identify moments when you are vulnerable to sleep loss and tiredness will allow you to begin to improve. Tracking times when you are having lighter, ineffective sleep can allow you to reduce these events and feel more energised.

By Bethany Gemmell

Content Writer at myza

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