Everyone needs and deserves a good night’s sleep. But do some people really need more than others?
Turns out, women may need more sleep than men. Here’s a closer look at how much more they might need, why they might need more, and tips for getting more sleep, regardless of your sex or gender.
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”
Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
There’s no specific research-backed number when it comes to how many hours of sleep women need compared to men. Adults of any sex need 7 or more hours of sleep a day for optimal health.
But when it comes to the differences in sleep, research showed that women tend to get sleep more than men by
Research suggests that sleep differences between men and woman come down to numerous behavioral and biological variables that change through the different stages of life. That said, nearly every study on the topic mentions the need for more research in this area to better understand the roles that sex and gender play in sleep needs.
Increased risk of sleep disorders
A 2014 research review showed that women’s risk of experiencing insomnia is
Women also have a higher risk of developing restless leg syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea, both of which can impact sleep quality, causing you to need more sleep to feel rested.
Hormone fluctuations related to menstruation can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, especially during the premenstrual stage.
Same goes for pregnancy, when changes in hormone levels throughout the different trimesters can cause:
- frequent urination (causing lots of nighttime trips to the bathroom)
- breathing concerns
Then comes perimenopause and menopause, when hormone fluctuations can cause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, which can disrupt sleep.
The risk of developing sleep apnea also
More time spent on unpaid labor
Employment is associated with less sleep, so being out of the workforce allows women to get more sleep. On the flip side, though, women are more likely to have their sleep interrupted for caregiving.
Different views on sleep
Women, according to this line of thought, tend to engage in less risk-taking behaviors than men and are more likely to attend to their health. For example, they might be more likely to make time for sleep with an earlier bedtime or set aside time for a nap.
Your sleep needs, like your body, change as you age due to factors like hormones, lifestyle habits, and medical conditions.
These are general sleep guidelines for different age groups, regardless of sex and gender, according to the
- birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
A good night’s sleep can make all the difference when it comes to your mood, energy levels, and productivity. It can also help keep your body healthy and better able to fight off illness.
Here are some tips to help you get some quality shut-eye (aka improving your sleep hygiene), regardless of sex or gender:
- Have a consistent sleep and wake-up time. This means going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Yep, weekends too.
- Set up a good sleep environment. An ideal sleep environment encourages better sleep. You can up your sleep environment by making sure your room is quiet, dark, and comfortable with things like blackout blinds, bedding, and a comfortable mattress.
- Mind what you eat and drink before bed. Going to bed full or hopped up on caffeine can result in poor sleep. Try not to eat for at least 3 hours before bed, and limit your caffeine intake to earlier in the day. Avoiding alcohol before bed’s a good idea, too.
- Reduce blue light exposure before bed. Blue light messes with your circadian rhythm by tricking your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This can make it harder to fall asleep. Reduce your exposure to blue light at night by avoiding screen time, including TV, phones, and other devices for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Do something relaxing before bed. Taking a hot bath or shower before bed has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and get more restful and deeper sleep. Some other popular suggestions are reading, deep breathing, and meditation.
- Get some exercise. As long as you don’t work out right before bed, regular exercise can help you get to sleep more easily. It also lowers stress and anxiety levels, which can affect sleep.
- Talk with your doctor. Underlying medical conditions and certain medications can contribute to poor sleep. Talk with your care team if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, or waking up tired after a night’s sleep.
Women tend to sleep a few more minutes per night than men, and may need that extra sleep for a variety of reasons. Regardless of your sex or gender, though, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. A few lifestyle tweaks can help you get better sleep. If they don’t, it’s worth checking in with a healthcare professional to rule out an underlying condition that might be impacting your sleep.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.