Do Women Need More Sleep than Men? Exploring the Relationship between Sex, Gender, and Sleep

Last updated: September 5th, 2023

Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night for good health, regardless of their sex and gender. Sleep is a crucial component of a person’s health and affects every major part of the body from the brain to the immune system. Multiple research studies have shown that women tend to sleep longer when compared to men. However, there’s no simple explanation for this phenomenon. Instead, a combination of biological and cultural factors may account for these differences in sleep.

Why Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

Women and people assigned female at birth may need more sleep, but the nature of the relationship between sex, gender, and sleep is still unclear. Sex refers to biological traits such as anatomy, genetics, and hormones, while gender includes cultural expectations about behavior and characteristics associated with a person’s sex. Researchers have observed a variety of differences in sleep related to a person’s sex and gender, each of which may be influenced by both their biology and culture.

Women Are More Likely to Have Sleep Problems Hormonal differences and higher rates of mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, may make women and people assigned female at birth more susceptible to sleep problems and sleep disorders throughout their lives. Women have a 40% higher chance of insomnia and are more than twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome. Women also tend to have higher rates of persistent, chronic insomnia and exhibit more symptoms that impact their day-to-day lives. Such symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, mood disturbances, and trouble focusing. Women and people assigned female at birth also experience marked hormonal fluctuations and physical changes throughout their lives that can affect how long they sleep and contribute to sleep disruptions. These include hormonal shifts during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Women Have Shorter Circadian Rhythms Circadian rhythms are biological cycles that serve a wide range of functions in the body. Experts know that certain circadiur rhythms can influence your energy levels, balance, and other body processes during specific times of day. Several studies have found that women and people assigned female at birth have shorter diurnal rhythms than men, meaning that they fall asleep faster, and often earlier, than men. Additionally, some studies have found that women’s and people assigned female at birth circadian rhythms are roughly 10 minutes shorter than men’s, which means they are more likely to experience restlessness or disruptions in their circadian rhythms if they don’t get adequate sleep. Women may also have genetic traits that favor sleep. For example, some research suggests that women are more likely than men to carry a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that stands out in a region of the genome associated with better sleep habits. Other research indicates that the Y chromosome found in men may be related to sleep apnea — a condition that affects about 80% of men with the condition.

What Can I Do to Get Enough Sleep?

Although more research is needed to better understand the relationship between sex, gender, and sleep, there’s no need to worry if you’re a woman or a person assigned female at birth. Everyone needs to make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and getting a good night’s sleep can have numerous health benefits. You can also try the following if you’re having trouble sleeping.

Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day—including weekends—to get your body into a regular rhythm.

Take the time to relax before bed. Avoid screens, eating, and other stimulating activities for at least an hour before bed. Instead, focus on relaxing activities like reading, yoga, or taking a warm bath.

Maintain a comfortable temperature, ventilation, and noise level in your bedroom. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and keep the temperature slightly cooler than your main living space.

Create a sleep environment that you associate with rest. Limit activities in your bedroom to sleep and sex-only, and avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

If your sleep problems persist, consider seeking help from a qualified mental health or sleep specialist. Although more research is needed to better understand the relationship between sex, gender, and sleep, there are a variety of treatments available that can help improve your sleep hygiene and get you the rest that you need.

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