Researches already have shown that a woman needs 20 minutes longer rest a night than a man. Why is women’s sleep different? Hormonal changes, the overloaded schedule, multitasking, and sleep disorders make women’s sleep worse. Why is it so, and could it be better?
Is women’s sleep different from men’s?
Quality sleep is essential either for women and men. It should be a priority for everyone to get the required amount of sleep every night. Why is it more challenging for women? It is hard to find a perfect balance between paid and unpaid work, household tasks, family, and friends. Even if you succeeded, you would still require some self-time to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy. You should be able to allocate some time to go out for a jog or focus a bit on your hobby. Besides, it would be best if you never forget to sleep enough. Tough, right? But once your body gets the required sleep, you will feel that you can work and think better.
Studies recently started to focus on women’s sleep. How the women’s body is unique, so is their rest. Studies describe that women’s sleep is changing over time because of hormonal changes. Researches also pointed out that fall asleep is a more challenging task for women than men. Emotions, such as depression or fear, also highly affect women’s sleep. Researches showed that women are facing more sleep problems than men. 15% of women reported some sleep problems, while only 8% of men had similar issues. It was also observed that women report depression, hostility, and more anger than men when they get an insufficient amount of sleep.
Women need more sleep than men
Getting a sufficient amount of sleep is essential for everyone. But women need more of it than men? Yes, says Dr. Jim Horne, who is an expert in sleep science. He explains very detailed that a woman requires twenty minutes more sleep every night than a man. Why is it so? Many reasons could stand behind this more significant need for rest.
Increased brain function because of the tight schedule
Women are usually balancing between a paid job, family, household tasks, and friends. This multitasking needs significant brain power during the day. The brain regenerates while you are sleeping, so the more substantial work requires extended recovery time at night. Longer rest time also helps the women keep up the ability to multitask for a more extended period.
Multitasking has a drawback when the time of sleep comes. The brain calms down slowly so that women tend to fall asleep harder and slower than men.
More frequent sleep issues
Sleep issues are more common among women. About 15% of women can tell that having some trouble with sleep. This number regarding men’s sleep is just 8%. Many factors can cause such sleep issues, and later on, I’ll talk about them in more detail. Besides hormonal changes as pregnancy or menopause, stress and other mental problems may stand behind women’s sleep issues.
Keep up mental stability
Women who didn’t get a sufficient amount of sleep for a more extended period reported psychological problems such as depression, feeling of hostility, or anger more frequently than men with the same amount of sleep.
Maintain body shape
Women are usually having more tough times to gain the desired weight than men. Those women who didn’t get enough sleep, this is more challenging. Studies pointed out that poor sleeper women have more overweight than those who have no issues with sleep. Sleep deprivation is generating a higher cortisol level. An increased amount of stress hormone leads to higher appetite and obesity.
Stages of life can affect women’s sleep
Women’s body and hormone system is changing over time, first, when the menstruation appears, later with possible pregnancies and breastfeeding, after with menopause, and with the ages following that. Women’s bodies are always facing new challenges, and sleep should adapt to them.
Menstruation can affect the sleep of many women. Menstruation most likely causes discomfort. Women often report that they feel sleepy during the day, so they need more rest at that time. Premenstrual symptoms, often called PMS, can cause poor sleep quality before the period even starts. As a PMS symptom, women face irritability, emotional changes, food cravings, and abdominal cramping. These factors can easily stop you from falling asleep, and you can experience that you wake up more often and dream vividly, even if you succeed and fall asleep.
“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep” – Homer (800 BC – 700 BC), The Odyssey
Extra tip – Keep up your daily routine strictly. Go to bed at the usual time, and wake up at the same time every day. Try to eat healthily and try to avoid stimulants like caffeine. Keep yourself away from stress as much as possible.
Pregnancy is an unforgettable time in a woman’s life full of happiness and expectation. Besides the joy, unfortunately, many women, 78% of them report a sleeping problem during this period, even those who have no sleep problems before. Fatigue is very common during the first and third trimester. Sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), reflux, frequent nightmare urination could appear during the pregnancy. Other things can bother your relaxing sleep, such as backache, leg cramps, or fetus movement.
Don’t panic; most women agree that these problems go away right after the baby is born.
Extra tip – Try to avoid pills during pregnancy. If you need some anyway, always ask your doctor before taking it. Keep up a strict daily schedule, and try to sleep a bit longer than before. RLS can be controlled with appropriate folate and iron level. Prenatal vitamins, cereal, and whole grains are containing them. Try to keep up a healthy weight to avoid apnea.
Women reach menopause about one year after that menstruation stops. It is around somewhere the age of 50.
During menopause, usually, the amount of required sleep is decreasing, sleep becomes superficial, and you can wake up more frequently. These changes are occurring because the level of estrogen and progesterone is dropping. Most sleeping problems of women are reported during these transition years. The most common problem is hot flashes, but you can experience mood disorders and insomnia beside it.
Extra tip – Keep a consistent temperature in the bedroom, and use full cotton bed linen. Take a vitamin E supplement, or add it to your diet. Decreasing caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake also may help. If you are still facing sleep problems, consult a doctor about hormone therapy or prescribed supplements to improve your sleep quality.
Years after menopause
After menopause, as the time is passing, the women’s sleep is getting lighter with frequent awakening moments. It is harder to stay asleep for a longer time and challenging to stay awake during the day for long contiguous periods. These sleeping patterns can make you feel sleepy and tired all day.
Sleep disorders are coming out more often these years, such as apnea. Other factors also cause poor sleep quality: arthritis, some medications, heartburn, and the need for frequent urination. In these post-menopause years, you should pay more attention to your mental and physical health and emotional state to keep up better sleep quality.
Extra tip – Keep a daily schedule, get up early, and do regular daily activities. Exercise regularly, but consider your physical condition carefully. It could be useful to take a short nap (about one hour) in the early afternoon hours, possibly before 3 pm.
Other factors that most likely affect women sleep
In the prior sections, you could read about conditions that are triggered by age. In the following, you will find factors that can cause dreamless nights but are independent form your age.
Depression is a mental state that is very hard to figure out. Those women who are suffering from depression most likely fall asleep very fast but are waking up in the middle of the night and cannot fall asleep again. They are usually tired during the day, and thinking if they got enough sleep, they wouldn’t be depressed, but otherwise. They are depressed; therefore, they cannot sleep properly.
Extra tip – Visit a doctor to help your depression problem. In most cases, it will solve sleep problems as well.
Nocturnal Eating Syndrome
Many women feel that after awakening in the middle of the night, they cannot sleep back without eating something. This condition is called a nocturnal eating syndrome. An ulcer can cause such problems in a few cases, but the most often rigorous diet is triggering excessive hunger during sleeping hours.
Extra tip – If you suspect that you have an ulcer, visit a doctor and consult your recovery options. In the case of a strict diet, be sure that your body gets all the necessary nutrition and sufficient calories during the day. Therefore you will be able to avoid the nighttime binge.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder when you are unable to fall and stay asleep. 63% of women are suffering from this sleep disorder. It is higher than among men; about half of the questioned men had insomnia related sleep problems. Hormonal changes can cause insomnia, such as menstruation cycle, pregnancy, or menopause. But it can be independent of your hormone system, depression and other mental problems can provoke insomnia.
Extra tip – To improve your sleep quality, keep up a daily schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol, keep up a pleasant sleep environment. Regular morning exercising also has a beneficial effect. If it is possible, avoid late-night activities.
Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night. – Unknown
About 25% of the women have no relaxing nights because of pain at least three times a week. Some conditions are prevalent among women and can cause pain. These are migraine, tension headaches, heartburn, pain caused by menstruation, or arthritis, and rheumatic pain. Pain makes it harder or even impossible to fall asleep, and you will likely wake up earlier.
Extra tip – To alleviate your nuisance try to learn relaxing techniques, but biofeedback and cognitive therapy also can help. Prescribed medications can bring some relief. It is best if you can find out what mental or physical problem is causing the pain.
What can I do if I have problems with sleep?
If you have difficulties with sleep and feel any sleep deprivation effect, the worst is if you do nothing and are waiting for the problem to disappear. You can perform small changes in your lifestyle or environment or ask for professional help to improve your sleep quality.
Keep up basic rules and habits
You can improve your sleep quality simply if you set up basic rules and adopt a few new habits.
- Stick to a sleep schedule – Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual – Avoid screens, calm your mind by taking a warm bath, or practicing a relaxation technique to prepare for sleep.
- Exercise daily – but not too close to bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and reserve your bed for just sleeping and sex.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Beware of hidden sleep stealers – Caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods can all disrupt your sleep.
- Turn off electronics before bed.
- Stop worrying. – If you wake during the night feeling concerned about something, make a note of it on a piece of paper and stop worrying about it until the next day
- Get help with stress management.
See a healthcare professional
If none of the techniques and habits mentioned above brought the expected improvement and your sleep problems affect your daily life, you should consider seeing a healthcare professional.
Your doctor can advise you on a specialist who can help you find out what provokes your sleep problems. To understand better what happens to you when you sleep, you might be asked to visit a sleeping center where specialists can monitor you during sleep. Based on this examination, your doctor can set up the right development plan for you.
As you could see, many factors affect women’s sleep. How women are different from men physically, so is it with their sleep. Fortunately, there are practices and habits to make sleep quality better. You can always ask for help from your family members if you feel that you need more rest. They can help you around the house. It is not just your job; do it together with them. If you feel that sleep deprivation affects your daily life, visit a healthcare professional. To get the required sleep is essential for every human being.