Did you know that how well you sleep, how much you sleep, and the sleep disorders you struggle with can depend, in part, on whether you are male or female? Here are some interesting ways that women and men sleep differently.
Women Need More Sleep Than Men
Specifically, women need 20 minutes more sleep, every single night, than men do. Because they are more likely to multitask during the day, their brains work harder. Doing more work means that their brains need more of the rest and repair that goes on when during sleep.
It’s important to note that this study only examined the sleep of about 200 participants. This is a relatively small number for making mass generalizations. It’s also a recent study and so we have yet to see if the results will be replicated.
Men Snore More than Women
Men are about twice as likely as women to struggle with snoring. There is a space behind the tongue called the oropharynx. This space is large in men. When people sleep, they relax their tongues. Sometimes the tongue falls back into this space. Since the space is smaller in women, they can’t breathe well when their tongues fall back and so they shift position or wake up. Men often have space for the tongue, so they continue sleeping and snore.
Women are More Likely to be Early Birds
Every human body is set to about a 24-hour clock, affected and triggered by hours of light and darkness. Scientists call this the circadian rhythm. Women’s circadian rhythms wake them earlier than men’s. This means that they are more likely to get up early and to be active earlier in the day. It also means that they tend to get tired and fall asleep earlier at night.
Women are More Likely to Eat While Asleep…and Not Remember It!
There are all sorts of sleep disorders out there. One of the most interesting is Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED). People who have this get up, eat, and go back to sleep without ever waking up. Most sufferers don’t have any idea that they do this. Women make up 66% of the people who struggle with this behavior. Fortunately, this disorder is a type of sleepwalking and can be treated with similar medications.
Women Have More Trouble Sleeping
Women report more struggles with insomnia than men do. 63% of women say that they struggle to sleep at least a few nights per week, as opposed to 54% of men. They are also sleepier during the day. Some of this sleeplessness can be tied to hormonal causes, like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, all of which can disrupt sleep.
Women are Less Affected by Sleep Deprivation
Even when they aren’t getting quite enough sleep, women perform better on tests than men who are getting similar amounts of sleep. While lowering the amount of sleep that a person gets by an hour so doesn’t seem like much, both men and women show that the effects of sleep loss are cumulative. However, women’s performance on skills tests deteriorates at a rate lower than that of men, showing that sleep deprivation bothers them less than their male counterparts.
Similarly, women bounce back faster than men do when they are given a chance to catch up on sleep. Even if they don’t quite get all of the sleep that they missed, their scores on performance tests go up faster than the scores of men in similar circumstances.
Women’s Sleep Deteriorates After Age 40
Women of all ages struggle with insomnia more than men do, but this is especially true after age 40. It is possible that this is highly influenced by menopause, which is known to disrupt sleep, and needing to void the bladder at night. Since many women suffer weakened bladder and pelvic floor muscles after having children, it makes sense that the cumulative effects of this would be seen later in life, as muscles get weaker and harder to maintain.
Both Struggle With Health Issues When They Don’t Sleep…
However, lack of sleep seems to affect male and female bodies differently. When they don’t get enough sleep, men are 27% more likely to develop cancer. This data comes from men who worked night shifts for 20 years, so the effect may be lower in people who don’t lose that much sleep.
Additionally, men who get too much or too little sleep can see up to a 42% decrease in their chances of getting a partner pregnant. If you’re looking to have a baby soon, 8 hours a night seems like the perfect amount of rest.
Women, on the other hand, are at a higher risk for diseases related to inflammation when they don’t sleep. C-Reactive Protein is a major marker for how inflamed the body is. This is significantly elevated in women who aren’t getting enough rest. This predicts, among other things, how likely a person is to die of heart-related problems. The protein is also higher in men who don’t sleep well. However, women show much higher levels and more change in the level based on their sleep.
Whether you’re male or female, there are some benefits and drawbacks when it comes to sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, it may be time to consult with your doctor. There are many medications and practices that can help you get the sleep you need so you can life your life to the full.