The physiological process of sleep is essential to our general health and well-being. It is common knowledge that sleep is crucial for immune system health, memory consolidation, emotional balance, and physical and cognitive function. Recent studies have shown that gender differences exist in sleep requirements and patterns, with women frequently encountering particular difficulties in achieving adequate sleep. The idea of “The Sleep Gender Gap,” which refers to the variations in sleeping habits and requirements between men and women, was born as a result of this. The numerous facets of The Sleep Gender Gap, including sleep length, sleep quality, sleep disorders, hormonal factors, and methods for encouraging good sleep in women, will be covered in this article.
A vital component of human health and well-being, sleep is important for many physiological, cognitive, and emotional functions. According to research, there are significant disparities between how men and women sleep, including variances in the quantity and quality of their slumber as well as sleep problems. It is essential to comprehend these variations in order to encourage women to develop healthy sleeping habits and deal with any sleep-related problems they may experience.
Sleep and Health
Sleep length: The total time spent sleeping in a given night is referred to as sleep length. Adults should strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night for optimum health and performance. Studies have revealed, however, that on average, women report obtaining less sleep than men. The length of sleep differs between the sexes for a variety of reasons, including social, cultural, and physiological ones.
Social and cultural influences: Social and cultural influences have a big impact on how women behave and how much they sleep. Women frequently shoulder a number of duties, such as employment, housework, caring, and managing family responsibilities. This can lead to higher time and energy demands. Women may prioritize their tasks and responsibilities over their own sleep needs as a result of these obligations, which may result in fewer opportunities for sleep. In addition, societal and cultural expectations, such as those related to attractiveness, socializing, and caregiving, may have an impact on how much sleep women get.
Physical disparities between men and women in terms of sleep duration are also influenced by physical characteristics. Women’s sleep habits may be impacted by hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. For instance, due to hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle, some women may experience changes in their sleep patterns and quantity, including decreased sleep efficiency, increased alertness, and mood swings. Sleep is also impacted by pregnancy, which can cause sleep disturbances due to hormone shifts, discomfort, and other physiological changes. Similar to how menopause is linked to changes in mood, hot flashes, and sleep patterns, menopause is also linked to shorter sleep duration in women.
Sleep quality is the subjective perception of sleep, including how rejuvenating and restorative it is. For general health and well-being, sleep quality is just as critical as sleep duration. According to studies, women frequently report having worse sleep than men. Subjective sleep complaints, such as trouble falling asleep, remaining asleep, or waking up feeling rested, are more common in women. These variations in sleep quality are influenced by a number of factors.
Psychological Aspects: Women’s sleep hygiene may be impacted by psychological aspects like stress, anxiety, and mood disorders. Women may have particular pressures such as caregiving duties, work-related stress, and hormonal changes that can impair their quality of sleep. In addition, mood disorders like depression and anxiety, which are known to be linked to sleep problems, are more common in women than in males.
Sleep disorders are conditions that interfere with a person’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep for the necessary amount of time. Both men and women can experience sleep disorders, but certain of them are more common in women or manifest differently in them. Let’s look at a few of the sleep issues that affect women more frequently.
Despite having enough opportunity to sleep, insomnia is a sleep condition marked by problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early. According to studies, women are more prone than males to suffer from sleeplessness.
- Sleep architecture
The many stages of sleep, such as REM sleep and NREM sleep, which are distinguished by various brain wave patterns, are referred to as sleep architecture. According to research, women often experience more REM sleep and less NREM sleep than males, which can lead to sleep fragmentation and poorer sleep quality. Women who sleep less are more likely to be awakened by outside noises, which can cause sleep disruptions and poorer overall sleep quality.
- Social and cultural influences
Social and cultural influences, such as societal norms and gender roles, can also affect how much women sleep. Women frequently take on several duties, such as working, taking care of the home, providing care for others, and participating in social activities. This might result in time constraints and fewer options for getting enough sleep.
As a unique physiological condition, pregnancy can have a big impact on a woman’s sleep. Physical discomfort, frequent urination, and hormonal changes that can interfere with sleep are all possible as pregnancy develops. Pregnancy also affects sleep length and quality since sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome (RLS) are more common.
- Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle
Women’s sleep habits might be impacted by hormonal changes that take place during the menstrual cycle. According to research, women may experience sleep problems during specific menstrual cycle phases, including trouble going to sleep, difficulty remaining asleep, or poor sleep quality. Women may suffer symptoms like mood swings, bloating, and breast tenderness during the premenstrual phase, for instance, which can interrupt sleep and shorten the amount of time spent asleep.
- Mental health
Depression and anxiety are two mental health issues that are more common in women and can affect how well they sleep. Sleep issues are linked to depression and anxiety.
For good reason, sleep receives a lot of attention in medical settings and in news stories about health. A restful night’s sleep has numerous and significant advantages. Skimping on sleep increases the risk of depression and heart disease, while it also helps with immune system function and memory development. Sleep has some sort of impact on almost every body part and bodily function.
Women, however, make up a sizable portion of the population that don’t get enough sleep. Women get three hours less sleep per night than males, according to a 2019 UK survey, and about half of the respondents said they feel sleep deprived all the time. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 57 percent of women and just 51 percent of men, respectively, struggle with insomnia at least a few evenings per week.
But every woman should be able to benefit from sleep’s many advantages. And a few relatively few adjustments could make a significant difference in eradicating the gender sleep divide.
According to “The Sleep Ambassador” Nancy H. Rothstein, an MBA-turned-sleep consultant and lecturer, “I think a good place to start for women is to get educated about sleep and to understand how important it is, and then to build a culture of respect around it.”
The factors fueling the gap
The fact that women sleep less than males is supported by numerous research, but the precise reason why is more difficult to determine. The majority of experts concur that the gender sleep gap is caused by a mix of physiological, genetic, and environmental factors.
For instance, women and men have different innate circadian rhythms. Women’s cycles are typically six minutes shorter than men’s, meaning they awaken earlier. Men’s bodies typically follow a 24-hour sleep-wake pattern more strictly. As a result, they may be more susceptible to insomnia-related early morning awakenings.
Another important obstacle to women being able to sleep peacefully is life transitions. Hot flashes and excessive heat are frequently caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause, which disturb sleep. Severe hot flashes are “strongly associated” with persistent sleeplessness, according to at least one research. Being too hot at night prevents women from getting a full night’s sleep and may also make it difficult for them to work the following day. Additionally, a mattress with poor or insufficient support might make it difficult for pregnant women to sleep through the night.
Last but not least, studies in the field indicate that having children affects women’s sleep significantly more than it does men’s. Additionally, women continue to labor longer hours than men to complete more chores on average.
Finding solutions to better sleep habits
Women will discover that relatively minor adjustments to their home and sleeping schedule can have a significant impact. The National Sleep Foundation’s experts advise that the bedroom should be as pleasant as possible, referring to the mattress as the “most important resource.”
According to research, switching out an old mattress for a new one can enhance a person’s sleep by 10% to 15%, according to Allen Platek, vice president of new product development at Tempur-Pedic. He asserted that pillows are equally vital.
Check the temperature in your bedroom next. A temperature of 60 to 67 degrees and a humidity of 20 to 50 percent are ideal for sleeping. The “micro-climate” that exists between a person’s mattress and their skin while they sleep and between the bed and the covers is the truly key component in too-hot bedrooms. Many people try to cool their bedrooms with a noisy short-term solution like air conditioning or a fan but ignore the real critical issue.
in that micro-climate, a lot of humidity and temperature build-up, according to Platek. And if you want to get a good night’s rest, you need to manage it. He cites the business’ TEMPUR-breeze° temperature-adaptive mattresses and pillows, which are cool to the touch when a person first lies down and continuously cycle heat and humidity out of the bed throughout the night. Your sleeping environment may be impacted by a mattress like this one, which feels up to eight degrees cooler throughout the night.
Routines for getting ready for bed are equally crucial, and they start far earlier than most people realize. Limiting screen time before bed can have a significant impact on your ability to fall and stay asleep, and experts believe that avoiding coffee and alcohol will improve the quality of your sleep.
Why Women Are More Likely To Experience Sleep Problems Than Men
It’s a relatively well-known truth that women have insomnia more frequently than men do, and as women get older, the difference seems to get even worse. However, just like many other facets of physical and mental health, the exact reason for the gender gap hasn’t been identified. However, a recent study looked into how the sleep-wake cycle functions in healthy men and women, and it really revealed significant differences that could explain why women have more difficulty falling asleep and waking up sooner than men.
15 men and 11 women from the McGill University team visited and spent 36 hours in the lab. The participants were put through a “cat nap” paradigm in which the lights were raised and lowered so that they would sleep for an hour and then stand up for an hour. The main sleep hormone, melatonin, as well as other arbitrary factors including wakefulness and drowsiness were examined. Since sex hormones might impact sleep quality, they took sure to evaluate women during two phases of their reproductive cycles.
They discovered that women’s sleep cycles ran at an earlier phase than men’s, which resulted in lower evening alertness and earlier onset of tiredness in women. According to the authors’ work, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this effectively means that, in relation to how their bodies are built, women start their sleep later than men. And this discrepancy could be the reason why women have more difficulty staying asleep than males.
According to research author Diane B. Boivin in a statement, “For a similar sleep schedule, we find that women’s body clock causes them to fall asleep and wake up earlier than men.” The answer is straightforward: their body clocks have been adjusted to a more Eastern time zone. Understanding why women are more prone to sleep disturbance than men is dependent on this reported gender difference.
The research also explains other aspects of why women can struggle with sleep more than men. The scientists also discovered that women were more likely to wake up in the early morning hours than men because women’s internal sleep cues weren’t as powerful in the early morning hours as men’s. It clarifies why women’s health is negatively impacted by shift work more than men’s.
The best time to fall asleep is generally as soon as you start to feel weary (if you can), even if studies are still trying to figure out what makes for a good night’s sleep. Although it may seem clear, most of us disregard sleep signs and prolong our waking hours. Additionally, avoid using screens an hour or two before bed because their light has been shown to disrupt the sleep cycle. As always, avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol close tonight. Doing these things is usually a good idea, but if you’re a woman, it can be more important to pay attention to how your body is feeling and the external factors that may be having an impact on it.
It’s critical to increase understanding of the specific sleep requirements of women at various phases of life in order to close the gender sleep gap and support healthy sleep habits for women. Healthcare professionals should take into account how women’s sleep is affected by hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause and offer the proper advice and support. It can be helpful to receive instruction on good sleep hygiene habits, stress-reduction methods, and relaxation techniques.
In conclusion, providing the best possible sleep health for women requires acknowledging and addressing the sleep gender gap. Healthcare professionals, governments, and society at large can endeavor to create a sleep-friendly environment that supports restorative sleep for women at all phases of life by recognizing the particular sleep patterns and needs of women. Closing the sleep gender gap and enhancing women’s general well-being can be achieved through educating women about sleep hygiene, offering appropriate support, and campaigning for gender-inclusive sleep policies.
In order to create targeted therapies to enhance women’s sleep health, more research is required to better understand their sleep patterns and requirements. Studies that follow women over time and at different phases of life can learn a lot about how their sleep habits change over time, including how much, how well, and if they develop sleep problems.
The gender gap in sleep is a serious problem that requires further study and attention. Women typically have different sleeping habits and requirements than men, which can be damaging to their general health and well-being.
Women’s sleep disturbances can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, pregnancy, menopause, and caring obligations. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health problems are just a few of the health difficulties that can arise from not getting enough sleep.
Overall, we can improve the health and well-being of women and advance gender equality in society by knowing the particular sleep needs and patterns of women and taking action to close the gender gap in sleep. The Sleep Wit emphasizes the importance of creating a comfortable sleep environment.