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Why Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

It turns out, eight hours isn’t the universal sleep standard we thought it was. Here’s why women need more sleep than men.

women need sleep

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There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep — but a good night’s sleep can mean different things for different people. According to science, women need more sleep than men. Maybe Dakota Johnson wasn’t actually being that absurd when she suggested she needed 10 hours a night to “function”.

When it comes to sleep hygiene, most of us believe that the universal standard is something close to eight hours. However, studies have shown that this isn’t quite true. Different people need different amounts of time in dreamland to function at their best.

Do women need more sleep than men?

Several scientific studies have examined our sleep habits based on gender and have found that women, on average, sleep for 6 to 28 more minutes than men. However, Alexander stresses that “research in this area is limited.”

There are several theories as to why women tend to sleep a few minutes more (on average) than their male counterparts. Because sleep is regulated by hormones, our gender may actually have an influence on how much we need.

“When it comes to physiology, women’s hormones have a huge role to play in sleep,” she says. “This includes everything from menstrual periods to pregnancy and menopause. All of these scenarios can have a negative impact on sleep for obvious reasons. Overall, this means women are suggested to have a greater need for sleep and are more likely to indulge in daytime naps.”

Women are also more prone to insomnia, which may explain why, when they do nod off, they end up needing a little more shut-eye.

Then there’s the matter of what we do during the day — are women simply a little more tired than men? “Women are typically the ones who get up through the night to support children, or in some cases, elderly parents,” says Alexander. Studies have indeed shown that women tend to pick up the majority of the household labour in their homes, from preparing meals to cleaning to childcare. This could be another reason for their increased sleep needs.

How much more sleep do women need?

While studies may show that women technically need an average of 11 more minutes, but Alexander thinks more studies are needed. “In my professional opinion we need more scientific evidence to back this claim,” she says. In reality, there is no exact amount of time we all need.

“Sleep requirements are different for everyone, and must be individualized and not just stereotyped by gender,” says Alexander.

Ultimately, what’s important is listening to your own body, because, at the end of the day, everyone is different.

“The recommended amount of sleep for any adult is 8 hours but some manage well on 7 and others need 9,” she says. “I would always recommend tuning into your body. If you don’t feel refreshed in the morning, looking to improving the quality of your sleep is a great place to start.”

What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep?

If you’re worried you’re not getting enough sleep each night — whether you’re male or female — it’s important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you.

“While we need more research to understand the gender gap between men and women’s sleep requirements and cycles, the consequences of not getting enough sleep are well evidenced and can have a huge impact on both men and women,” says Alexander. “Lack of sleep impacts on our reaction time which can cause car crashes and work mistakes. It has a profound impact on mood and increases the risk of medical conditions such as anxiety and depression. It may also lead to health problems, lack of sleep is closely linked to obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, hormonal imbalances, impaired immune function and more.”

Alexander adds that sleep is the “pillar” of health. “Sleep is when we repair our bodies, consolidate our memories and recharge,” she says. “Not only does it help us to prevent disease, it also keeps us feeling energized and happy.”

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