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Do women need more sleep than men?

A good night’s rest is crucial for your emotional and physical well-being. In fact, one of the main functions of sleep is to allow the brain to recover and repair itself.

And though limited data exists describing the specifics of sleep and sleep disorders in women, research has shown that women may require more sleep than men to recover from the day. Without it, they may be more susceptible to negative health risks.

“Women’s brains are wired differently from men’s, and they are more complex,” says Nagamalar Raju, M.D., an internal medicine physician and sleep medicine specialist at Piedmont.  “Women are also multi-taskers, and they do a lot at once. Because they use more of their actual brain, they may need a little bit more sleep than men. It is still debatable, but some experts say that women need twenty more minutes on average than men usually need.”  

Sleep and women’s health

Anyone who suffers from sleep deprivation, or a lack of sleep, can be susceptible to negative health consequences. But a 2008 study by Duke University found that women who reported unhealthy sleep had greater psychological distress than men, elevating their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and mood disorders.

“We believe that hormones are likely the culprit behind unhealthy sleep in women, but we don’t know why it results in more serious health consequences in women than in men,” says Dr. Raju.

Women and sleep issues

“Even though most sleep disorders are common in men, women have certain disorders that are more prevalent depending on what period of life they are in,” says Dr. Raju.

Women have higher incidences of insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. They are also more likely to develop restless leg syndrome symptoms during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy or even during the lactation period.

And older women have an even greater risk of developing sleep issues due to hormonal and physiological changes.

Women over the age of 50 have a very high risk of developing sleep apnea. And one in four women over the age of 65, is at risk for sleep apnea.

“After menopause, there’s a significant decrease in the amount of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body,” says Dr. Raju. “And that is the primary reason why certain diseases become more prevalent.”

Tips for a good night’s sleep

Good habits are the cornerstone of good sleep, says Dr. Raju. And with fluctuating hormones, women should consider the following tips for a good night’s rest:

  • Develop a regular waking and sleeping pattern. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Create a relaxing ritual before going to bed. Women often worry about the stresses of the day, which can affect sleep. Try mind exercises or deep breathing techniques before bed to clear your mind.
  • Avoid stimulants in the afternoon. Avoid caffeinated beverages or nicotine after 3 p.m. They could keep you awake.
  • Consult a physician if you are having trouble sleeping.  “I tell my patients, ‘If you have any concern about your sleep both quality and quantity, seek help,’” says Dr. Raju. “Women always think of others first. But the health consequences of unhealthy sleep can be terrible.”

To learn more about treatment for sleep disorders, visit Piedmont Sleep Services.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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