One a scale from one to exhausted, just how tired are you?
For many women, the answer falls somewhere between “worn out” and “total burnout.” If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. Women really do need more sleep than men—even though we’re rarely getting it.
Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?
Yes, you do need more sleep. And you can blame that on your beautiful, complex brain.
“Women’s brains are wired differently from men’s—they are more complex,” says Nagamalar Raju, M.D., an internal medicine physician and sleep medicine specialist at Piedmont Healthcare.
“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 deprivation can have negative consequences for anyone. But a 2008 study by Duke University found that women who reported poor sleep had greater health consequences than men, elevating their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and mood disorders.
And U.K. researchers found that poor sleep is more associated with high levels of distress, hostility, depression, and irritability in women.
Why Aren’t Women Getting the Sleep They Need?
There are a number of reasons why you’re not getting the sleep you need to conquer the day. No, we’re not pointing the finger at your snoring partner.... at least not yet.
Hormonal changes can play a big factor in poor sleep. “Insomnia is much more common in women than men,” says Yale Medicine sleep specialist Christine Won, MD.
In the week before her period, a woman’s progesterone levels will rise, causing estrogen levels to dip dramatically, which is why some women can find it really difficult to get quality sleep in those “PMS” days. Isn't it good to know this is natural and normal for women?
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of progesterone, which can exacerbate sleep difficulties. Studies show that women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea—a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing for brief periods throughout the night. Balancing your hormones help your sleep tremendously.
During menopause, hormone levels fluctuate dramatically, leading to night sweats and hot flashes that can wake the brain during sleep. Other sleep disorders also become more common with menopause—studies have found that women spend less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and when they wake up, they feel less well-rested.
Second Shift Duties
Especially since COVID, women tend to carry more of the second-shift duties in a home: the housework, childcare, and house management duties that must be completed after one’s paid job. Researchers estimate the unpaid work women do at home—cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking care of kids, and managing household routines—is equal to an extra month of work each year.
It’s no wonder you’re tired.
Lastly, your sleep environment could be to blame for keeping you from getting the rest you need. Sleeping on the wrong pillow, for example, could be a literal pain in the neck that causes wakefulness during the night.
Spending too much time on your smartphone before bedtime, sleeping in a room that’s too hot, or excess noise at night could also be disrupting your sleep.
And a tossing, turning, or snoring bed partner doesn’t help, either.
How to Sleep Better (and Longer)
It’s time to get more zzz’s. You need it for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. And for the natural energy and stamina to power through your responsibilities at work and at home.
The simplest solution to better sleep is to make sure your bedroom is an oasis of peace and comfort. Color, texture, and lighting can have a big impact. More importantly, your bedding matters. Your bedsheets are touching your skin more than your clothing. Think about it... You sleep 1/3 of the day. Your sheets stay on your bed for about a week.
Start with your pillow. The pillows you can buy at most home goods or box stores typically limit your comfort options to “firm” or “soft.” But that doesn’t take into account your sleeping style or individual body needs.
A customizable pillow made from natural materials like latex or wool can ensure a comfortable night’s sleep and eliminate neck and back pain from misalignment of your spine.
Choose natural materials. Bedding made from natural materials can also help regulate your temperature, ensuring you don’t overheat at night. Natural latex, wool, bamboo, and organic cotton bedding materials can help wick moisture away so you stay cool at night. Temperature is a very important factor in great sleep. We seat over 1 pint of moisture per night. So a breathable fiber will help you sleep more comfortably.
Your bedding could be causing allergies or toxin sensitivities that may be disturbing your sleep. Polyester and synthetic material pillows, for example, can easily accumulate dead skin cells and the skin mites that feed on them. Dust mites can worsen allergy symptoms. And bedding made from synthetic materials can off-gas toxic VOCs that can lead to health issues. Not ideal if you’re making good sleep and good health a priority.
Exercise and sleep go together like Netflix and wine! Your body was meant to move and dozens of studies have shown that exercise improves sleep quality duration. And good quality sleep is needed for your body to adequately recover from exercise and give you the glorious gains you’re working so hard for. So keep hitting the pavement/ gym/ barre class because it can help you sleep better!
Keep to a Schedule
It can be tough to have a consistent schedule, especially these days. But going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is extremely beneficial to your sleep. Try and avoid staying up too late on the weekends or sleeping in too late the mornings after. Keep a consistent bedtime for better sleep.
Put the Phone Down
Electronic devices like your phone or tablet emit blue light that disrupts your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Try and avoid using screens for two hours before bedtime, or, if you must, use blue-light blocking glasses when you do. Put your phone on airplane mode if you must sleep with it in your room, or plug it in to charge overnight in a different room entirely and give yourself some separation from your device at night.
Get Some Sleep. You Deserve It.
You work hard at home, at work, and at everything you do. You’re a Wonder Woman. So do what you need to make good sleep a priority: invest in a comfortable, customizable pillow, deck your bed out in all-natural materials, hit the gym, and put the phone down. Because you deserve all of the sleep you need to conquer your day.