Gender And Sleep: The Vast Difference Between Men And Women And What We Need

Choosing the perfect mattress can be challenging, and when you consider that men and women have different sleep habits, bedding material preferences, and unique sleep requirements, it’s smart to shed some light on this often completely ignored topic.

Plenty of research suggests that women, at least for a moderate amount of time during various life stages,  exhibit lengthier sleep patterns than men, likely due to the fact that they have greater stress placed upon them for work required beyond the scope of a nine to five shift. The gender gap for leisure time benefits men at all life stages in most cultures.

Women are typically responsible for child rearing, meal preparation,  and domestic responsibilities in both Western and Eastern cultures, generally during the prime of their lives, at younger age groups of 20-45 years of age.

Aside from gender lifestyle requirements for sleep, another important variable is the fact that  that men and women have different internal clocks and different circadian rhythm patterns. Men’s biological clocks operate on a full 24 hour cycle, even longer on occasion, typically about 6 minutes longer than women.

This explains why men often feel less tired in the evening, whereas women often feel exhausted. Even minor differences in our circadian rhythm cycle can have pretty drastic effects on feelings of wakefulness and energy levels. For women, the circadian rhythm tends to cause earlier wakening time, which may increase the risk for insomnia.

Over the course of a typical lifetime, however, women typically sleep longer than men in total hours. In general men tend to be night owls much more than women. Establish a similar sleep time with your partner may require a balancing act of circadian rhythm changes generally involving altering wakeup times so that sleep induction and staying asleep at night is in sync.

Preparing for bedtime, the rituals associated with winding down, the importance of proper sleep hygiene and appropriate elements of the bedroom, and the kind of mattress we use, all make for a grand ritual that even the mattress industry has helped refine, dramatize, and highlight. 

Even sex is now associated with sleep, and the bedroom has finally been clearly defined as the space in your life where only two events should occur. Sex greatly affects both men and women, and can be shown to improve both the quality of sleep, and the resting level of calmness and relaxation achieved by vigorous sex prior to sleep, making sleep induction much more rapid and effective. Sleep is life, and the importance of sleep is increasingly backed up by robust research.

When Sleep Gets Out Of Wack- Gender Effects

Even though a wholesome eight hours sleep a night is considered ideal for both sexes, females are far more resilient when their sleep cycles are disrupted.  Men crash and burn very easily. Women bounce back from sleep deprivation easier than men, so work performance sinks fast when a man has circadian rhythm disruption issues.

Women’s shorter sleep cycles can cause late afternoon sinking spells, and naps are high priority for females who have strong responses to sleepy cycle disruptions. This might explain why female shift workers have a higher risk of work related injuries.

Reworking your biological clock can be done, but avoid making dramatic shifts, and alter your bedtime or wake times in slow increments, making half hour changes at a time when adjusting from let’s say a shift schedule to a daylight hours schedule. Sleep cycles and natural rhythms tend to sort themselves out naturally though,  with men being typical night owls and women being the early bird.

To sync up a bedtime so that you and your partner are in the bedroom at the same time, and both of you awaken around the same time, requires some adjusting, and one of those considerations might be making sure you have the proper mattress to encourage looking forward to turning in for the night, as well as making falling asleep (sleep induction) and staying asleep more feasible. You can check out our mattresses by type and also our recommended mattress pages to better help you make the right mattress purchase the very first time.

Sleep Disturbances By Gender

Recent studies have demonstrated that women are more likely to have to deal with sleep disturbances than men.  Women are more likely to receive a diagnosis of insomnia that men, and this might be related to gender differences when it comes to trying to sync up sleep habits with their partners.

One issue that might affect these observations is that since women’s biological clocks are set to more of an “Eastern time zone”,  running slightly ahead of mens natural clocks.

Study Suggests Menstrual Cycles May Be A Culprit

One study involved 15 men and 11 women, whose variations in alertness and sleep (regulated by their natural circadian rhythms) were measured.  The women participants were on normal menstrual cycles and were evaluated during two different phases of their cycle.  

The menstrual cycle issue was treated as a critical point in the study because another scientist had previously done research that showed sleep cycles and hours slept by sex was affected by menstrual cycle, body temperature, and biological rhythms in women.

To exclude other variables, none of the participants experienced sleep problems during the course of the study; however, the results help give perspective into why women are more affected by sleep disturbance than men, why they wake up earlier in the morning, and why they feel more tired after what seemed to be a full night’s sleep.  As we have mentioned, it is notable that men are more alert at night than women.

The data from this study suggests that women may be unsuitable for nightshift work, from a biological perspective.  Additional research is needed to confirm the theory in order to develop proper treatment and interventions that are tailored to gender specific sleep related disorders and function.

Because widespread insomnia is very common in our society, research into gender disparities with sleep is important, especially when it comes to safety and alertness on the job. 

A major consequence of gender sleep differentials is that about 15% of adults with sleep disturbances also suffer from functional problems, which could negatively impact productivity and put employers and employees at risk of accident.

Pregnancy And Sleep

Dr. Jim Horen, Britain’s leading expert in sleep science has stated that typically, women need twenty more minutes of sleep than men. Because of multi-tasking throughout the day, females are subject to more fatigue, and during pregnancy, sleep disturbances are even more pronounced because of many factors.

Sleep quality in pregnant women can be greatly reduced by the following factors:

  • Sleep disturbances during pregnancy due to excess weight and position of the fetus.

  • Difficulty sleeping during menopause due to hot flashes.

  • Being awakened and nudged or moved around on the bed because of the movements of male partners. (Men tend to be larger than women)

  • Anxiety about problems and losing sleep as a result.

The National Sleep Foundation says pregnant women can reduce insomnia by getting regular exercise, setting routine bed and wake times, limiting caffeine intake, and improving the sleep environment. If insomnia persists, women can talk to their doctors about sleep to determine other steps they can take to improve their sleep, although medications such as Ambien are usually avoided.

Ambien Not Recommended For Pregnant Women

Ambien belongs to a class of drugs called hypnotics, a kind of sedative. It it used to treat insomnia, and is highly effective. It works by stimulating the production of natural chemicals in your body that cause sleepiness to help you fall or stay asleep.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers Ambien a Category C pregnancy drug. This means that research in animals has shown significant side effects in the unborn baby when the mother takes the drug. Being rated a Category C drug also implies that there haven’t been enough studies done in humans to know how the drug will affect a developing human fetus.

There are no well-controlled studies looking at the use of Ambien during pregnancy, so it shouldn’t be an automatic go-to cure for insomnia during pregnancy. You should only take Ambien during your pregnancy if the possible benefits outweigh the potential risks to your unborn baby.

The very little research that is out there has found no link between birth defects and Ambien use during pregnancy as of now, but there isn’t much human data to support this conclusion, though. Studies conducted with pregnant animals given Ambien also did not show birth defects, but the newborn animals did have decreased weight when their mothers took high doses of Ambien during pregnancy. 

A typical dose for Ambient is 10 mg, but other studies and anecdotal reports from users say that 5mg is just as effective, especially if you are sensitive to sedative type medications.

There have also been reports of human babies having respiratory problems at birth when their mothers used Ambien near the endow their third trimester. Babies born to mothers who took Ambien during pregnancy are also at risk for withdrawal symptoms after birth, much like other addictive substances can cause. These symptoms may include weak and limp muscles.

Sleep Issues With Men

While both men and women suffer from sleep issues, the problems that men can face are unique. Sometimes the cause is due to a misplaced perspective about sleep which is age old dogma that you might think that prioritizing sleep is a sign that you’re not working hard enough. Sometimes the problem might be that you simply don’t actually realize precisely how much sleep you require per night. 

At other times you simply can be unaware of certain sleep issues that target men more than women or have a lack of understanding that men and women have totally different sleep cycles. All of these problems and more are standing in the way of you feeling more rested, energized, and ready to get the most out of life

One issue is pretty common- that you have way too many priorities. Go through your typical day. It may include 8-10 hours of work, a trip to the gym, time with friends, and quality time with your partner and your kids. You’re awake for 18 hours a day, right?

If you are setting aside only 6 hours of sleep each night, you are shorting yourself on health, wellness, and your ability to perform in all aspects of life.

With all of those demands, it’s obvious why sleep comes in a distant last in priorities. Here’s how to reboot your priorities and maximize the sleep benefit that can transform your life: 

Document everything that you spend time doing in a week. What can can you cut from the list? What can be handed off to someone else? As other tasks begin to fade away, sleep can move toward the top of your priority list meaning you’ll be better rested during the day, and you may feel better when you finally make it home. 

Here is a list of sleep issues which are more prevalent in men, and require additional awareness and attention:

  • You’re At High Risk for Sleep Apnea. Men are more susceptible to sleep apnea than women due to a connection between testosterone and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops and starts during sleep. It affects between four and nine percent of adult men and can be caused by low testosterone levels. That’s why one treatment plan is testosterone therapy. If you’re overweight, getting down to a healthy range and avoiding alcohol will also help reduce symptoms.

  • You Don’t Seek Treatment for Depression. Many men have a hard time seeking help for mental health issues like depression. Some choose to ignore it, while others worry that it isn’t macho to admit that they are depressed. Unfortunately, an issue like depression that’s left untreated can affect every part of your life, including your sleep. You could notice that it feels impossible to fall asleep at night or tough to get out of bed in the morning. Seeking help from a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist is the best way to deal with depression and get back to a healthy place.

  • You Have Other Male Medical Issues. As you get older, health problems may end up impacting your sleep. For example, an enlarged prostate, which can hit more than half of men by the age of 60, can cause you to wake up throughout the night to pee. Other sleep disruptors could be conditions like asthma, heart disease, and arthritis, or medications.