Fact or Myth: Are Sleep Problems More Common in Women than Men?

This is FACT.

An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, and the majority of them are female. Polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) show that:

  • Two-thirds of women have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week
  • Up to half the women polled report waking up feeling less than refreshed
  • Women are more likely than men to battle insomnia a few nights a week
  • Women ages 30-60 sleep on average just 6 hours and 41 minutes, as opposed to the more optimal 8-9 hours of sleep

Lack of sleep isn’t just inconvenient; it can inflict disastrous consequences on your health. Research indicates that not getting enough sleep leads to daytime fatigue, increased risk of accidents, difficulty concentrating, poor work performance, and increased vulnerability to sickness and weight gain.

Why Are Sleep Problems More Common in Women? effects of sleep deprivation

Experts cite a few reasons why women may be more inclined towards sleep disorders than men.

Hormone Fluctuations: During a woman’s menstrual cycle, her levels of estrogen and progesterone shift, which may influence her sleep cycles. Dianne Augelli, M.D., a sleep expert at the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian, told New York Magazine:

“Estrogen works on several different neurotransmitter pathways that may have an impact on the regulation of sleep, and progesterone can have a hypnotic property … Fluctuations in these hormones may have an effect on the circadian rhythm.”

Pregnancy and Motherhood: Physical discomfort from pregnancy, frequent trips to the bathroom, heartburn, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea and other side effects of pregnancy can all impact a good night’s sleep. The childcare that follows at all hours of the night once the baby is born can also cut into a sound night’s rest.

Menopause: Women are also at the mercy of hormonal shifts during menopause, which can cause hot flashes and night sweats. The onset of obstructive sleep apnea can also occur during menopause. Sleep apnea is a disorder marked by snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep. A woman’s risk for sleep apnea increases after age 50…and 1 in 4 women over age 65 battle sleep apnea.

Pain: A NSF poll conducted in 2000 showed that 1 in 4 women reported that physical discomfort and pain kept them awake at night—discomforts included migraines, tension headaches, and rheumatic arthritis.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Research shows that women are more vulnerable to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress than men. These pressures can build up and keep women awake at night. Regardless of how physically exhausted the body may be, the mind can be a far greater opponent.

If you suffer from a sleep disorder, seek medical advice and incorporate healthy bedtime habits. Reduce your exposure to artificial light and digital/electronic stimulation. Relax in bed with a good book and diffuse some calming essential oils—such as lavender and ylang ylang—in an aromatherapy diffuser.