The fact that men and women are different isn’t exactly news. But did you know that there are significant variances among the sexes even when it comes to sleep? Studies are only now understanding why gender matters when it comes to sleep – and it’s more than just early birds versus night owls.
There are, in fact, biological differences that can determine how sleep patterns for men and women differ. Recent studies summarized in Psychology Today show that women’s circadian [or internal] clocks are set to an earlier hour than men’s. Women are therefore more inclined to fall asleep and wake earlier. Other differences in sleep exist between the genders, namely: women are more inclined to do activity earlier in the day than men; women’s internal clocks are found to be shorter than men’s by about six minutes, a seemingly slight difference that can have a significant impact on nightly sleep and energy levels during the day; and women tend to perform better than men when low on sleep and can rebound more quickly from mild sleep deprivation when they get restorative sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, while women can function on less sleep than men, they actually need more, and many are not getting the proper amount. Some factors that can affect women’s quantity and quality of sleep are disturbances due to pregnancy or menopause, being moved around on the bed by a larger partner, and/or being kept awake by worrying or stress. No matter the gender, lack of sleep on a regular basis can increase a person’s risk for health issues such as diabetes, depression or cardiovascular disease.
If you feel like you aren’t getting enough sleep, you aren’t alone. The Centers for Disease Control just recently reported that one third of Americans are in the same boat. But, there are things you can do.
There are many things you can do to combat insomnia and get a better night’s rest: get regular exercise during the day, set routine bed and wake times, work on good sleep hygiene, and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. Another important tip is to improve your sleep environment – this means keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature (usually cooler), not working or eating in bed, removing any bright lights like alarm clocks or screens as well as creating a subtle background noise, such as using a fan to help drown out other noises.
If you’re trying to figure out the best time to go to bed or wake up in the morning, the website Sleepyti.me offers a great tool to help you calculate your best night sleep. However, if insomnia persists, talk with your doctor about your sleep problems to determine what other steps may be taken to help you get a restful night’s sleep.