It’s 9 p.m., and the Flynn house is quiet. The lights are low, and the electronics have been stowed away. It’s time for sleep. Do women need more sleep than men? They sure do, and that’s why the house is quiet. I have 4 daughters and a beautiful wife who all need their sleep. I’m like a sleep ninja making sure we all shut it down at night. It’s so important for health, especially for women, who need more sleep than men.
Recent articles floating around say women need 20 more minutes of sleep. That’s a conservative estimate, in my opinion. I would say women need 1-2 hours more sleep than men – sometimes even more. Lack of sleep causes much more stress on a woman’s body than on a man’s body. A sleep study from Duke University found that when women get less sleep, there’s a greater chance it will cause psychological and physical problems. There were greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger in women who were sleep-deprived than men. The women also had higher levels of inflammatory markers and insulin. That means their sleep deprivation is setting them up for heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. Sleep costs nothing but is critical for health, especially women’s health.
Sleep and Health
I have noticed for a long time the importance of sleep, especially for my female patients. When women follow the advice and improve their sleep, it makes a much bigger difference than for men. When men improve their sleep habits, the impact seems minimal. When women don’t get sleep, the effects are much more dramatic and damaging to their health.
So, I support my wife and daughters by ensuring the house is quiet, and I adjust my routines so I don’t disturb their sleep. If one of my daughters is sick or has a nightmare, I get up in the middle of the night to care for them so my wife can get a good night’s rest. Their health is so important to me, and getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things they can do to protect it. We should all do a better job prioritizing sleep, but it’s crucial for women.
Why Do Women Need More Sleep than Men?
Men and women are biologically different, and this affects how much sleep they need. I can get away with less sleep biologically than my wife can. Mentally and physically, my body can handle the stress of getting less sleep much better. It’s the way our bodies are made and the demand of the different needs of our bodies.
Women have a different circadian rhythm than men, which leads to more sleep for women. Men need 7-8 hours of sleep, whereas women need 8-10 hours, which leads to different circadian rhythms. The sleep cycles are similar, but cortisol decreases, and melatonin increases sooner in women than men. Cortisol is one of the hormones that gets you moving during the day, and melatonin helps you sleep. Melatonin peaks around 9 pm for women and doesn’t peak for men until 10 or 11. Women also have melatonin in their bloodstream for longer periods. Many things can throw off a circadian rhythm and keep you from getting better sleep.
Hormones play a role in sleep. Who places a higher demand on their hormones? Women. Hormones can mess with your sleep, so if you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t building hormonal reserves, which can mess up your sleep cycle even more. A woman’s body builds up that hormonal fuel tank between 9 pm and 1 am. If she isn’t going to bed until very late, that is depleting her hormonal reserves. This habit drains the body and can lead to many health problems. Late nights don’t affect men in the same way.
Adrenals and Sleep
Remember that hormone that gets you moving during the day? That’s right, cortisol. That comes from the adrenals. The adrenals only make up about 3% of a man’s testosterone, while 95% comes from his testicles. The adrenals make up 30% of a woman’s cyclic hormones. So, consider what can happen when a woman is sleep-deprived. The sleep deprivation triggers cortisol production. Ultimately, it can disrupt the production of other hormones while increasing the stress on her body.
The body is like a Swiss watch, and these disruptions can further mess with hormones, leading to more sleep problems. This doesn’t impact men as much because their primary steroid hormone is testosterone. That hormone will still go up in the morning and get them going if they are a healthy man. Testosterone is anti-inflammatory and keeps the stress hormones low. Our hormones are much simpler, which means sleep deprivation won’t have the same impact.
The differences in hormones can also make it harder for women to get to sleep. They can keep women up at night and because of women’s hormones they care about everything. They care about everything so much more than men. If something is bothering a woman or if her brain is still going from the day’s activities, it can be a lot harder for her to fall asleep. When she doesn’t sleep, she wakes up with depleted hormones which can throw off the balance of hormones. It’s a vicious cycle that can wreck her sleep cycle.
Women Need More Sleep
If you are making health a priority, you need to make sleep a priority, especially if you are a woman. Women need more sleep. Unfortunately, women are taking on so much that they don’t always get the sleep they need, which is detrimental to their health. Take steps for better sleep. Prioritizing sleep can change your health, and it costs you nothing.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
You can learn more about how hormones affect sleep in the video below.