Women do need more sleep at night compared to men, a recent study concludes.
Researchers from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre studied 210 healthy men and women to better understand sleeping patterns and the links between sleep deprivation and chronic diseases. The study found that women need about 20 minutes more sleep a night than men and that inadequate sleep in women (poor sleep and sleep-related problems) was associated with higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Hormones are said to play a role in this gender difference, particularly testosterone and oestrogen. Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison says women have a lot less testosterone than men and this level decreases from a peak at around the age of 18 years to a low level around age 65 years. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to lower energy levels, fatigue and reduced general wellbeing.
"Oestrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle in reproductive-aged women, and will start to fall from the mid to late 40s, with a drastic reduction around menopause," says Dr Davison. "Whenever oestrogen levels are low, for example before and during a period, if breastfeeding, or around menopause, symptoms such as poor sleep and lowered energy levels are commonly reported by women. Whether this ties in with the need for extra sleep in women described in this study needs further exploration."
To improve the quality of your sleep, Dr Davison recommends the following:
- Schedule 30 minutes of 'wind down time' before going to bed, such as reading or listening to music
- Avoid using computers and phones late at night
- Dim the lights before getting ready for sleep
- Try to keep a regular bed time