The conversation around sleeping habits is ever-growing, with the hashtag #sleepdivorce hitting 834K views on TikTok. Regarding heterosexual partnerships, what are the differences in men’s and women’s sleeping habits and needs driving over a third (34%) two of individuals to sleep in separate beds from their partners?
In their Big Sleep study, YouGov also reported that 39% of women wake up feeling tired “very often” compared to 22% of men.
With data demonstrating a difference in the sleep needs of both sexes, a resident sleep expert at Time4Sleep, Dr Hana Patel, shares her insight on the true reality of the sleep needs of women and her top tips for ensuring the best night’s sleep possible.
How are we affected by a lack of sleep?
Dr Patel explains: “For both men and women, even one night of poor sleep causes daytime sleepiness, trouble with memory and concentration, and impaired performance at school and work.
“However, studies have found that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in risky choices in females and increases in risky choices in males. Moreover, women become more selfish after sleep loss.”
Do women need more sleep than men?
Dr Patel says: “Generally, adults need around seven or more hours of sleep daily for optimal health. Interestingly, research has shown that women tend to get more sleep than men by 11 to 13 minutes, despite not needing more sleep daily.”
How do our menstrual cycles affect our sleep?
Dr Patel explains: “Menstrual cycles can affect our sleep in more ways than one. After ovulating, women may experience greater sleepiness due to increased progesterone levels.
“During ovulation, the progesterone levels are high, and women typically experience reduced REM sleep. It’s common for people to experience symptoms like bloating, fatigue, and even exhaustion in the days leading up to their period and throughout their menstrual cycle. The worst time for sleep and mood, even in people without major PMS, is during the four–five days before and through the first two days of your period.
“Poorer sleep quality in the premenstrual phase and menstruation is common in women with premenstrual symptoms or painful menstrual cramps.”
Five top tips to ensure you’re getting enough sleep
- Make a menstrual cycle diary. Try and chart symptoms you get at different parts of the cycle each month to try and find patterns to help you build a bespoke sleep hygiene routine for yourself and your menstrual cycle.
- Limit caffeine and sugar. A diet high in sugar is associated with altering the ratio of oestrogen and progesterone in the body, which can cause hormonal disturbances, mood swings, irritability, and insomnia. Try to limit caffeine and sugar, as studies have found that poor sleep quality was significantly related to higher added sugar intake.
- Try some relaxation techniques. Studies show that yoga can help reduce pain associated with menstrual cramping. Doing a few stretches before bed can ease your body into relaxation for sleep. Furthermore, if you experience cramps or lower back pain, try a warm water bottle or heat wrap for relief. Many women experience negative mood symptoms in the days leading up to menstruation. If stress keeps you up at night, try listening to calming music or a white noise machine or wind down with a warm shower or essential oils before bed.
- Sleep in the foetal position. If you’re normally a back or stomach sleeper, try rolling to your side and tucking in your arms and legs. This position takes the pressure off your abdominal muscles and is the best sleeping position to relieve tension that can make cramping worse.
- Keep your bedroom cool. Hormones that elevate your body temperature during parts of your cycle might make falling asleep difficult. Keep your bedroom between 17–20 degrees for a cool sleeping climate.