Here’s a quick riddle to kick off your day…What do women need more than men but rarely have enough of?
Money? No, but it would be nice. Love? Nah, we all need that.
The answer is sleep. We’re not getting enough and quite frankly it’s affecting our lives.
So, grab a pillow, pull up a blanket and let’s talk sleep. We’ll start with some stat’s because they might well lull you into a nice little slumber.
The average adult requires between seven and nine hours sleep each night, but the eye-opening truth is women often get less. The US National Sleep Foundation notes women aged 30-60 sleep an average of six hours, 41 minutes on weeknights.
According to further research we also tend to need more sleep than men, and when we don’t get enough, we feel the effects more.
“Women require about 20 more minutes of sleep than men do. That’s because they expend more mental energy each day—in other words, they multitask and use more of their brains,” the National Sleep Foundation further notes.
“Sleep is the time when the brain regenerates, and since women’s brains have more work to do during slumber, they require more of it.”
It’s always nice to have our superhuman multi-tasking talents acknowledged, but when we don’t get enough sleep, super woman quickly transforms into her less pleasant alter ego – super fatigued.
“Compared with men, women are impacted more by sleep deprivation, especially when it comes to their mental state. They report more anger, depression, and hostility than men when they don’t get enough sleep.”
It’s tempting to put our fatigue down to those childbearing years that we spend waking to tend to young children.
And yes, that does play a role. A research paper in 2013 found getting up to take care of others is a role “disproportionately” performed by women and that effects the quality of our sleep, meaning we need more to compensate.
But it’s not just women with young children who are yawning over this article, rubbing their bleary eyes and pondering another coffee right now. Further research indicates it’s midlife where we’re feeling it the most.
In 2017 a US government report found: “More than one in four middle-aged women reported experiencing difficulty falling and staying asleep four or more times during the week”.
And “more than one in three women reported getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, on average.”
So, why is this age group so affected? (Wakey, wakey ladies, we’re cutting to the chase here.) The answer is…hormones!
There’s a body of evidence to suggest hormones affect women’s sleep throughout our life. Vogue recently reported women of childbearing age need up to half an hour’s extra sleep each night in the last two weeks of their menstrual cycle due to rising progesterone levels.
Meanwhile, the US government study found perimenopausal women (women who were no longer menstruating and on the verge of menopause) were the least likely to sleep seven or more hours a night.
During the menopausal transition, poor sleep is attributed to a range of factors including hormone fluctuations, hot flashes, night sweats and mood disturbances.
After menopause, it’s the lack of progesterone and estrogen that might be affecting our sleep. Apparently, progesterone has a hypnotic, stress-relieving effect, that also protects us from sleep apnoea.
So, for those of you who nodded off, here’s a quick recap…Women need more sleep, we rarely get enough, and our hormones play a big role in our sleep quality.
Stay tuned because in another article we’ll highlight the tips on getting a good night’s sleep, no matter your age.
Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer with 20 years’ journalism experience. She loves a good old-fashioned story and getting to the heart of a great yarn. She’s also a mum to three children who have encouraged her to hone some secret skills. Nimbly navigating Lego pieces left on her