Do females require more sleep than males?

Getting enough quality sleep is important for everyone’s health and well-being. However, research has shown that there may be some gender differences when it comes to sleep needs. Women often report needing more sleep than men and feeling more fatigued during the day if they don’t get enough sleep. But what does the science say? Do women really need more sleep than men? Here’s a look at what research to date tells us.

Key Points

  • Some studies have found that women report needing more sleep and feeling more tired than men when sleep deprived.
  • However, many sleep studies have not found major biological differences in sleep needs between men and women.
  • Hormonal fluctuations, especially in the menstrual cycle, may impact sleep patterns and needs in some women.
  • Lifestyle factors like childcare responsibilities can also affect women’s sleep duration more than men’s.
  • More high-quality research is still needed to determine if gender innate biological differences in sleep needs exist.

Studies on Reported Sleep Needs by Gender

Some research relying on self-reported data suggests that women need more sleep than men. For example, one study published in the Journal of Women’s Health in 2015 surveyed nearly 500,000 adults about their self-reported sleep needs. Women reported needing significantly more sleep than men, with the average woman saying she needed 7.13 hours of sleep per night vs. 7.03 hours for men.

Similarly, a study in the journal Current Biology had participants rate their subjective sleepiness and performance after different amounts of sleep deprivation. After one night of only 4 hours in bed, women reported feeling sleepier and more impaired than men, suggesting they needed more sleep.

However, these types of surveys rely on self-reported data, which can often be unreliable. People may have different definitions of what “needed sleep” really means. So while these studies indicate that many women believe they need more sleep than men, they don’t prove any biological difference in actual sleep needs.

Findings from Sleep Studies

When we look at studies that have objectively measured sleep using tools like polysomnography and actigraphy, the evidence for gender differences becomes much more mixed:

  • A meta-analysis published in Sleep Medicine looked at data from over 60 previous sleep studies involving adults. It found no significant gender differences in the total amount of sleep obtained or sleep needs.
  • A study in Brain and Behavioral Psychology monitored the sleep patterns of 98 young, healthy adults for two weeks using actigraphy. Results showed no differences in average total sleep time or sleep quality between men and women.
  • Research published in Current Biology studied 21 participants in 30-50 minute daytime nap sessions after sleep deprivation. Women tended to fall asleep faster during naps. However, nap length and brain wave patterns during sleep did not differ between genders.

Overall, when objective measures are used instead of subjective reports, most research has not found major biological gender differences in total sleep time or quality. Some studies have identified subtle differences, like women falling asleep more quickly or having slightly lower slow wave sleep percentages. But these don’t add up to large distinctions in sleep needs.

Hormonal Effects on Women’s Sleep

One key factor that may impact women’s sleep patterns is hormonal fluctuations related to the menstrual cycle. Some, but not all, women experience changes in sleep in the days leading up to menstruation when estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly.

These hormone changes are linked to poorer sleep quality, trouble falling asleep, and feeling less rested even with adequate sleep around the time of menstruation. Issues tend to improve after menstruation begins. Women going through perimenopause also often report increased sleep disturbances due to hormonal shifts.

However, not all women are affected the same. Research estimates about 20-40% of reproductive age women experience sleep disturbances related to the menstrual cycle. But even for these women, the effects are usually transient instead of constant throughout the cycle. The hormonal impact also appears to be fairly slight based on sleep studies. So this factor alone probably does not account for major gender differences in sleep needs.

Other Influences on Women’s Sleep

Beyond biological factors, there are other social and lifestyle differences that may impact women’s sleep compared to men’s in the modern world. Some examples:

  • Childcare responsibilities – Mothers tend to bear more nighttime caregiving duties for children that disrupt their sleep.
  • Domestic duties – Women continue to spend more time on housework and family care during the day, which can cause fatigue at night.
  • Stress and depression – Women experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia issues that inhibit sleep.
  • Pain conditions – Conditions like fibromyalgia that affect sleep are more common in women.
  • Violence and trauma – Women suffer disproportionate rates of trauma linked to sleep disturbances.

These types of social factors likely contribute to why women report higher levels of sleepiness and needing more sleep. However, gender roles and norms in society are not set in stone. Evolving these roles and responsibilities may reduce or eliminate perceived gender differences in sleep needs.

The Bottom Line

Based on the research to date, there are a few key conclusions we can make:

  • Many women believe and report that they need more sleep than men.
  • However, most objective scientific studies have not found major innate biological gender differences in sleep requirements.
  • Hormonal changes associated with menstrual cycles may impact some women’s sleep patterns to a small degree.
  • Social factors like childcare duties may affect women’s sleep duration and quality more than men.
  • More high-quality sleep research controlling for confounding factors is still needed to determine if real gender-based sleep need differences exist.

So while women may have valid reasons for feeling more tired or sleep deprived than their male counterparts, there’s little evidence so far that adult females inherently need significantly more sleep across the board than males. Getting sufficient high-quality sleep is vital for everyone, regardless of gender. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night as recommended by sleep experts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do hormones affect sleep?

Yes, hormone levels can affect sleep cycles and quality, especially in women. Hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can all impact sleep. The effects vary between individuals and over the course of the cycle though.

Do women need more sleep than men for better cognitive performance?

There is little evidence that getting more sleep than the recommended 7-9 hours per night improves cognitive performance for either gender. Women may feel sleepier than men when sleep deprived due to other factors like hormones though.

Do women or men dream more?

Studies on dream patterns show mixed results by gender. Some research has found women tend to have slightly longer, more vivid dreams. However, other studies have found no differences in dream frequency, characteristics or recall between men and women.

Do women move around less than men while sleeping?

Some research has shown that adult males tend to have slightly more body movements during sleep compared to adult females. However, the difference is small. Movement disorders that significantly impair sleep are not more prevalent in either gender.

Does pregnancy cause more sleep disruptions?

Pregnancy can significantly impact sleep due to hormonal changes, increased urination, discomfort, stress and other factors. Many women experience poorer sleep quality and more disruptions during pregnancy. Sleep positions may also need to change as the pregnancy progresses.

The Menstrual Cycle and Sleep

Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle can affect sleep patterns for some women:

  • In the follicular phase when estrogen rises, women may fall asleep more quickly.
  • Close to ovulation, temperature changes can make sleep more restless.
  • In the days before menstruation when hormones plunge, women may experience insomnia and sleep disruptions.
  • These effects are generally transient instead of lasting all month.

Here is a table summarizing the potential impact of hormonal changes at different menstrual cycle phases:

Menstrual Cycle Phase Hormone Changes Potential Sleep Impact
Follicular Rising estrogen Falling asleep more quickly
Periovulatory Estrogen peak Restless, interrupted sleep
Luteal Estrogen and progesterone dropping Difficulty falling asleep, insomnia
Menstruation Low estrogen and progesterone Improvements in sleep disruptions

These menstrual cycle influences on sleep vary widely between individuals though. Not all women are affected the same. Understanding your own hormonal patterns and their relationship to sleep can help women strategize sleep-promoting habits at different times of the month.

Sleep Across Reproductive Stages

Sleep needs and patterns can also change across a women’s reproductive life stages:

  • Puberty – Shifting hormones levels often lead to increased sleepiness and napping during pubertal development.
  • Menstrual years – Cyclical hormonal changes may impact sleep monthly for some women.
  • Pregnancy – Sleep increases during the 1st trimester, but frequently becomes disrupted later in pregnancy.
  • Postpartum – Caring for a newborn severely fragments sleep and leads to sleep deprivation.
  • Perimenopause – Erratic hormones often cause trouble sleeping during the transition to menopause.
  • Postmenopause – Lower estrogen may allow more deep wave sleep, but also increases sleep disturbances.

Understanding how reproductive life stages impact sleep can help women be prepared for and normalize difficult sleep periods. Prioritizing sleep hygiene becomes especially important during these transitional times.

Social Factors Impacting Women’s Sleep

Beyond biology, social factors also play a key role is how much sleep women get compared to men:

  • Women continue to shoulder more childcare responsibilities than fathers, leading to more sleep interruptions.
  • Domestic chores and family caretaking also disproportionately fall to women, which can lead to mental load and fatigue at bedtime.
  • Anxiety and depression occur up to twice as often in women than men, negatively affecting sleep.
  • Pain disorders like fibromyalgia that disrupt sleep four times more common in women.
  • Women experience much higher rates of trauma, abuse, and violence than men, increasing odds of associated sleep disorders.

Until gender equity is achieved in these areas, social dynamics will continue to impact women’s sleep quantity and quality more than men’s in many cases.

Sleep Recommendations for Women

Despite unique sleep challenges, most women don’t inherently need more sleep than the recommended 7-9 hours per night. However, women can take steps to improve their sleep:

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time, even on weekends
  • Wind down before bed by dimming lights, meditating, or taking a bath
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and screens before bed
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and quiet for optimal sleep
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime
  • Talk to your doctor if you have ongoing sleep disruptions

Prioritizing sleep and healthy sleep habits can help women get the high-quality rest they need despite unique hormonal and lifestyle challenges.


While many women report feeling like they need more sleep than men, the scientific evidence for major biological gender differences in sleep requirements remains limited. Some hormonal fluctuations and disproportionate caretaking duties may contribute to women facing more sleep challenges. But research has not confirmed that healthy adult females need fundamentally different sleep durations than males when confounding factors are controlled for.

Getting sufficient, high-quality sleep is vital for everyone, regardless of gender. Following healthy sleep hygiene habits can help women optimize the restorative rest they need to feel their best, despite fluctuating hormones and other unique sleep disruptors in their lives.

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