It has been well researched that women typically experience poorer sleep quality than men, and have higher risk of sleep conditions such as, insomnia and restless legs syndrome. Women’s sleep is affected by a variation in reproductive hormones, stress, depression, aging, life/role transition and many other factors.
Research suggests that women’s menstrual cycles are associated with changes in circadian rhythms and sleep architecture. Circadian rhythms are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. In other words, the circadian rhythm controls the sleep-wake cycle. Women who experience cramps, headaches, and bloating can cause sleep disturbances during their menstrual cycle, which causes lower sleep quality in the week before their period.
Sleep works best when you sleep uninterrupted throughout the night. During a full night’s sleep, you cycle through the various stages of sleep several times a night — from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep and back again. When that sleep is interrupted, you start the cycle over again — causing you to miss out on essential REM sleep.
On the other hand, it is reported that women typically sleep longer than men, by 11 minutes. There are a number of variables that affect why women might need more sleep. Women tend to dedicate more time to unpaid labour, work, social responsibilities and family care giving. Although women sleep longer they are more likely to wake up to take care of others in the home, a task which disrupts their sleep and creates a poorer quality of sleep.
Throughout the course of a woman’s lifespan, they may experience important biological events such as PMS, pregnancy and/or perimenopausal symptoms. These are often mediated by hormones and physiological changes which cause dissatisfaction with sleep. In comparison to men, women report their sleep problems differently. For example, women who seek treatment for sleep apnea are more likely to focus on symptoms like fatigue and depression, whereas men will describe snoring and gasping.
Sleep issues are common among women and may change in intensity throughout life, but there is hope for sleep. Start with better sleep hygiene, avoid naps during the day, and limit your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake. Engage in regular exercise and follow a consistent sleep schedule. Make your bedroom as cool, dark, and quiet as possible (and remove the clutter and electronics). If symptoms persist it is best to speak to your doctor to get some medical treatment or alternative solutions.