woman waking up refreshedWhen was the last time that you had a “good night’s sleep”? The average American adult requires between 7 – 9 hours of sleep per day, but it is rare that you will actually talk to someone who is getting that much. The causes of sleep loss fall under two major categories: lifestyle and occupation. Are you working long hours or overtime? Do you have jet lag from travel? Do you have a sleep disorder? All of these factors can influence your sleep schedule.
The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) included the following question in the 1977, 1985, 1990 and 2004 cycles: “On average how many hours of sleep do you get a night (24-hour period)?”
Over the last 20 years, the percentage of men and women who sleep less than 6 hours per night has increased significantly. More than 35 years ago, adults reported sleeping 7.7 hours per night. The increase in sleep loss is driven largely by societal changes, including greater reliance on longer work hours and easier access to the Internet and television.

The more of your brain that you use during the day, the more of it that needs to recover and, consequently, the more sleep you need. As we know, women tend to multi-task and always try to do 10 things at once. Because of that, their sleep need is greater. Similarly, a man with a complex job involving a lot of decision-making may also need more sleep than the average male (although probably still not as much as a woman).
On average, women sleep about 20 minutes more per night than men. Over the course of a year, that equates to women sleeping an additional 5 full days.
There are also differences in how we sleep as we age. Teenagers need between 8 – 10 hours for optimal functionality (National Sleep Foundation). Typically, we get the least amount of sleep when we are middle-aged, when we are focused on our careers, traveling and caring for our families. As we age and start heading towards retirement, the gap between women and men gradually lessens and quantity of sleep increases. The question becomes: do women need more sleep than men?

In the United States, teens get the most sleep on average, although far less than the NSF recommends. In eastern countries like Japan and China, this trend is reversed.
In addition to societal reasons that women tend to sleep more than men, there are biological reasons as well. Some research has explored the possibility that women need more sleep to recuperate before/after childbirth. Women expend more mental energy than men. Core body temperatures are different between women and men. Melatonin rhythms are different. Nighttime alertness is also higher among women.
Sleep disorders affect men and women differently, both in prevalence and in presentation of symptoms. There are a countless number of symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Women have a 40-percent higher risk than men for insomnia, whereas men are twice as likely to develop Obstructive Sleep Apnea. When a person sleeps less than 7 hours per night, there is a dose-response relationship between sleep loss and obesity: the shorter the sleep, the greater the obesity, as typically measured by body mass index (BMI). According to the CDC, the average 30 – 39 year old male has a BMI of 29, just one point below the medical definition of obese.
Women seem to be more affected by sleep deprivation than men. Women have a higher incidence of depression, and increased hostility/anger with lack of sleep.

Even though OSA is more prevalent in men than women, many women still suffer from OSA. If you think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), please contact Dr. Klein’s office to schedule a consultation. At Michigan Head & Neck Institute, we exclusively offer treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea that consists of creating a custom-fit oral appliance (mouthpiece) which is comfortable and can be adjusted to meet the requirements of each patient.

Colten HR, Altevogt BM. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.
Jawbone Magazine – 10/21/15
Who Gets More Sleep: Men or Women?
By Jason Donahue & Brian Wilt
New York Magazine – 9/13/16
Going to Bed Earlier Is the Key to Toppling the Patriarchy
By Susan Rinkunas
Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/
National Sleep Foundation Website
Diane B. Boivin, Ari Shechter, Philippe Boudreau, Esmot Ara Begum, Ng Mien Kwong, Ng Ying-Kin. Diurnal and Circadian Variation of Sleep and Alertness in Men vs. Naturally Cycling Women. PNAS 2016 113 (39) 10980-10985.
Center for Disease Control Website