The science behind the biological and social reasoning
When I sleep with my partner, I've noticed differences in our sleeping patterns. I go to bed earlier, and I wake up earlier, full of energy. While I'm already up, preparing breakfast in the kitchen, he's still sleeping and wakes up grumpy. I cannot remember one night when he fell asleep before me.
I was wondering if this sleeping pattern was true for other couples. Do men and women sleep differently, or was it just in my relationship?
In my research, I found that women sleep very differently due to their biological differences––our hormones and internal clock. But physical differences aren't the only thing that affects sleep. Societal differences also play a role in how men and women sleep differently. Women have evolved to be better and deeper sleepers than men out of necessity.
It is said that we, women, are better sleepers than men, and here is why.
#1: The biological clock
Studies show that women have better quality sleep than men. It means that we:
Fall asleep faster;
Have better sleep efficiency (time spent asleep in bed);
Sleep deeper than men.
The studies show that women report feeling tired earlier in the evening than men. And, we also tend to wake up earlier than men. In combination, we fall asleep quicker and get up earlier. It means we spend less time in bed but spend more of it sleeping. And that's very true for me.
One reason that explains this fact could be the biological clock. Men and women function on a 24-hour body clock, but the female cycle is slightly shorter than males. This is one reason why women generally fall asleep faster than men at night because we are functioning on a slightly shorter body schedule.
#2: Women need more sleep
Women tend to live busier lives than men––we often take on more of the unpaid labor for society, including domestic and family chores. We also tend to keep up with larger social spheres. This, in turn, requires more brain recovery during sleep. While we sleep, the brain clears away toxins and restores balance. More sleep is necessary for women due to the complex brain work we do during the day.
Women are multi-taskers, taking on many different projects at once. Our brains are a web of information and processes. Meaning we need more time to recover overnight. It isn't only true of only women, however. There is evidence that men with high-level decision-making jobs also require more sleep to recover.
Sleep is essential to women’s health, so good sleep habits are a must. Get over 7 hours of sleep a night, stick to a night-time routine, and invest in a quality mattress.
#3: Women sleep differently over their lifetime
Women sleep differently throughout their lives even if we still report objectively better sleep than men.
So what changes?
Hormones make a big difference in our sleep. Bodily changes such as menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy affect our sleep quality.
When women are menstruating, we sleep differently due to cramps, headaches, and body aches. It's also harder to sleep during the third trimester of pregnancy or while going through menopause because of the hot flashes.
Despite all of these hormone changes, our bodies know how to adapt to changes. So we're still objectively better sleepers than men throughout a lifetime.
So, what does sleep look like in your bedroom? Are you a better sleeper than your partner, or are you both good sleepers? If you both struggle to sleep well, I'd recommend a good quality mattress. It is an essential element to sleeping well.