Both common and scientific evidence point to an affirmative answer.
In the battle of the sexes there definitely are physiological characteristics that explain and determine how some of our experiences and conditions are not quite the same. And yes, it’s no different when it comes to sleep!
It is widely proven that there are differences between men and women when it comes to our brain activity, which even extends to how our neurons communicate.
While men concentrate their cerebral activity mainly in one of the two hemispheres; women have multiple connections between both hemispheres – with proven consequences. When it comes to articulating emotional and analytical issues, women have greater agility – and because of this, they tend to have more developed social skills. On the other hand, their male counterparts, have a keener propensity to develop much more activity in brain areas associated with the muscle: think of spatial and depth perception.
The study of natal-sex differences, specifically between brains, has conjured many scientific papers and research that demonstrate the differences in functional organization. And all findings point to the same conclusion: there are unequivocal differences between ‘X’ and ‘Y’ brains.
So if there are differences between the sexes, then it is easier to understand that there are differences when it comes to the time it takes our brains to recover after a long day. If women are better equipped to multi-task due to the aforementioned dual-hemisphere connections – it’s even easier to see that they also may need more time to recover.
In the United States of America, The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of full sleep for adults between 24 and 64. In one of its studies, with 1506 test subjects, around 30% of women stated that they slept an average of 8 hours, which was 20-30 minutes longer than the men in the same study.
But why is this so?
It could be that daily tasks such as work, family, friends, house, etc. – may make it harder for women to ‘unplug’ and ‘turn off’ when it’s time to hit the pillow. This is also the main reason why statistics show that women tend to have twice as many insomnia-related issues as men do.
One of Europe’s foremost authorities on sleep, Teresa Paiva, is quite definitive in stating that “We need to understand that Sleep is different in men and women”.
To that effect, in 2018, at the “Lisbon Sleep Summit – Sleep in Women” she gathered a large number of multidisciplinary experts, from all over the world, who tried for three days to deepen the knowledge and analysis of all biological, psychological and social aspects of Sleep in women.
Women tend to sleep deeper and longer than men, as they fall asleep quicker (9,3 minutes), while men will on average have a harder// time catching their zzz’s (23,2 minutes).
And while women also tend to wake up less than men during the night (new mothers are the exception), women also have more nightmares and their glucose metabolism remains quite high in some regions of the brain. Note: they don’t “switch off”!
Moreover, let’s discuss hormones. Women suffer hormonal changes which can alter sleep patterns, and it is also noted that different hormones alter women at different stages. Sleep for a pregnant woman will not be the same as in a menopausal woman – due to lowered estrogen levels during menopause which can cause interrupted, broken sleep, and shorter REM sleep time which can lead to feeling sleepy during the day, anxiety, migraines, memory loss, irascibility and even depression.
Let us not forget pesky snoring!
Snoring (particularly chronic snoring) is a respiratory issue with various causes and different degrees of risk. affects 55% to 65% of all men and nearly 30% to 40% of all women. When air passage through the upper airways becomes difficult a snoring sound is created, and when airflow is weak or not present at all , obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is present.
Besides being an annoyance for sleep partners, snoring can lead to feeling sleepy and tired throughout the day, but can also lead to hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes, mood disruptions, amongst other health and psychological issues.
In short, it is clear that our natal-sexes play a role; however, it’s quite evident that the risks and consequences of not enjoying a good night’s sleep are the same for both men and women.
It is essential to create an environment in the bedroom that is tailored to the best sleep conditions: quiet, clean, with the best air flow and air quality possible, at the right temperature and in a comfortable bed.
Sleep is an important part of our health and wellbeing. It should be an integral investment in intellectual, emotional and physical investment. It is when our essential cognitive functions such as, our memory, learning, creativity, emotional balance and physical recovery are replenished and restored. Sleep is our equilibrium.
So if you’re physically active or mentally explorative, sleep is a highly active state that will prepare you for the next day.
No matter what chromosomes you were born with!