Bad Sleep Is Different for Men and Women

Research finds males and females often experience different sleep patterns and disorders
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2024 8:00 AM CDT
Bad Sleep Is Different for Men and Women
   (Getty / SeventyFour)

Sleep issues differ for men and women, with women more likely to struggle with insomnia and poor sleep quality, while men suffer from sleep apnea more often, according to a new study in Sleep Medicine Reviews. Sleep patterns and disorders don't discriminate by sex, but a few factors are at play here. For one, women's circadian rhythms run faster and start earlier in the day, per the Washington Post, so hormones like cortisol and melatonin (a hormone that prompts sleep) begin secreting sooner. For men, the way their upper airway is built makes them three times more prone to develop sleep apnea, and the study also found their tendency to overeat when tired.

The researchers hope that these insights change how men and women are treated for sleep disorders. "Depending on your gender, should you get a different kind of treatment or a different kind of medication or a different dosage of medication, for example," lead author Renske Lok tells the Post. Historically, women were excluded from sleep studies, as menstrual cycles made it harder to find patterns. "It's been more or less assumed that results found in men translate to women," Lok says, "and we now more and more start to understand that that is not completely true." Health risks associated with sleep deficiency include heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression, according to the NIH.

These risks make the state of slumber in America a bit of a nightmare, according to a new Gallup poll, where 57% of participants said they'd feel better if they got more sleep. A little over a decade ago, 56% said they were catching enough Zs. Dr. Mark S. Aloia, an associate professor and head of sleep and behavioral sciences for Sleep Number, tells Healthline the results were "quite compelling and, honestly, a little scary," adding that they "show a dramatic change from 10 years ago, and the data 10 years ago were already alarming." Per the Post, the NIH estimates that between 50 million to 70 million people have chronic or ongoing sleep disorders. (Younger adults are choosing sleep over late-night partying.)

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