by Sara Westgreen
Sleep is different for men and women
Sleep needs, circadian rhythms, and performing well on sleep deprivation are not the same among men and women. Learn about the unique needs men have for sleeping well.
Women tend to fall asleep earlier than men. That’s because in women, circadian rhythms run earlier than men. And women have shorter circadian cycles than men, with some women running internal clocks with a full cycle under 24 hours. Women naturally need to go to sleep earlier than men, and men may have trouble falling asleep earlier. Men tend to have an easier time sleeping in, assuming they have time to do so.
Overall, men tend to sleep less than women. A study of gendered sleep time found that women get 507.6 minutes of sleep per day compared to 496.4 minutes of sleep for men. However, women are more likely to report interrupted sleep. Men are less likely to nap than women and more likely to go to bed after midnight.
Men can handle sleep deprivation better than women. Although both men and women need adequate sleep each night, women struggle more when sleep deprived, experiencing more difficulties with depression and irritability when they’re short on sleep than men do. However, both men and women experience a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions when sleep deprived.
Men are also less likely to suffer from sleep disorders. Typically, women are more likely than men to experience sleep disorders that result in daytime sleepiness. But male snoring can be severe — severe enough to force bed partners to sleep in a different room.
What men need for a good nights sleep
As men and women sleep differently, men have different needs for getting healthy sleep. Use these tips that can be helpful for men who need better sleep.
- Set a later wake up time. Women have an earlier circadian rhythm than men and will start to feel sleepy and need to go to bed earlier than men. With a later bedtime, men also need a later wake time to get sufficient sleep each night.
- Get more time to sleep. Although men can handle sleep deprivation better than women, that’s not to say they should. Men tend to sleep less than women, possibly due to their later bedtime. But the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep each night to get enough rest and maintain good health.
- Be consistent with sleep. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each night and day can help you stay on schedule and sleep better. It’s a good idea to sleep and wake up within about an hour of your usual time each night and day, even on weekends and on vacation.
- Go through a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids, they’re for everyone. A bedtime routine signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep once you start going through the motions of getting to bed. It can be simple, such as dimming the lights, putting away electronics, and putting on pajamas.
- Avoid sleep pitfalls. Men may go to sleep later, but it’s not a good idea to push your bedtime further than it should be. Screen time, caffeine, even exercise and late night snacks can interfere with getting to bed on time. Avoid screen exposure at least one hour before bed and don’t drink coffee after 3 p.m. Make late night snacks light, and finish exercising at least three hours before bed. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, consider using a natural sleep aid.
- Make your bedroom dark and quiet. Men need deep sleep, which means avoiding sleep interruptions. Darkness and quiet can help you stay asleep so you can get the deep sleep you need for a restful night.
Men and women may sleep differently, but everyone needs a good night of sleep to feel well and be healthy. Make sleep a priority and cater to your unique sleep needs.
About the author
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for a sleep science hub. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.