Why women get less sleep than men

Women are 20% more likely to have a sleeping disorder, require more sleep than their male counterparts to stay healthy and are 45% more likely to get a chronic disease if they become sleep deprived.

Whilst sleep promises us beauty, youthful exuberance and calm, it is the first thing we lose grip on when facing any major feminine transition. (Even though we know women need more sleep than men!)


Once born into this world, a girl’s greatest challenge is usually switching off. Programmed for multi-tasking and using more of her brain more often than her boy peers, girls battle to switch off at night… taking longer to fall asleep and finding it more difficult to stay asleep.


The rise and fall of progesterone and estrogen unleashes mood swings, food cravings and the menstrual cycle on teenage girls. Teenage girls must survive a week every month where sleep is broken as a result of their fluctuating hormones.


And then enters a loving partner. Coupling up is wonderful. Yes, there are cuddles and post-coital endorphin releases, but these are sporadic. What’s more reliable is sleep disruption every night from their breathing ‘noises’, tossing and turning and blanket-stealing.

You may find your way around partner disturbance by buying a super-large mattress from the Sealy Pocket Coil range, using earplugs and placing cushions between you and your loved one to prevent their appendages from waking you. (For more tips, read our article: How to sleep well with your partner in the same bed.)


But then pregnancy finds you. From the first trimester you are hit with nausea, the need to pee, pee, pee, leg cramps that attack only at night and of course a heavy, preggy belly that causes back pain. Oh and there is an actual, growing human being pounding away at your insides. You wait it out- certain that post-pregnancy there will be great relief for you as you get your body back to yourself.


Enter the babies, and they laugh at your idea of ever sleeping through again. They ask for feeds, loves, burps, nappy changes and shout ‘Mommy, I need you!’ Why don’t they shout for ‘him’ you wonder at 2am or 4am as you see their father sleeping peacefully totally unaware of the night time shenanigans?

And yes they grow. But feeds give way to wet beds and nightmares, which give way to feuds with friends and school projects left too late and sleepovers and driving at night and well, just as they are leaving the nest….


Just when you accept that your kids are big enough to worry about themselves, sleep alludes you again. The whirlwind change in hormones brings with it hot flashes that force you to change your pyjamas and bedding every couple of hours. (Click here for menopause sleep tips.)

Sleep – you are for us women an alluring, but evasive, bedfellow.

Written by Roxanne Atkinson

Women need more sleep than men

FACT: Women need about 20 minutes more sleep than the average man. And that’s because they’re such great multi-taskers.

According to recent research, these are the striking differences between how men and women sleep:

1. Women need more sleep than men… about 20 minutes more per night.
The researchers attributed this to the way in which women used their brains. Women used their brains more strenuously or ‘flexibly’ as they completed tasks concurrently. Men that had jobs that required ‘mental exertion’ and decision–making required more sleep than other men, but interestingly, not as much as women.

2. Women fare worse after even one day of sleep deprivation.
Clinical Psychologist Michael Breus, sleep expert at Duke University explains: “We found that women had more depression, women had more anger, and women had more hostility early in the morning.”

3. Chronically sleep-deprived women develop life-threatening diseases.
Dr Edward Suarez wanted to find out why women who suffered from sleep deprivation were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer than men. He attributed the difference to sex hormones and how they impact sleep.

• Testosterone acts as an anti-inflammatory and counteracts the negative effect of stress and sleep-deprivation. Women with higher levels of testosterone will cope better with lack of sleep.
• Women are hit with hormone surges and dips throughout their lives. From puberty, through pregnancy and into menopause a woman’s changing body can negatively impact sleep quality. Men have more stable hormone levels and thus less interference with their sleep.

Bottom line- Everyone needs good sleep, but women need it that much more.

Tips for getting better sleep if you share a bed with a partner:

  • Investigate mattresses that have springs which are independently cased. This eliminates movement across the entire bed, so when your partner moves you don’t have to move too! The Sealy Pocket Coil range is ideal if you’re looking for less partner disturbance.
  • Make sure your bed is big enough. Did you know that if you’re sharing a double bed, you have less space than you did when you were a child in a single bed? Visit our website today to start shopping for a new bed: www.sealy.co.za