WOMEN AND SLEEP: Parting shots… Who has more sleep problems, men or women?

It may appear that, because the majority of patients that have overnight sleep studies are male, that the majority of all people who have sleep disorders are male.

For certain sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), men are still more likely to suffer than women (until women reach past the age of menopause, and then men and women share an equal likelihood of having OSA). REM Behavior Disorder (RBD) is still considered mostly a men’s sleep disorder, though women can also suffer from it, as well.

It might make sense to assume than women in general don’t have as many sleep disorders as men; women are clinically shown to sleep better than men when they actually achieve sleep. “In general, women sleep better than men… They have more deep sleep, a slower age-related decline in delta activity (the marker of deep sleep), and twice as many sleep spindles “(Culebras/MedMerits).

But the statistics bear out a different reality. The National Sleep Foundation reported in 2007 that only 40% of all women sleep well most every night, with 46% of them complaining of sleep trouble almost nightly. Due to the changing nature of their hormones from adolescence to menopause, many may suffer other sleep disorders at a higher rate than men as a result. For instance:

National Sleep Foundation: “Women are more likely than men to report insomnia. In fact, according to the 2002 NSF Sleep in America poll, more women than men experience symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week (63% vs. 54%) and they are more likely to have daytime sleepiness.”

PsychCentral: “Unknown to many is the fact that sleep disorders are more widely reported in women than men with women 1.4 times more likely to experience insomnia than men.”

WebMD: “According to  Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health., women suffer from insomnia at two to three times the rate that men do.”

MedMerits: “Women are more resistant to high-altitude periodic breathing than men.”

National Sleep Foundation on the subject of Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED): “One study indicates that over 66 percent of sufferers are women.”

MedMerits of the subject of Restless legs syndrome: “Restless legs syndrome affects 5% to 10% of the general population, increases with age, and is more prevalent in women (Berger et al 2004; Allen et al 2005). … Restless legs syndrome is more common in older women than in older men and appears with relative frequency during pregnancy. Restless legs syndrome affects one third of pregnant women during their third trimester and usually improves after delivery (Neau et al 2010).”

National Sleep Foundation on the subject of pain and sleep: “More women (58%) suffer from nighttime pain than men (48%), according to a 1996 NSF Gallup Poll. In a more recent 2000 NSF Sleep in America poll, one in four women reported that pain or physical discomfort interrupted their sleep three nights a week or more.”

Still unconvinced? For further reading, you can check out the following articles online:

“He Slept, She Slept: Sex Differences in Sleep: How sleep differs between men and women,” an interesting discussion about the ways in which sleep health varies between genders at WebMD

“Sleep disorders in women.” Antonio Culebras MD, located here at the MedMerits site

About Tamara Kaye Sellman (621 Articles)

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