Gender and Sleep Disorders

Updated May 11, 2022

couple in bed

Sleeping Disorders in Men vs. Women

Most of the general population will struggle with poor sleep as a result of a sleep disorder at some point in their lives. Around 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. To learn about some of the most common sleep disorders that people suffer from, check out our page on common sleep disorders. It will also give tips on how to improve sleep health and manage sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders do not affect everyone equally. Men and women suffer from different sleep problems differently. This page will explain the gender differences in some of the more prevalent sleep disorders.

Insomnia More Common in Women

People who struggle with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep, or they wake up and cannot fall back to sleep. Excessive daytime sleepiness also correlates with sleep deprivation as a result of insomnia. There is acute and chronic insomnia, our sleep disorder page above explains the difference. Women are more likely to struggle with insomnia symptoms over their lifespan than men.

According to U of M Health, women are 3 times more likely to have insomnia, The page discusses why women are more susceptible to insomnia.

Hormones

At different times of the month, women will sleep poorly due to the changes in estrogen and progesterone in their menstrual cycle. Hormonal milestones such as pregnancy or menopause will cause alterations to sleep architecture. During menopause, women will spend less time in the REM stage of sleep. The prevalence of insomnia increases as women get older, creating further disruptions to their circadian rhythm.

Mood Disorders

Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. Of course, this will make them more vulnerable to poor sleep duration from insomnia.

Caregiving

Women are more likely to take care of older adults and young adults. Too much time taking care of others can affect sleep time which will affect their well-being. If dealing with a child, make sure you and your partner are taking turns( if possible) taking care of it to make sure you are both getting a good night's sleep.

OSA More Common in Men

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea that occurs when throat muscles relax. This causes your diaphragm and chest to work harder, resulting in disordered breathing. An article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website says that epidemiology has consistently shown that OSA is more common in men than in women.

While the article admits that the topic is poorly understood, sleep research does suggest that it could be a result of the differences in fat distribution, length, and collapsibility of the upper airway, as well as other differences in men.

Another article on WebMD suggests that sleep apnea is simply harder to diagnose in women because the symptoms are different. It also argued that early research into sleep apnea was targeted towards men so the common symptoms were tailored towards men.

Women do not report some of the more typical symptoms such as snoring because they are deemed socially unacceptable. They will report non-specific symptoms such as headache, fatigue, depression, or other symptoms. Sudden weight gain and obesity are also predictors.

Body mass index can also be used but it is mostly for men and does not work for everyone. See a sleep doctor if you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea. One simple fix could be an adjustable base.

Restless Legs Syndrome in Women

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a strong urge to move your legs, generally accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. These may include aches, burning, tingling, or crawling sensations on your legs. Sleepdisorders.net says that women are twice as likely to get it as men.

Difference in Iron

When your iron level decreases, it will lead to poor sleep quality as a result of RLS, women have a lower iron level than men giving them a risk factor for this sleep disorder. For help finding foods with iron, check out our page about food, and vitamins to help you sleep. A healthy intake of iron will help with RLS symptoms.

Health Conditions Linked to RLS

Another reason RLS is more common with women is the health conditions that cause it are more common with women. Women are more likely to have mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and migraines. Medications to treat these health problems are also more likely to provoke RLS. Pregnancy will also affect women's health and will cause RLS.

Conclusion

In general, women will experience more disruption to their sleep patterns than men despite the fact that women have an overall higher sleep efficiency. This page simply discussed some of the most common sex differences in the prevalence of sleep disorders that each gender will face. Women are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression which will lead to a variety of sleep problems. Sleep apnea is reported more often in men but it may not be as uncommon in women because of the difference in symptoms.

If any sleep disorder is causing persistent sleep disturbances and is affecting shift work or other parts of your daily life, consult a sleep doctor immediately. They may be able to provide sleep medicine or other types of interventions to help provide you with better sleep and improve your quality of life.

About the Author Steven Bieber

Steven is a content writer who recently broke into the mattress industry. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and listening to music.


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