How Much Sleep Do Women (and Girls) Need?
By Paul Rothbart
Everyone wants to be healthy. Unfortunately, good health is not something you should take for granted, especially as you get older. One vital key to good health that many people neglect is getting enough sleep. Life is pretty hectic for many with work, daily chores, and family taking up a lot of time. In order to have more hours to accomplish these things, people often cut back on sleep.
The number of hours of sleep a person needs depends upon their age and gender. There is a difference between men and women in how much sleep is necessary. In general, women need more sleep than men for several reasons. Many women also experience trouble sleeping, which reduces the number of hours of good sleep. Poor sleep is nearly as bad as no sleep.
Reasons Women Need More Sleep
Although authorities have differing opinions, many agree that women require more sleep than men. One of the main reasons for this is that women are 40 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Many frequently have trouble falling or staying asleep, and as a result, feel tired all day. Women are also twice as likely to suffer anxiety and depression, two mental health issues that have been linked to poor sleep and sleep disorders.
A woman’s monthly hormonal changes can also have a negative impact on her sleep. A person’s sleep cycle is largely controlled by hormones. Women experience cramps, bloating, and headaches during menstruation. For 33 percent of them, this leads to poor sleep, fatigue, and feeling sleepy during the day. Hormonal changes can affect circadian rhythm and impact sleep.
Pregnancy is another part of women’s lives in which their bodies undergo large hormonal changes. Depression, pain, an inability to find a comfortable position, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome are common obstructions to quality sleep for the mother-to-be. This sleep disruption can continue postpartum as 2 a.m. feedings and other aspects of caring for a newborn prevent a full night’s sleep.
Menopause is yet another time in the lives of women when their bodies are experiencing severe hormonal changes. Hot flashes afflict 85 percent of menopausal women and tend to wake them up in a sweat. It is then difficult to get back to sleep. Sleep apnea also tends to be more common when women hit menopause. This is a disorder in which the person stops breathing temporarily throughout the night. It can cause the sufferer to awaken in the morning feeling tired. The fatigue can last all day.
So, how much sleep do women need? The amount varies by age and stage of life.
Hours of Sleep for Girls
There isn’t a difference between the amount of sleep girls and boys need from infancy to pre-adolescence. The major hormonal differences between the genders are not that pronounced yet. The amount of sleep that girls need changes as they age.
- 0-3 months - Newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep a day. This includes naps.
- 4-12 months - Older infants require 12-16 hours, again, including naps.
- 1-2 years - Toddlers need 11-14 hours, and should also be taking naps.
- 3-5 years - Preschoolers need 10-13 hours, and this includes naps.
- 6-13 years - School-age children need 9-12 hours, but no longer require naps.
Teenage girls need 8-10 hours of good sleep every night. This is the same as their male counterparts. Adolescence is a time of major hormonal change for both genders. In addition to their growing and developing bodies, adolescent girls begin menstruating, which can have the same effects on them that it does on grown women. Talk to your teen about how she is sleeping, especially if she seems tired during the day.
Hours of Sleep for Young Women
Studies have shown that on average, adult women need 20 minutes more sleep per night than men. The recommended amount of sleep for adults from 18-25 is 7-9 hours a night. The extra 20 minutes will put women at the higher end of this range.
Hours of Sleep for Women 26-40
As women move toward middle age, the recommended amount of sleep for them remains at 7-9 per night, again keeping in mind the extra 20 minutes. Women should be mindful of potential sleep problems that may occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or postpartum. If they are experiencing trouble sleeping, they should take steps to remedy the problem and even discuss it with their doctor.
Hours of Sleep for Women 40 to 64
For women in middle age through the beginnings of senior citizenship, the amount of sleep remains at 7-9 hours per night. Once a woman reaches menopause, she should be aware of any sleep problems that occur due to these hormonal changes and do what is needed to solve them, including consulting her physician.
Hour of Sleep for Women Over 64
You may have heard that seniors require less sleep than younger people. For the most part, this is true but a solid 7-8 hours is still recommended. Just as with any age, the quality of sleep is paramount. By the time she reaches 64, a woman is generally past menopause and doesn’t have to deal with pregnancy or menstruation. Nevertheless, the quality of her sleep should always be monitored as it is every bit as important to the health of a senior citizen as to younger adults.
Getting Consistently Good Sleep
Now that you know how many hours of shut-eye you need every night, you need tips to help you fall asleep and stay asleep so that you get the proper amount consistently.
Have a Routine
When you have a routine for anything, your body knows when it’s time to do something. Preparing for bed the same way every night will signal your body that it’s time to sleep and will be helpful. This starts by going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and every morning. This will train your body and mind to be ready to drop off when you go to bed.
Warm Bath or Shower
Taking a warm bath or shower about 30 minutes before going to bed can soothe and relax your body. Another benefit is that the water will cause your body temperature to rise and then cool down when the water evaporates. This is ideal for sleep. Studies show that people who take a warm bath or shower tend to move around less during the first half of their sleep. Women going through menopause should keep the temperature of the water just lukewarm because it might trigger a hot flash otherwise.
Proper Sleep Space
Your sleep environment is essential to quality sleep. Keep your bedroom cool as the body temperature naturally drops during sleep. Wear lightweight, breathable sleepwear, and use just enough blankets for comfort. Menopausal women may want to consider wearing layers as they can take one off should a hot flash occur.
No Electronics in Bed
Many people like to watch TV or look at their phones or tablets in bed. This is a mistake. Electronic screens give off a blue light that can confuse the brain into thinking it's daytime, making it difficult to fall asleep. If you like to read before sleep and use a device, make sure it has a setting to turn off the blue light. If you do use an electronic device, it should be a white noise machine that facilitates the sleeping process.
Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, or Nicotine Before Bed
A single cup of coffee consumed within six hours of bedtime can interfere with sleep. Likewise, an alcoholic beverage or cigarette within two hours can also make it hard to fall and stay asleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine within these timeframes to improve the quality of your sleep.
Good sleep is important for everyone. Because of the hormonal changes that occur at various points in their lifetimes, women need a bit more sleep than men do. Adopt a regular routine and get the amount of recommended sleep consistently to ensure good health and a longer life.
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