Adequate sleep each night is critical for your health. It keeps your mind sharp, heart healthy, reduces stress and even helps you lose weight. However, many individuals are not getting enough of it. Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should sleep a minimum of seven hours each night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three adults aren’t meeting that goal.

Women Need More Sleep Than Men

Women tend to multitask and use more of their brains than men. Because of the hard work their brains do on a daily basis, women are in drastic need of sleep to recover and restore. A leading sleep expert in Britain, Jim Horne, states that because women have complex and active brains, they need, on average, 20 minutes more sleep than men each night. However, even though women need more sleep, it doesn’t mean they are getting it.

Why Do Men Sleep Better Than Women?

A study at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, Canada discovered that women have different sleep patterns than men and that their menstrual cycles affect their sleep. The research team looked at 15 men and 11 women. During the study, they looked at the women in two phases of their menstrual cycle and considered how their cycle and any hormonal contraceptives affected their sleep.

The brain has both circadian and ultradian rhythms that control your waking and sleeping behaviors. Researchers focused on the subjects’ ultradian rhythms throughout this study. The ultradian rhythm is a cycle that is present while you are both sleeping and awake. It affects your body temperature, breathing and sleeping behavior. The team oversaw 36 of these cycles and found that women do not fall asleep as quickly as men due to their rhythm cycle.

Furthermore, additional studies have found that women’s hormones affect their sleep behavior – as their hormones fluctuate, their sleep behaviors can drastically change. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, seven in 10 women say their sleep patterns change around three to six days before their period. This is because at this point in the menstrual cycle, their bodies experience a drop in progesterone, which affects body temperature and in turn influences sleep rhythm.

Women in perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause also experiences changes in their sleep cycles. In perimenopause, similar to during a menstrual cycle, the body produces less progesterone and estrogen, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. During menopause, the female body undergoes wide fluctuations and drops in hormones, making both falling asleep and staying asleep difficult. After menopause, hormone levels may still be off balance, which can contribute to poor sleep. In addition, pregnancy causes extreme hormone shifts, which can also contribute to a woman’s poor sleep quality when carrying a baby.

What Can Women Do to Get More Sleep?

Hormones are extremely difficult to control. Luckily, there are a few things you can do each day to help your body relax so you can get the proper amount of sleep each night.

Just 10 minutes of physical activity can drastically improve sleep quality. Exercise reduces stress and helps with emotional stability. When you are stressed, it is difficult for your body to fall into a deep, restful sleep, which makes you more prone to waking up throughout the night. Exercise can also reset your sleep cycle, triggering sleepiness several hours after a workout.

Spend Time Outdoors
Light influences our internal clocks and lets our bodies know when it’s the proper time to fall asleep. When you stay in the sunlight throughout the day, your body stays awake and alert and is more prepared for sleep when the sun sets.

Stick to a Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help your body fall asleep and stay asleep. When you stick to a schedule, your body learns when it’s time to sleep and wake up. However, you must adhere to your schedule, even on the weekends, to reap its full benefits.

Talk to a Professional
If the above tips don’t help you sleep, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be additional problems contributing to your erratic sleep, including anxiety or depression. You may even need medication to get your sleep cycle back on track. A professional may also be able to help with any hormonal problems that keep you from getting a good night’s rest.

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