If tossing and turning in bed most nights was a contest on crummy sleep, women win.
A new study comparing poor sleep among more than a million adults and children in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States found women experience more insomnia problems than men in all three countries.
The trend emerges during puberty, “suggesting sex hormones, among other social factors such as stress or parenting,” might contribute to the development of insomnia in women, according to the study published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
Women also use more sleep medications than men, the study found. Yet despite the female struggle to fall asleep and use of sleep aids, women didn’t report more daytime sleepiness.
The results suggest that “recommendations for appropriate sleep duration and quality should be sex-specific,” the study said.
Americans win insomnia prize
Another “booby prize” went to Americans — they were 1.5 to 2.9 times more likely to have insomnia than their counterparts in the UK and the Netherlands.
Across all three nations, insomnia was more frequent in people spending more than nine hours a night in bed and adults 65 years and older. Adults between 26 years and 40 years of age were the least likely to toss and turn trying to fall asleep.
Besides women, smokers, people who are overweight and people of non-European origin were most likely to experiencing poor sleep, the study found.
Other worrisome findings: More than half of kids between the ages of 14 and 17 reported sleeping less than the doctor-recommended eight to 10 hours per night. Teenagers were also most likely to report sleepiness than other age groups. Symptoms of insomnia, such as difficulty falling and staying asleep, increased as children grew.
On the whole, poor sleep quality and insomnia problems were more prevalent than short sleep duration for all three nations.
The study compared sleep studies on 1.1 million people from the US, the UK and the Netherlands. The study was not able to compare sleep quality to health conditions that might affect sleep, such as sleep apnea, substance abuse and other chronic medical conditions.
While some of the research was done in sleep labs using objective measurements, most relied on what people said about their sleep habits and quality. Such research isn’t as robust, the authors said, but the size and scope of the research does give doctors insights into daily functioning.
What to do?
Fight back against insomnia and other sleep issues by adopting some tried-and-true healthy sleep habits.
- Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends
- Exercise regularly to reduce stress and improve sleep. Just walking on a daily basis will help
- Don’t eat fatty or spicy foods close to bedtime that might upset your stomach
- Avoid caffeine — in coffee, tea and sodas — after 3 p.m.