Sleep study finds more women than men struggle to fall asleep in Europe and the US

If tossing and turning in bed most nights was a contest on crummy sleep, women win.



a woman sitting in a chair talking on a cell phone: More women than men suffer from insomnia in the US, the UK and the Netherlands, new research has found.


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More women than men suffer from insomnia in the US, the UK and the Netherlands, new research has found.

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.
  • Avoid
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Are Women More Likely To Fall Asleep After Sex Than Men? Evolutionary Psychology Weighs In

Evolutionary psychology is known for its unique and sometimes controversial view of human behavior. Why do men prefer symmetrical facial features in women? An evolutionary psychologist might say it’s because it signals ‘high reproductive potential.’ Why is it that middle-aged women have the stereotype of being more sexually interested than younger women? Evolutionary psychology suggests that increases in sexual interest should coincide with decreases in fertility.

New research tackles another mind-bending evolutionary phenomenon: why women are more likely to fall asleep after sex than men. The answer? Because it increases the chances of conception, at least according to a new paper published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

“The phrase ‘sex is nature’s sleeping pill’ is often used to capture the idea that sexual intercourse may have sedative properties, but there has not been much research on this effect,” state the authors of the paper, led by Gordon Gallup of University at Albany, State University of New York. “We found that women were more likely than men to report falling asleep after sexual intercourse and that post-copulatory somnolence was enhanced by orgasm in both women and men.”

While this finding may seem counterintuitive, here’s a step-by-step overview of the rationale behind it:

  1. Humans evolved an upright posture and bipedal movement as a means to navigate their environment in an optimal way.
  2. One of the downsides of an upright posture is that it puts the female reproductive system at a perpendicular orientation with respect to gravity.
  3. This is not ideal for retaining sperm and, by extension, maximizing the chances of conception during sex.
  4. To overcome this problem, evolutionary psychologists point out that “missionary position” has become a cross-cultural universal.
  5. But they argue there is another mechanism through which evolution has stacked the deck in favor of conception: by imbuing seminal fluid with sedative-like properties. This encourages women to remain lying down after sex, which allows more sperm to be retained in the female reproductive tract and further increases the chances of conception.

To test their reasoning, the researchers recruited 316 undergraduate students from the University at Albany to take part in a short survey on sexual routines. They excluded individuals who indicated a bisexual or homosexual preference or who reported no prior sexual experience. They also excluded participants who indicated having more sex during the day than at night given that the purpose of the study was to understand post-coital sleep routines. This resulted in a final sample of 128 women and 98 men.

Participants were asked to fill out a survey consisting of three sections: contraceptive use and relationship status, masturbatory behavior, and sexual intercourse history. Critical to their investigation were participants’ responses to the following three questions:

  1. Who typically falls asleep after penile–vaginal sex sooner, you or your partner?
  2. How often do you fall asleep after experiencing an orgasm during penile–vaginal sex?
  3. How often do you fall asleep after penile– vaginal
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