Do Women Need More Sleep? Debunking the Myths

It’s not clear whether women need more sleep than men. We all need an amount of sleep unique to us to get maximum energy, health, and productivity.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
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Man and woman sleeping side by side

There are many differences between men and women, but is the amount of sleep they need at night one of those differences? You might have seen the headlines saying it’s true. But the science isn’t as clear-cut as that. And, as you’ll soon find out, studies on the matter may not even exist. 

Below, we’ll dive into whether women need more sleep than men, how to find out how much sleep you need, and how you can use the RISE app to get this sleep more easily.

Disclaimer: The scientific literature uses gendered language when talking about women and sleep. We have used the term “women” in this article, but this advice is for anyone who was assigned female at birth. Or, indeed, for anyone interested in this topic!

How Much Sleep Do Women Need?

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

How much sleep women, or anyone, needs is highly individual. This is called your sleep need. It’s determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, and it's different for each and every one of us.

One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need nine hours or more sleep a night.

Your sleep need changes across your lifespan, and there are certain times when you may need more sleep than usual, such as when you’re ill, recovering from intense exercise, or you’re paying back sleep debt. These times can affect anyone, regardless of gender. 

Heads-up: Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. It’s compared against your sleep need, and we measure it over your last 14 nights. 

Keeping your sleep debt low not only gives you more energy each day, it reduces your risk of health problems like obesity and heart disease, and maximizes your focus and mood.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Do Women Need More Sleep Than Men?

You may have seen the headlines saying women need more sleep than men, or come to the conclusion yourself if you struggle to get out of bed as early as your husband, for example. But here’s what science has to say on the matter. 

The Current Research Isn’t Enough  

Research from 2013 found women slept more than men. But, before we end this article early, the sleep you get isn’t the same as the sleep you need

It’s very easy to get less sleep than you need, so this research doesn’t give us much information on whether women actually need more sleep than men — just that they got it.

It’s easy for our bodies to adapt to sleep loss, so we feel fine and think we’re getting enough sleep, but really your performance and energy are much lower than they could be. 

It’s also easy to simply not allocate enough time in bed for sleep. It takes time to fall asleep and we all wake up for short periods during the night. So, eight hours in bed, for example, doesn’t equal eight hours of sleep. 

The 2013 study used data from the American Time Use Surveys from 2003 to 2007, which asks people to track their time over one day. The data found women reported sleeping for about 508 minutes (8.4 hours) a night, while men reported sleeping for 496 minutes (8.2 hours). So, while women slept more, it’s only a difference of 12 minutes. 

The study itself states the gap between men’s and women’s sleep time is “relatively small.” 

But, the research has a few problems beyond the small time difference:

  • Working-age men were found to sleep less than their female counterparts, but this difference was negligible when analyzed across different life stages. 
  • The research is based on self-reported diary data, which can be inaccurate. And the study looks at the time participants went to sleep and got up, not the time they actually spent asleep, which can be very different.
  • The research only looked at people aged 18 to 64, so it’s not clear if girls or older women get or need more sleep than their male counterparts. 
  • Gender attitudes towards sleep may come into play. The study states men may state artificially shorter sleep times, skewing the data.
  • Data was only collected on one day, and sleep duration for both men and women may vary across multiple days. Your sleep times on a working Tuesday may look very different to those on a lazy Sunday. 
  • Participants may underreport napping and sleep disruptions, especially sleep disruptions that don’t involve getting out of bed. Indeed, the study didn’t analyze the latter. 
  • Behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking, taking sleep aids, or other medications and supplements affect your sleep times, and this wasn’t reported in the surveys.
  • Even if women are getting more sleep than men, this extra sleep may just be making up for a lack of sleep recently as they pay back sleep debt. And more sleep doesn’t always mean better sleep overall. This extra time could be spent getting poor sleep that’s interrupted.

Beyond this study, research from 2006 found race comes into play, too. It found white women got an average of 6.7 hours of sleep, white men got 6.1 hours, black women got 5.9 hours, and black men got 5.1 hours. Race and sex differences remained even after socioeconomic, employment, household, lifestyle factors, and sleep apnea risks were taken into account. 

But, again, this is the sleep people got, not what they needed. So we, unfortunately, can’t use this to say whether women need more sleep than men or not. 

Another study, this time from 2021, found women 41 and older reported sleeping less than men. But, when their sleep was measured with a device, it was estimated they slept longer than men of a similar age. Yet again, though, the sleep women — or men — get, isn’t the same as what they need.

The Promising Research We Have…Doesn’t Exist 

Many articles stating that women need more sleep than men reference a study from Loughborough University’s Research Center in the UK. The study is said to have found that women need an extra 20 minutes of shut-eye a night because they use more of their brains than men by multitasking throughout the day.  

There’s just one problem: the study doesn’t exist. According to reporting from The Guardian, researchers at Loughborough University don’t know where these claims come from.

Official Guidelines Say Sleep Need Changes by Age, not Sex 

Guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation say healthy young adults and adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep. Older adults may need the same amount of sleep, but it can be harder to come by.  

There’s no change in recommendation for men and women. The differences are by age group. Teenagers need eight to 10 hours, for example, while newborns need 14 to 17 hours. 

But even then, these guidelines need to be treated as exactly that: guidelines. Sleep guidelines are often based on the amount of sleep people get, not need, and on self-reported data, which research has shown can be inaccurate. 

You should use these guidelines as a rough aim, but find out your unique sleep need to know how much shut-eye you need exactly (more on how to do that soon). 

A 2018 narrative review from the journal Nature and Science of Sleep sums it up well: “Sleep duration recommendations (public health approach) are well suited to provide guidance at the population-level standpoint, while advice at the individual level (eg, in clinic) should be individualized to the reality of each person.”

Women May Value Sleep More, and Therefore Get More of it 

As we’ve said, many studies looking at whether women need more sleep than men compare how much sleep women and men get. 

Women may get more sleep (not the same as needing it, of course) because they value it and their health more. They may be more likely to head to bed earlier to get the shut-eye they need. 

Research shows some men view sleep as an annoyance or a waste of time, and something that shouldn’t get in the way of “having a life.” 

Men may not want to be seen sleeping for so long or going to bed early. The 2013 research we mentioned above highlights this phenomenon. It says: “Gendered attitudes toward sleep lead men to report artificially short sleep times, resulting in estimates of gender differences favoring women that may be too large.” 

The research also found men were less likely to nap than women, meaning their overall sleep times could be shorter.

Sleep Loss May Affect Women More, So They Prioritize Shut-Eye 

As well as potentially valuing sleep more, women may feel sleep deprivation harder, so make more of an effort to avoid it. A 2022 sleep study found women felt more sleepiness during a night when they were asked to stay awake compared to men.

Another 2022 study found better quality sleep in women was linked to better mood, and more intention to pursue status and responsibility at work. This wasn’t seen in men. 

Women Have More Sleep Problems, So Need More Time in Bed  

One thing that’s not up for as much debate? Women experience more sleep problems than men. This leads to them needing more time in bed to get the sleep they need. 

For example, you may have trouble sleeping before or while on your period due to fluctuating estrogen and progesterone hormone levels, PMS, pain, and anxiety. Sleep problems and your period go hand in hand so much that you have a 2.75-fold increased risk of insomnia when you first start menstruation.

Beyond your period, other times of life can cause sleep disorders. You may develop restless leg syndrome during pregnancy, or sleep apnea during menopause. This isn’t even taking into account how hard it can be to find a comfortable sleep position in the later trimesters of pregnancy, get enough sleep with hormonal changes postpartum, or maintain a healthy sleep pattern when you're battling menopause hot flashes and night sweats.

Another reason why women may struggle to meet their sleep need? Women have higher sleep reactivity than men, meaning stress is more likely to affect how well they sleep.

It’s easy for stress to keep anyone up, but women often take on more childcare duties or work for less money than men — both of which can cause stress. One study even found women worry more about their children at night, or anticipate their children needing them at night, and this disrupts their sleep. 

Women were also found to take on more caregiving duties at night, cutting into sleep time. 

And sleep works best when it’s uninterrupted, so you can move through the sleep cycles and get all the light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep you need.

One study found non-restorative sleep is more prevalent in women than men, and women use sleep aids more often, which may be a reason some of them are sleeping more.

Mental health also comes into play. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with medical conditions like depression or an anxiety disorder, both of which can make it hard to sleep. 

All of these problems mean women could be getting less time asleep at night, so they spend more time in bed to make sure they get the sleep they need — or, at least, get as much of it as they can.

Want to tackle some of these common female sleep issues? We have specific advice for: 

Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have a sleep disorder, mental health disorder, or if sleeplessness and daytime sleepiness are getting in the way of your life. 

The Final Verdict? 

In short, we don’t know whether women need more sleep than men, just that sleep differs between the sexes.

More sleep research needs to be done as there simply aren’t enough studies on women’s health. Women’s sleep is so understudied, in fact, that it’s only recently that some funding bodies require both men and women to be included in studies. Previously, women were often excluded as their menstrual cycles complicated matters. 

Our final piece of advice? We don’t know yet whether women need more sleep than men, but we do know we all need a different amount unique to us. Find out how much sleep you need exactly, and work on getting that amount each night to feel and function your best.

How to Find Out How Much Sleep You Need?

RISE app screenshot showing your sleep need to keep sleep debt low
The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need.

How do you know how much sleep you as an individual need? There are two ways to find out. 

The Manual Way 

Try waking up without an alarm clock for a week. Note the time you fall asleep and the time you naturally wake up. By the end of the week, it’s likely you’ll be done paying back any sleep debt and be able to figure out how long your body wants to sleep for. 

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. The manual way of working out your sleep need has a few problems: 

  • Firstly, most of us can’t go a whole week without setting an alarm clock — we’ve got 9 A.M. meetings, kids to get ready for school, or a partner who sets their own alarm clock, interrupting our sleep early. 
  • Secondly, you need to think about sleep efficiency, this is the measure of how long you spend in bed actually sleeping. Being in bed for eight hours doesn’t equal eight hours of sleep. It may take us 20 minutes to fall asleep and we may wake up throughout the night, but working out how long we spend actually sleeping is tricky. Even when you try to take into account sleep efficiency, we all experience retrograde amnesia where we forget the minutes before falling asleep and the sub-10-minute micro-awakenings throughout the night. 
  • And thirdly, you may spend this week sleeping for longer than usual. Maybe you ran a marathon last weekend or you’re recovering from COVID. You may then think you need more sleep than you really do based on sleeping for longer during this week. 

In short, it’s extremely hard to accurately figure out your sleep need the manual way.

The Accurate Way 

You can avoid these issues by turning to technology — the RISE app, in particular. 

RISE works out your individual sleep need using a year’s worth of your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models. 

It calculates your sleep need in hours and minutes, and it works out how much sleep debt you’re carrying — so you know if your body wants to temporarily snooze for longer to catch up on missed sleep.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

How to Get Enough Sleep?

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day.

Once you’ve found out how much sleep you need, it’s time to start getting it. This can be easier said than done. To help, use sleep hygiene. This is the name for the set of daily healthy sleep habits you can do to help you drift off more easily and sleep through the night. 

Even if your sleep is disrupted by a sleep disorder, period pain, or a crying baby, good sleep hygiene will help improve your overall sleep health and stop anything else from getting in the way of a good night’s sleep. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: This will help keep your circadian rhythm, or body clock, in check, helping you feel sleepy and awake at the right times.
  • Get bright light first thing: Light in the morning resets your circadian rhythm for the day. This will help you feel sleepy come bedtime. Aim for at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up, or 15 to 20 minutes if it's overcast or you’re getting light through a window.
  • Avoid light close to bedtime: Bright light can keep you up in the evening. Dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses 90 minutes before bed to stop this from happening. 
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night, but you don’t have to give them up altogether. RISE can tell you when to avoid each one daily.
  • Do a calming bedtime routine: As we explained above, women have higher sleep reactivity, so any anxiety you feel can easily keep you up at night. Do a calming bedtime routine with activities like reading, listening to music, journaling, or yoga. Doing a brain dump can also help, where you write down things that are worrying you or things you have to do. Use RISE’s brain dump feature to get a reminder of everything you write down the next day. 
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary by setting your thermostat to 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, using blackout curtains, and wearing earplugs and an eye mask

To stay on top of everything, RISE can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.

Find Out How Much Sleep You Need 

The jury’s still out on whether women need more sleep than men. We don’t have the research to know.

One thing you can find out for sure is how much sleep you need specifically. The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need, so you have a number to aim for down to the minute. You can then make it easier to get a good night’s sleep each night by following RISE’s reminders for 20+ sleep hygiene habits. 

Whether you need to sleep more or less than the men in your life, meeting your individual sleep need is one of the best ways to maximize your health and well-being, productivity, and energy levels.

Summary FAQs

How much sleep does a woman need?

Each woman, and indeed everyone, needs a different amount of sleep. This is called your sleep need. One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night. The RISE app can calculate your individual sleep need.

Do females require more sleep?

It’s not clear whether females require more sleep. One study found women got about 12 minutes on average more sleep than men, but this is the sleep they got, not the sleep they need. Plus, women experience more sleep problems and disruptions than men, so may be spending more time in bed to make up for this.

How much sleep does a middle-aged woman need?

Each middle-aged woman, and indeed everyone, needs a different amount of sleep. This is called your sleep need. One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night. The RISE app can calculate your individual sleep need.

How much sleep do men need?

Each man, and indeed everyone, needs a different amount of sleep. This is called your sleep need. One study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night. The RISE app can calculate your individual sleep need.

Male vs female sleep

Some research has found women get about 12 minutes on average more sleep than men, but this is the sleep they get, not the sleep they need. Women experience more sleep problems and nighttime disruptions than men, and may value sleep more than men and so make it a priority.

I need more sleep than my partner

You may need more sleep than your partner if your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night, is higher than theirs. The RISE app can calculate your individual sleep need and tells you exactly what you need.

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Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
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