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It is important to know that 75 percent of sleep research has been conducted on men. Therefore, female-specific research is often lacking. Yet, sleep complaints by women are double that of men.
Findings from studies based primarily in men are often considered to be representative of "normal" even when it is recognized that there are important sleep-related physiological differences in women and men.
While many female-specific sleep studies still need to be done, here is what we do know when it comes to women and sleep (or lack thereof).
- Body temperature, mood, and emotional state during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause have definite effects on sleep quality, daytime functioning, and well-being in adolescent girls and adult women.
- According to a 2002 National Sleep Foundation poll, more women than men experience symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week (63 percent of women as opposed to 54 percent of men).
- Sleep apnea (snoring, interrupted breathing during sleep, daytime sleepiness) is more prevalent in men. However, it increases in women over the age of 50. Experts think this has something to do with extra weight in women this age.
- Studies show that more than 66 percent of those with Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED) are women. This disorder is an uncommon condition that involves eating food during the night while sleeping. It can be caused by medications (drugs prescribed for depression or insomnia) or by sleep disorders (for example, sleep apnea or Restless Legs Syndrome) that cause awakenings and trigger sleep eating.