New Poll Shows Women Are Much More Sensitive to Sleep Temperature Than Men

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Couples biggest sleep complaints

Many a marriage joke has emerged from the tug-of-war over a home’s thermostat setting.  A recent Gallup poll survey says women grumble about being too cold or hot while they sleep much more than men.

Eighteen percent of women reported feeling too hot when trying to sleep “most of the time” compared to ten percent of men. The gap was a little smaller between men and women who reported being too cold for sleep. But these results suggest temperature disrupts sleep for women more than men.

“There could be several reasons for this,” Dr. Chester Wu, MD, sleep medicine physician in Houston, TX tells Sleepopolis, including hormonal changes, pregnancy, insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Let’s have a look at what the experts say about women, men, and sleep.

Why Do You Get Hot or Cold During Sleep?

People born female have opposing elements trying to run the show. In general, women are smaller, and can’t hold heat as well. Group that with a slower metabolism and fluctuating hormones, and women can feel freezing cold one minute, and boiling the next.

Women Have a Slower Metabolism

Women have slower metabolisms than men, and so can have a harder time creating heat when they need to. One study found women start shivering at a much higher temperature than men under the same conditions. 

You Can Blame Your Hormones… Again

The fight over your thermostat also takes place at a microscopic level: between estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen cools you down, while progesterone tries to heat you up.

“Body temperature tends to increase after ovulation and remain elevated until the start of the next menstrual cycle. This could make women more likely to feel hot during sleep,” says Wu, who adds menopause can also cause hot flashes when you’re trying to snooze.

Other Gender-Based Sleep Differences

Temperature doesn’t make up the only disparity between male and female sleep quantity, quality, or needs.

Women May Need More Sleep than Men

Some research suggests women sleep more than men, but Wu explains these results are inconclusive. “What we do know from research so far is that women — for the many reasons described [here] — may very well need more time in bed to get enough sleep,” Wu says.

One theory claims women are at higher risk for problems with their circadian rhythm: an internal clock that tells your body when it’s time to wake up and time to sleep. If a woman’s circadian rhythm gets out of sync, their sleep can suffer. 

Pregnancy Can Keep You Up

The first and third pregnancy trimesters come with plenty of joy and excitement, but also an abundance of sleep interruptions. Nausea, all-night-peeing, anxiety, and discomfort can keep you up, wake you up, and generally steal a lot of snoozing.

Sleep Apnea May Grow More Common in Menopause

As menopause approaches, female hormones start to dip. Overall, sleep apnea is more common in men, Wu says. But a recent study found that dropping estrogen and progesterone levels correlated to a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can wake you throughout the night to gasp for breath, disrupting sleep.

Women Are at Higher Risk for Mental Health

In another poll managed by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), women were found to be at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions can both arise from and cause sleep disruption.

“Women are more likely to have their sleep affected by stress and anxiety…,” Wu says. “This can lead to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.”

Sleep Stages Differ

Women spend longer than men in slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest sleep stage. This stage of sleep allows your body to repair tissues, form new bone, build muscle, and enhance your immune system. 

Restless Leg Syndrome Is More Common In Women

Restless leg syndrome causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. This condition is more common in women, says Wu, and “It can disrupt sleep and lead to daytime fatigue.”

Insomnia Hits Women Harder

“Women are more likely to experience insomnia than men,” says Wu. “This could be due to hormonal changes, stress, or mood disorders, which are more common in women.”

How to Get Better Sleep

No matter what sleep hurdles you must jump, you can take steps to get yourself a better night’s rest. If you need a warmer or cooler sleeping environment, you can adjust your pajamas and comforter weight and fabric, as well as room temperature.

Sleep hygiene plays a huge role in how well you sleep. Here are some ways to boost your snoozing:

  • Avoid naps, especially too close to bedtime.
  • Eat only light snacks before bed
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Hold off on alcohol and caffeine before bed.
  • Keep regular sleep and wake times.
  • Make your sleeping area dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Save your bed for sleep and sex.
  • Stay away from blue light from electronics in the hours before sleep.

If you can’t fall asleep after 10 minutes, get out of bed. Do something quiet, like reading, and try again when you feel sleepy. Concerned you may have a sleep issue that needs addressing? Talk it over with your healthcare provider. They can help you figure out what’s going on and what you can do about it.

Sweaty or shivering slumber doesn’t have to be your lot in life. Whether you need more blankets, turn on a fan, or even try a sleep divorce, you can work towards giving yourself the gift of good sleep.

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Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy is an RN of 16 years who has worked with adults and pediatric patients encompassing trauma, orthopedics, home care, transplant, and case management. She has practiced nursing all over the world from San Fransisco, CA to Tharaka, Kenya. Abby loves spending time with her husband, four kids, and their cat named Cat.

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