How long has it been? A week…a month…a year? More than half of people worldwide (65%)1 aren’t getting enough sleep and, according to new research, it’s women who are losing out in the bedroom the most.
New research2, released today as part of World Sleep Day, has revealed more women than men are having their sleep stolen by stress, their partners, and increasing family responsibilities. This is particularly true of women in the so-called “sandwich generation”, the 45 to 54 year olds, who are kept awake at night by the dual burden of worrying about the care of their ageing parents while still caring for their own children.
Almost a quarter are kept awake by concerns about their ageing parents, compared to just 18% of all women and 13% of men. Women in the sandwich generation also experience higher rates of sleeplessness from concerns about their children compared to all women (38% vs 32%), and significantly higher than the 18% of men kept awake by the same concerns.
In comparison, women in other age groups face different difficulties in the bedroom. Social media use keeps two in five women, aged 18 to 24, awake at night, while one third of women aged 25 to 34 cite concerns about work as the reason for their sleep issues. Almost half of women aged 35 to 44 experience sleeplessness from concerns about personal finances, compared to one third of women over 55, who instead are kept awake at night by concerns about their health.
By contrast, men around the world are falling and staying asleep far more effectively, with little disrupting their good night’s sleep. Fewer men also reported being kept awake at night by concerns around children and ageing parents compared to women.
The global study, drawn from countries including Australia, the US, Japan, Poland, Italy and France, suggests women across the world face some real challenges in getting a good night’s sleep, with some interesting differences across countries.
Australia has just had its third-warmest year on record3, which could be to blame for one third of Australian women citing weather (extreme temperatures or storms) as a sleep disruption. In Japan, the problem is a lot closer to home, with snoring partners disrupting the sleep of one in ten Japanese women.
In France, women don’t blame their partners for sleepless nights. Almost two in five reporting their sleep is disrupted by nightmares – suggesting the ‘European way’ of eating dinner late at night could be to blame.4 But it’s not just Europeans experiencing bad dreams, with almost one third of Australian women, and more than a quarter of American women reporting nightmares as disruptions to sleep.
While 83% of American women struggle with sleep issues ( not being able to fall asleep, frequently waking up during the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning etc.), some do know the value of good sleep, with approximately one third saying they’d give up sex for a month for a good night’s sleep for the rest of their lives. However, significantly fewer women would give up ever watching TV again (10%) or eating their favorite food (5%)!
According to the survey, Polish women may be the world’s biggest worriers, with almost half citing stress as a reason for broken sleep – the highest among women globally – followed by Italian women (43%) and French women (40%), while stress only affects the sleep of approximately one third of Australian women.
World-leading sleep expert, Professor Damien Leger, said unfortunately it’s “no surprise” women are more likely to struggle to get the sleep they need.
“Women who take on multiple caring roles for their ageing parents and their children are likely to experience higher levels of stress, which is why they’re likely to have challenges switching off for sleep at night. High stress levels throughout the day prevent the levels of the cortisol hormone in your body from decreasing, which is a problem as this can impact your ability to fall asleep.”
Sleep is important and restorative and, as neuroscientist Matthew Walker put it, sleep is a “revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer…enhances your memory, makes you more attractive…keeps you slim and lowers food cravings.” So we should be harnessing its power.
Natalie, from Sydney, Australia, is one of the more than four in five women who have sleep issues. As a small business owner, Natalie juggles multiple roles in her day-to-day life, and says sleep is something she has struggled with for most of her life.
“My sleep on average is pretty poor. I wake up around five times every night from any number of things – from birds outside to a passing car. The major side effect I experience from lack of sleep is a lack of energy. Currently what I try to do to get a better sleep is to have a bedtime routine, try meditation, and try to switch off my mind by picking up a book before bed.”
The Benefits of Sleep
Having a good sleep can:
- increase attention and concentration5
- strengthen the immune system6
- increase mental performance and learning skills7
- keep your skin looking young8
- The ‘Self Care: Be Your Best’ Report was commissioned by Sanofi Consumer Healthcare and conducted by IPSOS. The research was conducted via 18,090 online interviews in nine countries, with people aged 18 and over. The individuals in the study were selected to represent the distribution of the national population of gender, age, individual occupation and region in each country through online panels.
- The ‘World Sleep Day 2019’ survey was commissioned by Sanofi Consumer Healthcare and conducted by YouGov. The research was conducted via 12,669 online interviews in six countries (France, Australia, Italy, Japan, Poland and the United States), with people aged 18 and over. The individuals in the study were selected to represent the distribution of the national population of gender, age and region in each country through online panels. Fieldwork was undertaken in 2019.
- Bureau of Meteorology.
- The National Sleep Foundation.
- Arnal et al, 2015
- Besedovski L et al, 2012
- Breton J et al, 2017
- Oyetakin-White P et al, 2015