If you’re excited at the prospect of falling asleep next to the love of your life every night, we have some news for you: Because of biological differences between men and women’s sleep, it’s likely that you and your partner will actually have slightly different snoozing schedules. In my house, for example, that means I’m usually in bed by 11 p.m. while my boyfriend is up till the wee hours of the morning playing video games.
Personal experience aside, researchers say there are several ways in which men and women differ in the way they sleep. Here are just a few.
Women Fall Asleep Earlier and Wake Up Earlier
Thanks to internal clocks—also known as circadian rhythms—that tend to run on the fast side, women are more inclined to hit the hay at an earlier hour than their male partners. In a 2011 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sleep scientists found that when they controlled the sleep patterns of 157 people—which they did by isolating subjects in a windowless lab for eight weeks so they were unaware of the time of day—the biological clocks of women were shorter by about six minutes.
“Even a slight difference can have significant impact on nightly sleep and on energy levels during the day,” clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael J. Breus explained for Psychology Today. “Think about a clock that runs a handful of minutes behind every day. Over time, those minutes really add up!”
When They Do Finally Go to Bed, Men Fall Asleep Faster
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than one in four American women experience insomnia, compared with fewer than one in five men. While it’s unclear what exactly causes insomnia, experts have a number of guesses that impact women specifically: From fluctuations in hormones due to periods, pregnancy, and menopause, to the sheer existence of children, it’s a miracle women are ever able to get any rest.
Women Need More Sleep
Jim Horne, author of Sleepfaring: A Journey Through the Science of Sleep, argues that women need about 20 minutes more snooze time than their male partners. “The more of your brain you use during the day, the more of it that needs to recover and, consequently, the more sleep you need,” he told the Daily Mail. “Women tend to multitask—they do lots at once and are flexible—and so they use more of their actual brain than men do. Because of that, their sleep need is greater.”
No wonder we always zonk out before the ending of a movie.
Women Handle Sleep Loss Way Better Than Men
In a 2011 study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 16 men and 18 women were asked to sleep only six hours a night over the course of six consecutive nights. The following two days, participants were given the chance to “catch up” on missed sleep during the next two days.
See more: Lack of Sleep Will Destroy Your Libido
Researchers found that women did better on performance tests than men during the period their sleep was restricted; they did even better after they caught up on some missed z’s. These differences appeared to be connected to more waves of deep sleep. As principal investigator Dr. Alexandros N. Vgontzas noted in a statement, it seemed that deep sleep offered “a protective effect” for women, but not in men.